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

**.*** *.* *
American Atheist Membership
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Individual membership
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*I.D. required
All membership categories receive our monthly "Insider's Newsletter," membership card(s), a
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American Atheists - P.O. Box 2117 - Austin, TX 78768-2117

(VoI.26, No.3)

March, 1984

Letters to the Editor

New American Atheist Press Publication
Atheism Abroad - Lloma James
Convention News
Roots of Atheism
Atheist Masters
American Atheist Radio Series


Wisdom of Praxedis Guerrero - Rey Davis
Whitewashing the Bible - John C. Henderson
God - The Guess of our Forebeards - James G. Erickson
A Tale of Two Ads - Conrad Goeringer
For Mature Audiences Only - Jon G. Murray


Something Borrowed - Gerald Tholen
Prompting Change by Example - Jeff Frankel
Books - Michael Battencourt.

Robin Murray-O'Hair
Editor Emeritus
Madalyn Murray O'Hair
Managing Editor
Jon G. Murray
Assistant Editor
Gerald Tholen
Angeline Bennett
Gerald Tholen
Production Staff
Art Brenner
Richard M. Smith
Gloria Tholen
Dan Flores
Non-Resident Staff
G. Stanley Brown
Jeff Frankel
Merrill Holste
Margaret Bhatty
Fred Woodworth
Clayton Powers
Michael Battencourt
Cover Art
Jeff Greenberg

Austin, Texas


The American Atheist magazine is published monthly by the American Atheist

Press (an affiliate of American Atheists),
2210 Hancock Dr., Austin, TX 78756-2596,
and 1984 by Society of Separationists,
Inc., a non-profit, non-political, educational
organization dedicated to the complete and
absolute separation of state and church. (All
rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in
part without written permission is prohibited). Mailing address: P.O. Box 2117/
Austin, TX 78768-2117. Printing: Futura
Press, Austin, TX. Distribution: Flynt Distributing Company, Inc. Subscription is provided as an incident of membership in the
American Atheists organization. Subscriptions alone are available at $25.00 for one
year terms only. (Frequency monthly. Library and institutional discount: 50%.)Manuscripts submitted must be typed, doublespaced and accompanied by a stamped,
self-addressed envelope. A copy of American Atheist Magazine Writers Guidelines is
available on request. The editors assume no
responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts.

The American Atheist magazine

is indexed in
Monthly Periodical Index
ISSN: 0332-4310


Consider, for a moment, the magnificent beauty of the tulip. Could
there exist a more appropriate
Spring herald than this - a flower
among flowers? The depth and variety of color afforded by this single
family of blossoms puts to shame the
great oil canvases of history.
Yet, as is the case with many
beautiful things, people, for a time,
managed to cloud even the tulip's
radiance under the shadow of human greed. During the 18th century
"tulipmania" seized the Netherlands.
So fierce was the competition for
ownership of select bulbs that the
economy of the nation was jeopardized - one more case of a near
tragedy as humans continue in their
attempt to pervert things of natural
Even more deplorable is the rape
of Spring of itself. Children are no
longer taught the importance of this
most noble of seasonal threshholds;
the Vernal Equinox. Thus they cannot truly appreciate that which only
nature can provide. Like the frenzied
Dutch horticulturists, christian fanatics fill the minds of children with a
mixture of wonderment and horror.
From their maniacal fairy-tale in
which nails are pounded through the
hands and feet of a pitiful mythological "victim" to the alleged "con. quest of death" symbolized by artificially colored chicken eggs, they
have stultified human education and
And so this hour amongst hours
on this day amidst days is no longer
cherished for that which it really
signifies; the grand entrance of temperate, life-enhancing moderation of
the days - the world over!
This year as you witness the blossoming of the tulips - or the
crocuses - or any of the millions of
fruits and flowers born in the field ;
and forest, think of the why and the
where/ore of their existences. Recall
then, the true importance of the
gerald tholen

Page 1


Today I became a legal adult. Consequently, I went to the local post office to register
for the draft, as I am now required to do. I
completed the form with a feeling of pride,
realizing that I have a responsibility to
defend this country's interests ifwe resort to
international violence to "resolve" conflict.
Whether or not I like the idea of war should
not be an issue; when humanpower is
needed during wartime, those that are able
must offer service to the military.
After submitting the form, I began to'
browse through a pamphlet called, "Selective Service and You"; I was horrified by
what I read. Included in the list of one's
rights in the event of a draft were these
If you are a student in college, you
may finish the semester; if a senior,
you may finish the year.
Ifyou are a student studying for the
ministry, you may request a deferment.
If you are a minister of religion, you
may request an exemption.
Reading these rights, I began to understand their true meaning and significance.
What the Selective Service System has
implied by these statements is this: Ifyou are
a medical student studying the processes of
pain, illness, and dysfunction in the human
body in an effort to improve health and the
quality of life; or if you are a law student
studying the complex legal system of the
United States so that you may successfully
defend the rights of society and of individuals; or ifyou are a student of wildlifebiology,
as I am, - you may finish the current
semester, after which you must terminate
your studies and report for duty at the
assigned military base. However, if you are
enrolled at a seminary studying fairy tales,
rituals, and chants, you may request a
deferment from combat duty. If you have
already devoted your entire life to the study
of magic and make-believe, then you may
request to be exempt entirely from the draft.
The U.S. government has, therefore, declared that the purveyors of gawd are so
vital to the health and future of our nation
that their safety cannot be jeopardized in a
hostile wartime situation. Instead, the government willfillour front lines with potential
doctors, lawyers, scientists, educators, and
other such useless citizens. After all, everyone knows that the real fun starts after we
Page 2

die, and Ronald Reagan wants to make sure

that we have plenty of gawd-brokers around
to remind us of the eternal bliss that is soon
to come.
Concerning conscientious objector status, the Selective Service System has this to
If you have deeply-held religious,
moral, or ethical beliefs against participation in war in any form, you could
request status as a conscientious objector. If found to be a conscientious
objector and depending upon you
specific beliefs (emphasis added), you
will be required to serve either in a
non-combatant position in the Armed
Forces or in a civilian public service
I challenge any Atheist to try to receive such
status. You can be damn sure that the
Selective Service will expect an objector to
attribute his feelings to a deep conviction
that gawd will frown upon his actions. I
suspect that it would be necessary to drop
to one's knees and pound out a few rounds
of the rosary in order to win the approval of
the Selective Service. Apparently, the U.S.
government has determined that one cannot have strong ethical objection to war
unless he believes in fairies, goblins, and
virgin births.
What a blatant disregard for the First
Amendment guarantee of Jefferson's "wall
of separation between church and state"!
Congress has barely lifted a finger of objection to president Reagan's attempts to make
the U.S. a theocracy; "... one nation under
god." Similarly, the high courts rarely rule in
favor of preserving an entirely secular society (you know this only too well). Not one
justice has the guts to consistently stand up
in defense of the Constitution of the U.S.
and in opposition to the beast of judeochristianity; that is disgusting. The Pledge of
Allegiance states that we are ".
nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty
and justice for all" - What a load of crap!
This country provides an unending supply
of justice only to those idiots who will
abandon intelligence and hide from reality
behind the iron curtain of religion.
I can, however, hope that WIth the passage of time more people will awaken from
their slumber and realize how ignorant they
have been. With the ever-increasing efforts
of American Atheists, this goal may someday be realized, and to what better organization could be attributed the success of such
a monumental undertaking. I am indeed
proud to be a member of such a group, so on
this, my birthday, I happily give you a gift.
Use it well.
Mark Berger

As a former lutheran clergyman with his
doctorate in pastoral psychology and a
present-day Atheist, I subscribe to the notion that "Man is indeed the measure of all
things." By the psychological defense mechanism known as projection, man has created all his gods and devils, his angels and
demons, his heavens and hells. He creates
these non-entities in order not to take
responsibility for himself, his own life and
conduct. But, psychologically speaking,
man is smart enought to recognize the split
which exists within his own makeup. Albert
Ellis has recognized this dichotomy, also.
When asked to account for the irrational
element within humankind, this eminent'
American psychologist stated that man is
simply "predisposed to think 'nuttily' and
has the damnedest time learning how to
think straight." Now, man is not completely
irrational, otherwise he would have destroyed himself and his civilization a long
time ago. But certainly the evidence is plain
to see that neither is he completely rational.
I enjoy your magazine immensely; but I
would like to see more articles dealing
intelligently with, as Jung would have it, the
"darker SIde of man's nature. "If man ISwise
enough to recognize and admit the irrational
element within himself, might not time be
profitably spent examining the same? Man is
his only "savior." He alone can rescue
himself from the difficulties he himself has
created. No mythical jehovah is going to
save him from his own ineptitude. Rather
than collapsing in despair, perhaps an insightful article on the subject of man's
"darker side" would perhaps add balance to
his all-too-frequent depiction as a creature
altogether kind, loving, humane, etc. Man,
as the measure of all things, is the measure
of logic and sanity as well as illogic and
Thank you for your consideration. And
keep up the good work.
Lawrence A.F. Ford

Letters to the Editor must be either
questions or comments of general concern to Atheists or Atheism. Submission should be typed, doublespaced,
brief and to the point. Space limitations
allow that each letter should be 200
words or (preferably) less. Please confine your letters to a single issue only.
Send them to American Atheists/P.O.
Box 2117/ Austin, TX 78768-2117.
Thank you.

The American Atheist

EDITORIAL / Jon Garth Murray

think that every freethought writer, the writings of whom one
can find still extant, has at some point written on religious
wars. Atheists and agnostics alike have always been quick to
point out religious conflicts as one of the main reasons why they feel
religion as a whole to be bad for society in general. On the other hand
religionists always point at the dictators, fascists, racists and
totalitarians of history as being "dirty little Atheists." The fact is,
however, that virtually all of the dictators and the like of history have
been products of one of the major, mainline, world religious
denominations. Hitler and Mussolini were the most recent examples
of so-called "Atheist" dictators. In point of fact both men were roman
catholic by upbringing and by choice, and stuck to their faith despite
their political or military activities.
Truthfully it can be said that more wars between people and
nations have been declared and waged over disputes grounded in
religion than any other cause. When one studies history in the
educational institutions of this nation, it is as if religion never entered
into any conflict between nations or within a single nation. Western
historians like to portray religion in its best light and talk of the church
only as a rational, calming, peace-loving influence on world events.
When one examines the principal dogmas of various religious groups
it is quickly evident that intolerance of others' religions is high on the
list of "des" versus "do nots." The ten commandments of Western
christianity are a good example of intolerance set down as a bedrock
principle of religion. The mythical author of those commandments
makes it all too clear that he must be considered the "one and only"
among gods and that the worship of anything lesser is strictly
forbidden. A good part of the doctrine preached by the character
jesuchrist in the bible concerns the need for his followers to
proselytize. Ifthose being proselytized don't respond, the message is:
make them respond by the use of force. A large body of christian
teaching repeats the theme that it is better to be dead than to be
unfaithful or sinful. The modern day version of that theme is "better
dead than red," or, what would be more correct, "better dead than
Atheist." Death is always said to have a "cleansing" effect. All of your
sins or doubts can be "washed away" through death. You can dry
clean your soul, as you would a favorite jacket, through death.

"Alarge body of christian teaching repeats the

theme that it is better to be dead than to be
unfaithfulor sinful. The modern day version of
that theme is 'better dead than red,' or, what
would be more correct, 'better dead than
Atheist.' "
No wonder then that so many people are always willing to die in
countless wars. If you grow up in a culture that pounds into you at
every turn the doctrine of using the boredom of lifeto prepare for the
glory of death, you willbe quite willing to die on the battlefield. This
kind of teaching is a little more overt in the Eastern cultures than in
the West, but that is not to say that moslems are any more willingto
die for their belief systems than are christians. The rhetoric of being
"willing to die for what one believes" is just as strong on both sides.
The point is again that neither historians nor the news media report
Austin, Texas

the religious nature or undercurrents of any conflict as much as they

do the social, political, economic or geographical causes of war.
Religion is portrayed as the "peacekeeper" over and over again, while
we zero in on economic or land acquisition, or political or cultural
factors as allegedly being the reasons for the hot spots of the world
being hot spots.

"The point is again that neither historians

nor the news media report the religious nature
or undercurrents of any conflict as much as
they do the social, political, economic or geographical causes of war. Religion is portrayed
as the 'peacekeeper' over and over again."
All of this is being driven home to us now because of the recent
increase in terrorist activity around the world which has been blamed
largely on minority religious sect members. Terrorism comes not
from the fact that minority religious or political groups exist but that
they are ignored. Ifthese minority groups were acknowledged by the
majority and given a forum in which to speak, and a place to go for
redress of grievances, the incidence of terrorism worldwide would
drop. Terrorism is almost always a measure of last resort for a group
which cannot gain the eye of the rich or powerful or the general public
in any other way.
What is beginning to become evident around the world is that
religious conflict is not going away by being written out of history. It is
still here, alive and well. It is obvious that if dialogue is not soon
established between a number of mostly religious minority groups,
their "last ditch" efforts for attention can drag the superpowers into
conflict with them.
I think that the Middle East probably reigns supreme as the current
worst battle ground of religion. Lebanon today is the last refuge for a
number of minority sects who, with their back against the wall, have
no other alternative but to fight in all directions. In the period from
1975 to 1982 at least 70,000 Lebanese have been killed, though it is
hard to tell for sure. Principally in Lebanon we have the dominant
christians, loyal to the West for support, versus the moslem sects
which are generally poorer. There are seventeen distinct religious
communities in a tiny country of three and one half million persons in
a land area of 40 15square miles. To give you a more familiar idea, that
is about the same population as the state of Connecticut in an area a
little smaller than that state.
The 3.5 million breaks down into four major groups: the shiite
moslems with about 1 million; the sunni moslems with about the same
number; about 1.4 million christians; and some 100,000 or so druse
sect (which is islamic in origin) followers.
Without going into a great deal of complicated history, the tenets of
the various groups are as follows. The shiite moslems say that Ali,the
son-in-law of Muhammed, is the legitimate successor of Muhammed
while the sunnis claim the four caliphs (from the Arabic khalif
meaning successor) as legitimate successors to Muhammed. The
druse sect has a faith combining elements of christianity, judaism and
Politically, the druse and both moslem groups, as the majority,

March, 1984

Page 3

have gone primarily leftist, allying themselves with Syria. The

christians have turned right-wing and allied themselves with the U.S.
which sent in troops in 1958 and again now in 1982 to maintain a
christian minority government. Meanwhile the jewish theocratic state
of Israel to the south has maintained a continued policy of
expansionism since the end of World War II backed only by their
version of biblical imperatives. The majority moslems in the area have
been driven into closer and closer confines over the years by direct or
indirect U.S. military interventionism. The potential for more religionbased conflict in the area increases daily, especially now with the
increased U.S. presence and new U.S. military ties with Israel.

A better example is, of course, Northern Ireland. There the now

outlawed guerrilla Irish Republican Army represents the nation's
population of some half-millioncatholics. They wish to have Northern
Ireland pull out from the United Kingdom and have it unite with the
predominantly catholic Irish Republic to the south. The protestant
population of Northern Ireland is about 1 million, outnumbering the
catholics two to one. It is not fair to say that the struggle in Ireland is
only on religious grounds. Many factors enter into the whole picture.
Religion still is, however, a deeply ingrained part of the social order.
Protestants, though in the majority, fear that a unity of the IRA and
the Southern Irish Republic would threaten their rights in such
sensitive religious issue areas as divorce, the availability of contraceptives and the availability of protestant education for their children .




Not too far away from this convoluted situation in Lebanon, Iran
and Iraq are waging one of the bloodiest religious wars ever. The
Iranian field commander colonel Shirazi has been reported as saying
that "It is a war of faith." At least 175,000 dead have been reported
over the three years now that the war has been going on. The conflict
here is between the shiite sect of Iran's Persians and the sunni sect of
Iraq, both moslem. The Iranian war cry for centuries has been" allahu
akhbar," meaning "god is great." The ayatollah Khomeini has even
gone as far as to call the Iraq sunni leaders "Atheists."
. We hear a great deal about Afghanistan here in the United States
because of the Soviet troop involvement there. We willhear more, I
am sure, during this election year since Afghanistan is a popular
example of Soviet expansionism. In Afghanistan you have a Marxist
government supported now by Soviet troops versus tribesmen who
call themselves "T eiman Atahad-Islami," in their language meaning
"Those who have sworn to fight for islam." Their fight against the
Soviet troops is a fight against "Atheist" domination as the tribesmen
see it. They use the same terminology as the Iranians when they refer
to their struggle as a "jihad" or "holy war." The two major rebel
groups in Afghanistan are led by religious elders. Traditionally, the
moslem teaching divides the entire world into the "land of islam" and
the "land of war," meaning that what is not islamic is out there to be
forced to be islamic by the sword. The moslems by no means have a
monopoly on proselytizing by the sword. The Crusades, the
Inquisition, the Hundred Years' War, and others are good examples
of the christian sword at work.
A very recent example of christian conflict is in the Philippines. In
the Mindanao and Sulu Island regions of the Southern Philippines
some 2.5 million moslems have been fighting a separatist guerrilla war
against the majority of some 42 million roman catholics from the
North, a covertly U.S.-backed majority.
Page 4


Just in November of last year catholic gunmen stormed into a

protestant Mountain Lodge pentecostal church in Darkley, Northern
Ireland and sprayed the congregation with machine gun fire. Three
elders were killed and seven parishioners were wounded. The church
was located in a stronghold area for the IRA in a county near the
border between Northern Ireland and the southern Irish Republic.
November of last year was Northern Ireland's worst month of
violence, during 1983, with some 17 deaths that month. The 14-year
death toll from the feuding between catholics and protestants stands
now at at least 2,334 officially.
India is also the site of major religious unrest. I have personally
travelled over a great deal of India and find it a nation of incredible
religious mixture. I think of it as the graveyard of the world's religions.
It seems as though all the old religions, forgotten elsewhere, or having
outlived some temporary historical or political usefulness, come to
India to die. Most, however, never do actually die there. They just
hang on among the faithful few for generations. Over 3,200 persons
were killed in '83 alone in fighting between native hindus and moslem
immigrants from Bangladesh in the eastern state of Assam. To give
you an idea of the volatility of the situation a hindu wedding
celebration used firecrackers during the moslem fasting month of
Ramadan (the ninth month of their islamic calendar). Firecrackers
are used by the moslems to signal the end of their daily fast each day.
The false alarm from the wedding party and the ensuing confusion set
off rioting in the streets. Elsewhere in India in the state of Punjab the
sikhs are demanding more religious and political autonomy in general,
and in particular an independent state status for their holy city of
Just off the coast of India in Sri Lanka the majority buddhist
Sinhalese and the minority hindu Tamils are at each other's throats
again. That is nothing new since they have been like that for several
thousand years. Some of the Tamils wish to establish an independent
The American Atheist

state on the island's Northern tip which they dominate.

In Africa, we have primarily moslem secessionists, where in
Ethiopia they are fighting a christian central government, and where
in Chad moslems in the north have been fighting with tribal Blacks in
the south for several thousand years. In Cyprus, in the Mediterranean, Greek Orthodox christians and Turkish moslems come to
blows now and then. And, back in the Middle East, in Syria the
minority Alawite moslem leadership stopped a rebellion by sunni
moslems in 1982.
While all of this is going on around the world a group in the United
States is attempting to monitor "religious persecution" within the
U.S.S.R., particularly of jews. The group is the National Interreligious
Task Force on Soviet Jewry directed by a catholic nun, sister Ann
Gillen. The group was founded in 1972 with backing from the
American Jewish Committee and the Catholics' Commission for
Racial Justice. While they watch a country that has not had an
internal religious war since its founding revolution, various sects and
denominations around the world are "persecuting" each other. At the
same time we are gearing up internally here in the United States for a
religious war over school prayer, creationism, tuition tax credits, and

Few Americans know that we actually had shooting conflicts

between protestants and catholics at the turn of the century here in
our own country over the prayerandbiblereadinginschools issue.
If it had not been for the baptist church in the South, historians are
only now revealing, many states would not have seceded from the
Union over a hundred years ago. It is quite possible for all of this
religious conflict that we see going on all over the world to become
domesticated. We are a majority protestant nation with a growing
roman catholic minority of not alone white Anglo-Saxons, but a host
of immigrant groups that are almost solidly catholic. When that
growing catholic minority decides to really flex its muscle on the
"social" issues, especially during this election year, the seed of conflict
can really begin to take root. Add to the mixture a fundamentalist
President and administration which strongly pushes the abolition of
what is left of the wall of separation of state and church in favor of a
return to colonial-style "local option," and you have a potentially
explosive situation. What happens when roman catholic Massachusetts or Northern Illinois begin to use voting strength along
theological lines on abortion rights. contraception. funding of public
education, etc.? The protestants begin to have the same fears as the
protestants in Ireland, and violence ensues. We have already had
some years of birth control chmc hrebombmgs by catholic zealots in
heavily catholic populated areas.
We may think that it "can't happen here," but religion has always
had a way of getting in between a person's good judgment and their
irrational acts. The courts and state legislatures have already gone

overboard to let off persons violating the law in the name of religion.
Child abuse prosecution is barred in a number of states if the child
abuse is done on religious grounds, and judges are getting away with
sentencing violators of the law to attend church instead of going to
jail. In the name of religious tolerance we may have set ourselves up in
a situation where religious unrest and violence cannot be controlled,
and it will be every man for himself.
Beyond all of these regional religious conflicts is a global religious
conflict. What global religious conflict?, you ask. The issue of arms
control between the two major world powers, the U.S. and the
U.S.S.R. Deep at the heart of the issue between us is religion. The
U.S.S.R. is a predominantly Atheist nation, and we are a predominantly protestant, for now, christian nation. The inability to
come to arms control agreements lies in that basic religious conflict.
The vast majority of Americans feel that the veracity of someone who
does not "believe in god" is far less reliable than that of someone who
does. From that kind of perspective we can never establish the
mutual "trust" necessary for workable arms agreements. Thus the
world itself may become the theater for the ultimate and most
assuredly the final religious war, a nuclear war. In the time of the
crusades, with moslem and christian hacking at each other with
swords for their respective versions of the "true faith," the wounds
could heal, the dead could be buried, and the world could go on. We
have a far different situation now that we have two superpowers
growing increasingly willing to play the same kind of game with
weapons that can take the rest of the planet with them. Mankind did
not learn enough from the crusades and similar events of the past,
and is not apparently learning from present localized religious
conflicts to realize the danger of allowing the same basic kind of
conflict on a global scale. The religious nature of the breakdown in
relations between the current administration and the U.S.S.R. cannot
be simply overlooked. The media especially must come to grips with
the fact that what we see going on in the streets of Northern Ireland,
Beirut, Tehran, Kabul, the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, Africa,
Cyprus and Syria is the same thing that is going on at the peace
conference tables in Europe. We have two poles of thought on
religion at loggerheads.
Religion in general must be overcome by reason if we are to avoid
such conflict around the world and an ultimate final conflict. The
health, education, and welfare of all the citizens of the world is a
predominant consideration over the "religious freedom" of any single
person. If a little religious freedom has to be given up for broader
concerns, all of the zealous adherents of one form of religious insanity
or the other will not cease being able to carryon their daily lives.
Religion can easily be forgotten in many, if not all, areas of concern;
and for the sake of us all, that process had better start pretty soon.

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

Phoenix, Arizona
Tucson, Arizona
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Detroit, Michigan
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Austin, Texas Dial-THE-Atheist(512) 458-5731

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March, 1984


Page 5

Rey Davis


Revolution would have hacked at even fewer ancient socio-economic
evils than it did, and would have taken an even more superficial and
inconclusive turn than it did.
"Prax" Guerrero was a rare, many-faceted jewel, a charismatic
man of action, idealistic visionary, construction worker, lumberjack,
miner, labor organizer, classically educated but able to pass as a
humble trader when on dangerous spy missions in dictator Diaz's
Mexico, writer of blood-'n'-guts agitprop, proverbs, or scintillating
prose-poems. Born into a patrician family, he wondered early why he
had so much while the people who did the work on his hacienda had
so little, turned his back on his rich estates and comfortable status,
and spent his scant allotment of years struggling to better the lean and
hungry lives of poverty people.
But effective, glamorous, and important though he was as an
activist, he was vastly more significant as a thinker and working
journalist-propagandist. Since he has had such slight recognition (one
small Chihuahua town named for him) let's pay homage to Praxedis
Guerrero by savoring some of his words of wisdom, seeing how
futuristic a ring emanates from his century-old thoughts. He said:




Born August 28, 1882
Died December 29, 1910
"Behind religion is tyranny; behind Atheism, liberty."
Francisco 1. Madero, son of a wealthy landowner, is historically
credited with forcing revolutionary change in Mexico beginning in
November, 1910 and continuing into mid-1911. The autocracy of
Porfirio Diaz's regime, prior to that time, especially his interference in
elections and the denial of justice in courts, increased the demand for
change. Due to his opposition to Diaz's policies, Madero was forced
to flee into the United States where he set about organizing his revolt.
Guerrero, who might be referred to as a patriot who "started" the
(Madero) Mexican Revolution of that era, unfortunately was killed
early in its hostilities. Had he lived, he might have been well known
today as one of the great Mexican heroes.
American People's Encyclopedia
La Vida Heroica de Praxedis G. Guerrero

very jerk-water burg in Mexico with a building big enough for a

dog to lift its leg against has a Madero Street, named for
Francisco Madero, the "hero" of the Revolution. But months after the
Mexican Revolution started, that great-hero type was in New Orleans
bending his elbow, stratching his beard, and wondering how the heck
you get a revolution going.
Meanwhile a young man was doing it, leading a spearhead of hardy
souls deep into Chihuahua, aiming at dictator Diaz's heart. Praxedis
G. Guerrero was soon to die. Rumor has it that he was shot by one of
his own men, who had joined the Revolution not for what he could
give but for what he could grab - the kind of man who won the
Revolution, one regretfully recalls.
But this idealistic hero has to have left an indelible mark on Mexico,
for he was Ricardo Flores Magan's star brain-truster and activist. Had
it not been for Ricardo, the mighty (one million corpses) Mexican
Page 6


Religion is the tool of tyrants in both home and presidential palace;

its mission is to break people's spirits.
* * * * *
Create an idol and you put your neck in a yoke.
* * * * *
Religion, by whatever name, is the most terrible enemy of women.
Pretending consolation, it destroys her consciousness. In the name of
a sterile love, it snatches away love, source of life and human
happiness; with vulgar illusions it sketches in a sick poetry that
isolates her from strong, real, tall liberating poetry.
* * * * *
The bible, which puts the stamp of impurity on women, tells us that
women and children were treated very inconsiderately: The fathers
had an absolute right over their daughters, even selling them as slaves
or sacrificing them. Rich men monopolized the women, Solomon
being a case in point. Owing to this the poor people developed the
very vices the bible pontificates against, causing the consequent
debasement of customs, whose favorite victims were the women.
* * * * *
Ifcustom is the yoke, break it, despite all sanctimonious trappings;
by ignoring customs civilization advances. "What-will-people-say-if"
is a brake, but brakes have never liberated peoples, satisfied hunger,
or freed slaves.
* * * * *
Words to unify the people; action to turn ideas into reality.
* * * * *
Moral triumphs can't free a people any more than spiritual food can
nourish a body.
* * * * *
Liberty is not a goddess demanding adoration or a fairy bearing
gifts to those who invoke her with saccharine words: It's a necessity
that people of dignity and conscience try to satisfy, straining both
brain and brawn.

* * * * *
If you can't be a sword, be a lightning bolt.
* * * * *
Solidarity with others is the protection of ourselves.
* * * * *
Behind religion stands tyranny; behind Atheism, freedom.~
* * * * *
The American Atheist

John C. Henderson



he current attempt by the National Council of Churches to

"desex" the bible by revising and rewording certain references
which might be interpreted as derogatory to women is being
vehemently opposed by the fundamentalists. For once I find myself in
the unaccustomed position of being in complete agreement with the
bigots and crackpots.
Any attempt to present the bible as an unbiased, tair-rnmded,
nondiscriminatory collection of writings robs this overrated tome of
its very spirit. The bible is biased, bigoted, and discriminatory from
start to finish - and in my opinion should remain so.

"For once I find myself in the unaccustomed

position of being in complete agreement with
the bigots and crackpots. Any attempt to
present the bible as an unbiased, Iair-minded,
nondiscriminatory collection of writings robs
this overrated tome of its very spirit."
The bible's anti-feminist attitude is understandable in view of the
fact that all of the biblical writers were male. Had the "good book"
been written and compiled by women instead of ignorant, superstitious, prejudiced and chauvinistic men, the story would have
probably been altogether different.
In its very first book the bible portrays the woman as merely an
afterthought who, in the order of creation, takes third place to the
man, and second place to the beasts and birds:
"And out of the ground the lord god formed every beast of the field,

and everyfowlof the air; and brought them unto Adamto see what he
would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature,
that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to
the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there
was not found a help meet for him. And the lord god caused a deep
sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and
closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib, which the lord god had
taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man." genesis 2:19-22.

"When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass
that she find no favor in his eyes, because he hath found some
uncleanness in her: then let him write her a billof divorcement, and give
it in her hand, and send her out of his house." - deuteronomy 24:1

Paul, the prolific letter writer, whose teachings form the very
foundation of the christian religion, was a male chauvinist par
excellence. He apparently considered all women as inherently stupid
since he forbids them to teach, or even so much as speak in church:
"Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted
unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience,
as also saith the law." - i. corinthians 14:34


Biblical law (written exclusively by men, of course) denies women

all the basic rights which today are taken for granted. A woman could
not make a vow in her own right. All contractual obligations by
women could be undertaken only with the consent, approval, and
permission of a husband or father:
"If a woman also vow a vow unto the lord, and bind herself by a bond,
being in her father's house in her youth; And her father hear her vow,
and her bond wherewith she hath bound her soul, and her father shall
hold his peace at her: then all her vows shall stand, and every bond
wherewith she hath bound her soul shall stand. But ifher father disallow
her in the day that he heareth; not any of her vows, or of her bonds
wherewith she hath bound her soul, shall stand: and the lord shall
forgive her, because her father disallowed her. And if she had at all a
husband, when she vowed, or uttered aught out of her lips, wherewith
she bound her soul; And her husband heard it, and held his peace at her
in the day that he heard it; then he shall make her vow which she vowed,
and that which she uttered with her lips, wherewith she bound her soul,
of none effect: and the lord shall forgive her. But every vow of a widow,
and of her that is divorced, wherewith they have bound their souls, shall
stand against her." - numbers 30:3-8

"Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a
woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in
silence." - i. timothy 2:11-12

Women, however, are not the only target of biblical discrimination.

Many others are singled out for special (unfavorable) treatment.
Some examples are: the maimed, the deformed, disfigured, and
"For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not
approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any
thing superfluous, or a man that is broken-footed, or broken-handed,
or crookbacked, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be
scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken; No man that hath a
blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the
offerings of the lord made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come
nigh to offer the bread of his god. He shall eat the bread of his god, both
of the most holy, and of the holy. Only he shall not go in unto the veil,
nor come nigh unto the altar, because he hath a blemish; that he
profane not my sanctuaries: for I the lord do sanctify them." -leviticus


Divorce was the exclusive prerogative of men. A man could rid

himself of a wife he no longer loved simply by scribbling a brief note
and sending her packing. No such reciprocal right existed for women,
Austin, Texas

no matter how much of an insufferable jerk the husband happened to


"He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off,
shall not enter into the congregation of the lord." - deuteronomy 23:1
the illegitimate (whom the bible calls "bastards");
"A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the lord; even to

March, 1984

Page 7

his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the
lord." - deuteronomy 23:2
the foreign born;
"An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of
the lord; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the
congregation of the lord forever." - deuteronomy 23:3
widows and divorcees;
"And he shall take a wife in her virginity. A widow, or a divorced
woman, or profane, or a harlot, these shall he not take; but he shall take
a virgin of his own people to wife." - leuiticus 21:13,14
female infants;
"If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she
shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for
her infirmity shall she be unclean. And in the eighth day the flesh of his
foreskin shall be circumcised. And she shall then continue in the blood
of her purifying three and thirty days; ... But if she bear a maid child,
then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall
continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days." leuiticus 12:2-5
Other discriminatory injunctions against foreigners may be found in:
"Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it again: but that which is thine
with thy brother thine hand shall release." - deuteronomy 15:3
"There shall no stranger eat of the holy thing: a sojourner of the
priest, or a hired servant, shall not eat of the holy thing. But ifthe priest
buy any soul with his money, he shall eat of it, and he that is born in his
house: they shall eat of his meat. Ifthe priest's daughter also be married
unto a stranger, she may not eat of an offering of the holy things. But if
the priest's daughter be a widow, or divorced, and have no child, and is
returned unto her father's house, as in her youth, she shall eat of her
father's meat: but there shall no stranger eat thereof." - leuiticus
"A foreigner and a hired servant shall not eat thereof." - exodus

"Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother
thou shalt not lend upon usury: god shall bring thee into the land
whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before
thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the
Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites,
seven nations greater and mightier than thou; And when the lord thy
god shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly
destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy
unto them: Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter
thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto
thy son." - deuteronomy 7:13
"Ye shall not eat of any thing that dieth of itself: thou shalt give it unto
the stranger that is in thy gates, that he may eat it; or thou mayest sell it
unto an alien: for thou art a holy people unto the lord thy god. Thou
shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk." - deuteronomy 14:21
Even the exalted institution of motherhood
is cheapened
by scripture.
Giving birth, in biblical contemplation,
somehow renders a woman "unclean" for a specified period, but
giving birth to a female child is twice as contaminating
as giving birth
to a son. (See leviticus 12:2-5, supra.)
Deuteronomy 14:21 (supra) authorizes the sale of tainted meat to
foreigners but not to natives. Other passages permit the practice of
slavery and the selling of daughters:
"And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go
out as the menservants do." - exodus 21:7
The NCC's bowdlerizing
of scripture is nothing more than a.
pathetic attempt to present the bible in a more favorable light and
make it more palatable to women. But as I said at the outset, this time
I have to agree with the fundamentalist
bigots. The bible should
remain just as it is: bigoted, biased, discriminatory,
and sexist. ~


James G: Erickson



f all the primitive beliefs borrowed from our ancestors, the god
belief is the most widespread.
Gods are imaginary beings,
usually male, who have supernatural powers. In christendom the field
has been narrowed down to only one such figment of the imagination.
This 3-in-l deity is said to have created the universe which it now
Over a couple of million years ago our ape-like progenitors were
forced by natural events from their abode in the tree branches. They
spread over the woodlands and savannas. Here they faced other
predatory animals and the blind and ruthless forces of nature. Daily,
they were confronted with dangers and phenomena which they could
neither control nor understand.
It was in this context that our
ancestors later invented the gods.
One can speculate that dead chiefs would appear in dreams of the
survivors. This would give rise to the belief that they still lived on in
"another world." The next step would be the deification of certain
outstanding chiefs. These prototype gods were formed in what today
would be called a "misinterpretation
of data." Chapman
pointed out in his book, Theism and Atheism, that if beliefs are
based on a false premise to begin with, no amount of sophistication or
sophistry can make them true in later ages. The god concept was a
.wrong guess of the savage and so it remains to this day!
The priesthood arrived on the scene when a surplus was possible,
and allowed non producers to eat. It has been generally assumed to
have occurred in the period between 18,000 and 8,000 b.c., with the
advent of agriculture. However, new data indicates that a surplus may
have existed long before the agricultural stage in social evolution. It
the development
of more sophisticated
weaponry. Many genera of animals became extinct in Africa about 40
to 50 thousand years ago. This event correlates with the discoveryof
Page 8


improved hunting implements dated for the same period. It has been
suggested that primitive hunting tribes overexploited
prey animals,
especially those which had not developed a fear of humans. Cattle
breeding, for instance, may have originated as a means to preserve
animal foodstuffs which were being irresponsibly slaughtered.
Sociobiology and the Human Dimension, Breuer, 1981.) This
indicates that the priesthood may be very old.
Tribal priests claimed to be able to commurucate
with gods, to
interpret signs and to bring good fortune to activities such as hunting
and the fighting of hostile tribes. Religion and the beliefs in local gods
also brought about a form of social coritrol and unity. Those
individuals who rejected tribal beliefs were considered to have been
disruptive and were ruthlessly exterminated.
This aspect of the herd
instinct directed against nonconformists
is probably why progress
was so slow among our forebears. Even today, Atheists and other
"heretics" are persecuted. The priesthood and clergy have built up a
vested interest in their own perpetuation.
There has been speculation
that animism was the first form of
actual religious belief. It probably preceded anthropomorphic
Animism is the illusion that natural objects, natural phenomena and
the universe itself possess "souls" or consciousness.
The concept
that the belief is very ancient was strengthened
when anthropologist
Jane Goodall
and shaking
branches at the sky during a thunderstorm.
This concerns us humans
because 990h of our structural genes are shared with chimpanzees
(Ayaca, 1980). In a 1982 book entitled, The Sex Contract, Helen E.
Fisher suggests how ceremonies
and rituals have developed in an
effort to "appease" nature.
When human society had evolved to the agricultural stage the sun
became the main god. It was probably then that human sacrifice
The American


became a common element of ancient religions. One speculation is

that when a person died the body was buried to protect it from being
eaten by carnivores and carrion-eaters. Later, it was noted that the
grass and other vegetation had grown unusually well above the burial
site. It was assumed that the gods were indicating their gratitude
rather than that the area had been fertilized by elements essential to
plant growth. According to this, the medicine men and priests
initiated human sacrifice by a wrong guess.
A few thousand years ago the priests rewrote the solar myths, and
savior gods replaced the sun gods. It was only then that the sacrifice
of human victims was gradually replaced by symbolic animals.

Today, christianity has many traces of the earlier sun cults in its
rewritten text" Like ancient fossils. they can be brought to the surface
with a little scholarly" digging." Merrill Holste does an excellent job of
this in the American Atheist magazine.
Now there is enough knowledge to destroy religion forever! Except
for the U.S.S.R. and some of its allies, supernatural religion is being
artificially kept alive by the vested interests of ruling classes and their
organized religious propagandists.
Someday the world willbe free from the nonexistent gods of the sky
which were created so long ago. ~

Conrad Goeringer


iscrimination against Atheists is nothing new. Madalyn Murray

O'Hair was speaking the truth when she wrote in the
Introduction to What On Earth Is An Atheist! that "If any Atheist
speaks up for what he believes, ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE ... " I
know that Madalyn has a punny sense of humor, but discrimination is
not a laughing matter. As Atheists, we are discriminated against not
only legally, with laws in certain states prohibiting "blasphemy" or
preventing nonbelievers from having the same rights and civil
privileges as the religious, but socially as well.
I suspect that many liberals reading this willpromptly chime in "But
our laws guarantee freedom of speech." "The system works," they
say. "Every Atheist has the same basic rights as Jerry Falwell or any
religionist. That's what America is all about .... " Mr. Falwell probably
would be less generous in acknowledging such rights for Atheists, of
course; religious liberals are one step above the very bottom in his
hagiographic inferno - but Atheists? Heretics? Really!
Constitutions, laws, ordinances and stuff of civil procedure one
finds in musty courtrooms all have a certain aura of respectability
when it comes to guaranteeing rights. We can fight battles in the court
long after hell has broken loose and frozen over; we can even win
such contests, and there will still be discrimination against Atheists
and our ideas. Much of this discrimination is subtle, covert and
cunning. It exists in a legal gray-area where deliberate discrimination
and bias is difficult, if not impossible to prove. And it is, of course, as
effective as outright, bigoted discrimination. It is the fundamentalist
school principal firing the biology teacher, who discusses evolution in
the classroom, for "not being able to relate to superiors." it is a
Dial-An-Atheist being plagued with "technical problems" the phone
company cannot rectify. It is fighting an Atheist civil rights case, yet
being swamped in a morass of procedural technicalities. it is having
the Post Office tamper with mail addressed to a local American
Atheist Chapter. it is a kind of guerrilla warfare against Atheism being
waged by the devout and faithful, sometimes without the knowledge
of their organizational superiors. It is discrimination stemming not
from overt, written policy, but from tacit consent on the part of those
hostile toward Atheism, fairness and tolerance.

* * *
You drive down South Park Avenue in Tucson through the new
industrial development section to arrive at the offices of the local
newspaper. The Tucson Citizen and the Arizona Daily Star are
ensconced in what is best described as a fortress, a riot-proof and
strike-proof lair. The architecture is a lesson from those days when
striking typesetters and pressmen picketed, shouted, and in final
desperation broke windows and other property belonging to two of
the most powerful political forces in the city. The liberal editorial
policy of the Star is a public facade, masking the helicopter landing
pad on top of the printing plant; when and if the next strike takes
place, management and its minions will be immune to the inconvenience of the picket lines. There's a 30-day supply of paper and
Austin, Texas

ink on hand; the entire building is controlled-access, complete with a

security guard at the front entrance.
You check in at this journalistic "checkpoint Charlie," where the
cop writes down your name, destination, and then issues you a pass.
"Display ads, one floor up on the right," he says. I've been there
before, several times as a matter of fact, when we ran advertising for
the Tucson Dial-An-Atheist. The new ad "isa bit different from the
ones in the past, though; it's slightly larger, about 4" by 4", our most



aiA ~~~ [IS

-PilI/) fOR BY

f rllltds





ambitious local advertising attempt to date. I walk into the offices of

Tucson Newspapers, Inc., the advertising arm for both the Star and
Citizen, stroll up to the front desk and inform the secretary that I want
to run a camera-ready display ad. She quickly fillsout the appropriate
paperwork, takes my money and tells me she willbe back shortly after
having the ad "approved." No problem. After all, we've run Dial-AnAtheist ads before in the Saturday magazine section of the Tucson
Citizen. A minute or so passes before she returns; "I'm sorry," she
says, "the manager would prefer not to run this." "We've got a legal
problem here," I reply. "You've run this ad before, and I'll bet our
attorney would be interested in your policy of refusing ads for our
The secretary stutters. After all, she is an underling, a functionary,
and not a policy-maker.
"Can I see the ad manager?" I ask.
Soon I am face-to-face with a man who identifies himself as Tom
Burnham, head of advertising for TNI, who again reiterates his
decision to not run our ad for Dial-An-Atheist. His attitude soon


Page 9

changes when I point out that TNI has run essentially the same ad
before. Burnham then states that the ad willrun, but that he cannot
"guarantee" placement in the popular Saturday section of the
Citizen, a feature magazine with high readership containing entertainment and movie information. Previous Dial-An-Atheist ads had run in
Weekender, precursor to the new Saturday section. Ironically,
Saturday will also have two pages of religious ads, most advertising
church services. Burnham says he is afraid long-standing religious
advertisers willbe "offended" by the Atheist advertisement, although
he is unable to recall previous cases when our ads ran and where
religious advertisers expressed disapproval.
Burnham refused to put any of this in writing, of course, and
repeated that he could not guarantee location for the ad.
Our Dial-An-Atheist ad ran that Saturday in the afternoon section
of the Tucson Citizen. It did not run in the Saturday magazine
supplement, but instead was buried in the sports section at the
bottom of page 2-C, a haven for jock-worshippers and footballaddicts. The religious ads, of course, ran in their location - along
with some other curious ads. There, in the same Saturday
supplement, were the ads for the adult theaters, those moviehouses
whose stock in trade consists of features such as "Teenage
Cheerleaders" and "Hot Tub Stewardesses," featuring porn performers like Johnny Wad and Candy Kane. Those cheerleaders and

: : EMPRESS: :
:.: THEATRE :e:


OPEN 9:30 AM





64 - 25C ARCADES

3132 E.


their excited boyfriends seem to have smiles on their faces, of course,

unlike those somber christians tromping to church on Sunday
morning. As for the ads - I personally find those religious broadsides,
those gaudy collages of smiling preachers imposed against a
pretentious church edifice, to be far more "offensive" than display
hypes for triple-X-rated movies. The acting in productions such as
"Lust at First Bite" is probably superior to the performances of our
own local clergy. Ironically, it would appear that Mr. Burnham and/ or
somebody at Tucson Newspapers, Inc. is more concerned about an
Atheist ad "offending" a religious ringleader than about the neighborhood adult theatre. Bias is a strong disorder.

* * *
Of course it would have been somebody other than aTom
Burnham who made sure that the Dial-An-Atheist ad was sequestered away in the sports section; discrimination of this type could
have been the handiwork of a catholic typesetter, or perhaps a
mormon lay-out clerk. Telephone problems on Dial-An-Atheist could
be the mischief of a born-again lineman, or the nefarious result of
tampering by a moral majoritiarian. Discrimination of this type is
difficult, ifnot impossible to prove in a court of law. It is as effective as
Page 10

"Ironically, it would appear that somebody at

Tucson Newspapers, Inc. is more concerned
about an Atheist ad 'offending' a religious
ringleader than about the neighborhood adult
It is nothing new. The liberal Saturday Review refused to accept
paid advertising for Madalyn O'Hair's Why I Am An Atheist over a
decade ago. Dozens of radio stations refused to air the American
Atheist Radio Series. Everywhere, the parameters which define what
is and what is not "acceptable" for discussion lurk under a multitude
of guises, including no doubt not "offending" advertisers. Certain
notions and ideas are still taboo, "off limits" for discussion, public
examination and presentation. It is respectable for Jerry Falwell to
declare himself a fundamentalist, an opponent of evolution, an
advocate of censorship; it is respectable even for him to debate with a
"liberal" clergyman, one who fashions himself a progressive who can
"reconcile" science and religious superstition. It is even trendy to
throw in a scientist or two, the quiet type who will not draw a
philosophical conclusion from empirical studies, the type afraid to
insist that evidence of a creator is lacking and that science and religion
are at odds on this (and other) issues. But run an Atheist ad - declare
openly that you are godless - put an Atheist radio series on the air state that the bible is just so much myth, or that prayer at a City
Council meeting is a waste - and ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE.


overt, public policies of discrimination; the Citizen may just as well

declare "No Atheist Ads Accepted," since the result is nearly the
same. And too, it is regrettable that despite the constant platitudes
about "free press" and liberal fairness, one must still threaten lawsuits
to gain even the smallest of amenities when dealing with certain

March, 1984

In every "new member" packet which The American Atheist
Center sends out is an 8~" x 11" sheet on which there are about
20 advertisements, 2" x 2" which are suggested for placement in
local newspapers if the new members want to help.
For the most part, members have no difficulty having the
newspapers accept the ads. They are always somewhat astonished, when the ad comes out, to see that it is placed in such a position that no one uiil! ever see it. For a few, there is the shock of
having the newspaper, magazine or journal refuse the ad completely. Sometimes there are harsh words which accompany the
refusal. On several occasions Atheists have been shown the door ..
This is always a new member's introduction into the real world
of "freedom of the press. " Most Atheists already know about
"freedom of speech" - their "belief" that it is better to keep
their mouths shut and" stay in the closet. "
Our purpose in having the members place the ads, or try to
place the ads, is to get them "mad as hell" so they "won't take it
anymore. " When Atheists stand up, together, there are so many
of us in the population, that the reign of religious terror will end
on that day of the "stand up and speak out. "
Conrad sent in a copy of the sports page, on which his "Dial
An Atheist" ad was displayed - see the opposite page. It was effectively offered only to sports buffs.
Recently The American Atheist Center has asked that all ads
be run in the "amusements and Cinema" sections for it is thought
that more persons read those pages of the newspapers.
For those of you who want to share this delightful fight, write
to The American Atheist Center, P.O. Box 2117, Austin, TX
78768 and ask for the "advertisement sheet. " It will make your
day! And, when you try to place them, you too can taste the gall.

The American Atheist


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Page 11
March, 1984
Austin, Texas

AMERICAN A THEISM / Jon Garth Murray


nNovember of last year, according to the Washington Post and
other major newspapers, a dispute arose between the Code and
Rating Administration of the Motion Picture Association of
America (MPAA) and Universal studios concerning the rating of "X"
that had been given to a Brian De Palma filmentitled "Scarface." The
studio knew that an "X" rating versus an "R" rating would mean
lessened revenues from the film because the more restrictive rating
would decrease the available potential audience by putting a nonqualified age restriction on attendance. Universal took the matter on
appeal from the Code and Rating Administration (CARA) in Los
Angeles to the 20-member board of the MPAA in New York. After a
hearing on the matter the MPAA board, to the pleasure of De Palma
and the economic relief of Universal, lowered the rating from X to R.
The press reports of this struggle over a movie rating set me, having
an inquiring mind like most other Atheists, to ask the question "Why
ratings at all, and where did they come from?" I think that most of us
when we go to a movie, especially as adults, don't pay too much
attention to the ratings. Adults can see anything they like and, after
all, the rating really only affects those 17 and under.
When I started to do some investigation to satisfy my curiosity, I
opened up a rather large and complicated can of worms. I had no idea
what was involved in rating films and how long the internal
manipulations within the film industry had been going on over "the
rating game." Immediately I found out that apparently the movie
industry heads are very reluctant to let the public in on their rating
procedures. The first thing that I tried to do was to get a list of those 20
members on the appeals board of the MPAA and the 25 odd members
on the board of CARA in Los Angeles. What I found out is that that
information is not available. In the entire library system of the
University of Texas (which is second only to the Library of Congress
in Washington, DC) no one could find the names of these 45 persons
who control ratings on films in the whole United States. This set me to
thinking, "What are they trying to hide?"
I was able through some diligent research to find out about the
history of the rating system in the movie industry. What I have learned
from that history has made it all too clear why information on the
rating procedure is hard to find and outdated at best. I would like to
present to you, the reader, a synopsis of that history here and let you
judge for yourself.
The first little "peep shows" with rows of Edison's new kinetoscopes appeared on Broadway in New York on April 14th, 1894. The
Vitascope followed with the first commercial screen showing of a
"motion picture" in Atlanta in September of 1895. The first
Nickelodeons appeared in 1905 and by 1907 there were 5000 of them
around the country. In 1908 the first Motion Picture Patents
Company was established and by 1910 the actual story films replaced
little episodic films and the movie industry was on its way to big things.
The issue of censorship of what was to be shown in those early
silent films did not take long to rear its ugly head. Religion was
immediately on the alert. In 1909 then Mayor McClellan of New York
City in the month of March ordered all picture houses in New York
City closed for showing what he saw as "amoral" material. Needless
to say, many citizens of the city were shocked at this although, just as
now, some also cheered. One group of citizens from what was called
the People's Institute in New York came forward to the mayor and
offered their services to inspect and judge all films to be shown in the
city. When the press accounts of the offer of this citizens group
spread around the country, hot on the heels of the story of the theater

Page 12


closings, other cities began contacting the New York group asking for
them to look at films for their cities as well. As a result of this demand,
from outside of New York, this citizens voluntary group was renamed
the National Board of Censorship instead of the People's Institute.
The primary concern of those few liberal-minded citizens of the
time in New York was that if some kind of public input into the
censorship process was not established at the outset of this new
industry, the long arm of government would step in and with its usual
bureaucracy limit what the citizens saw as freedom of expression in a
way that they feared might take some doing to reinstate.
The National Board of Censorship took up its duty under the
watchful eye of the mayor, and by 1915 renamed itself the National
Board of Review of Motion Pictures. The term "censorship"
apparently did not appeal to some of the citizens involved as they felt
that they were protecting films from what they thought would be
stricter government controls. The name change also helped their
public image a little for the better, I suppose.
This National Board of Review, as it was called, decided to function
around two principles. First, it would review and classify films
according to "audience suitability." Second, it would prepare and
circulate lists of the films they had classified among socially minded
persons. In this way citizens could be warned about any unsavory
films, according to the religious-based moral standards of the day,
that were to be played in New York.

The AmericanAtheist

While this citizens board was setting itself up and going about the
business of classifying films by unknown and subjective criteria, the
leaders of the movie industry itself were watching the situation very
carefully. They were concerned, first, with the very same thing that
the citizens group was worried about, namely that government would
get into the censorship act with regard to their product. In addition,
however, they were also concerned with being left out of the review
process themselves. After all, as time and technology marched on,
the movie business was becoming more and more expensive and
complicated to be in. There were also, of course, greater profits to be
made as well. Getting one of your productions put on the "shit list," so
to speak, of the self-proclaimed National Board of Review in New
Yark would not do wonders for your take at the box office. So, the
movie industry people had a dual concern from the outset of
discussion of film censorship. They had a First Amendment freedom
of expression concern and, probably more importantly (especially in
this infant period of the industry and a period of rapid growth),
economic worries.
In 1916 the National Association of Motion Picture Industry
(NAMPI) was formed by a majority of the producers and distributors
of films as well as by scattered exhibitors. The new association came
under the directorship of William A. Brady. Brady was a motion
picture producer, actor and manager of the day. He had an
outstanding reputation among the leaders of the infant film industry.
He had produced some 250 plays for the stage. Brady served as
director of the association from 1916 to 1920. The first thing that the
National Association of the Motion Picture Industry set out to do was
to fight censorship at the state legislative level. This was no small task,
as you can imagine.
By 1919 the NAMPI voted to review and censor the films of its
member producers primarily to appease a growing clamor from
religious "reform" groups around the country. This was at about the
same era as when the temperance movement was in full blossom. A
bible-based moral attitude, the same kind that sponsored a prohibition Amendment that later had to be repealed, was brewing
concerning motion pictures. In 1921 movie censorship bills had been
introduced into the legislatures of 36 states. In 1920 congressman
Herrold and senator Gore (This was the father of Gore Vidal, the
now-famous author.) introduced bills into the federal Congress to
prohibit shipment of films that purported to show or simulate acts of
ex-convicts, desperadoes, bandits, train robbers, bank robbers, or
outlaws. According to those standards nothing could be shipped
these days. The bill failed to pass.
This federal Congressional attempt to curb shipment of certain
types of films frightened the NAMPI into action. In the same year they
adopted a set of 13 standards on the representation of sex,
commercialized vice, drunkenness, gambling, etc. on the screen.
Always self-censorship induced by fear is more repressive than the
anticipated act of government. These standards reflected that fear.
In 1922 representative Appleby of New Jersey introduced a billinto
the federal House to create a Federal Motion Picture Commission in
the then Bureau of Education. This move was backed up by
representative Upshaw of Massachusetts. Upshaw wanted this
Commission to have a license provision covering all films entering
interstate and foreign commerce. His bill provided for the inspection
of scenarios prior to full production and for government supervisors
to assist producers and directors in keeping films unobjectionable for
the public. As it turned out, the motion picture industry people had
been one step ahead of the game with their adoption, a year earlier, of
their set of thirteen standards on a list of topic headings. The NAMPI
standards were almost identical with the standards proposed in the
Upshaw bill for inspection of scenarios, and even in subsequent bills
of 1926 and the Hudson bill of 1930.
In 1921 NAMPI produced an circulated a filmof its own. In that film
popular authors of the day denounced and ridiculed public censorship. This must have been one of the earliest uses of non-print lobby
Late in 1921, on December 8th to be exact, Lewis J. Selznick
(famous producer/director) and Sam Goldwyn (of Metro-GoldwynAustin, Texas

Mayer) among others approached the then Postmaster General of

the United States, William Harrison Hays, in a meeting in Washington, DC. At that meeting they asked Hays to become the leader of the
film industry association at an annual salary of $100,000. A salary of
$100,000 a year at that time would be the equivalent of offering
someone $1 million a year to head an association today. Hays took
the offer under consideration, and on January 14th of 1922 accepted
the position. Why had these leading figures of the movie industry
asked the Postmaster General to lead their association? Hays had
been the Republican National Committee Chairman for President
Harding's 1920 campaign. In that capacity Hays had worked with allof
the important film industry men. In those days the, then still silent,
films gave the politician a new vehicle to reach the voters. The picture
of the candidate, his name, and campaign slogans could be shown on
the screen at the beginning of films all over the nation.
Hays was a presbyterian church elder. He attended presbyterian
Wabash College in Indiana for the principal part of his education. The
film industry leaders trusted him for he had a reputation of being a
very fine, honest, and moral (in the christian ethnic sense of the day)
man. Hays had come to the defense of The Liberator, a radical paper
of the day. The Liberator had had its second class mailing privileges
revoked because of the subject matter it addressed from time to time.
Hays was instrumental in having that privilege restored so that the
publication need not suffer the expense of being mailed at first class
rates. Hays reasoned that if The Liberator could be mailed at all
under first class rates there was no rationale fit to keep it from being
associated with second class mail. The movie industry people liked
this kind of attitude on the freedom to distribute material through the
mails and thought that Mr. Hays would make a fine leader for their
Shortly after Hays accepted the leadership of the National
Association of the Motion Picture Industry, the association became
known as the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America
(MPPDA). The MPPDA was incorporated in the state of New York
on March 11th, 1922. The objects ofthe association under Hays were:
"... to foster the common interests of those engaged in the
motion picture industry in the United States, by establishing
and maintaining the highest possible moral and artistic
standards in motion picture production, by developing
educational as well as the entertainment value and the general
usefulness of the motion picture, by diffusing accurate and
reliable information with reference to the industry, by
reforming abuses relative to the industry, by securing freedom
from unjust or unlawful exactions, and by other lawful and
proper means."
The directors of MPPDA gave Hays the power to personally veto
actions taken by the Board of Directors, the Executive Committee,
and by the general meeting of members of the association. This was a
powerful statement of their trust in his judgment and abilities. His veto
could be overridden, however, by a 2/3rds vote of the member
companies of the association. The MPDDA worked on three
common concerns of its member companies in addition to local and
state government censorship of films. First, there was the protection
of the interests of producers, directors, and distributors in foreign
countries. The rapid growth of the movie industry and fierce
competition among film companies had made it necessary for many
companies to go abroad in search of new and innovative locations for
filming. The association desired to try to protect them from
censorship movements growing in Europe as well. Secondly, the
association had to face the problem of theft and piracy of films.
Although a motion picture patents company had been around since
1908, theft and piracy were still problems that had grown right along
with the industry. Thirdly, the association was concerned with the
effect of revenue, copyright and tariff laws on the industry. Congress
was just beginning to wrestle with the issue of copyrights on moving
pictures, a new medium, at this time.
William Hays saw his job as head of the MPDDA as not to impose
his personal predilections as a substitute for public regulation but to
encourage many of the friends he had made in the film industry


Page 13

leadership during his campaign days to rule themselves. He set out to

teach them why self-government was necessary. Hays believed that
self-government was essential to the filmindustry because it educates
those who practice it about the nature of dealing with the public and it
tends toward promotion of growth within the industry because its
policies and obligations are self-imposed, based largely on that selfeducation. Hays had had experience with self-government concepts
as Postmaster General. The Post Office department was one that was
fairly much left to its own devices by Congress, unlike most of the
other government agencies.
In 1925 Hays established the Title Registration Bureau of the
MPPDA. The "official" purpose of the Title Registration Bureau was
for member companies to register new titles of proposed productions
so as to avoid duplication when it came to copyright considerations.
This was right in line with the third common concern of the member
companies on which the MPDDA under Hays had promised to work
Hays wanted to use the new Bureau, though, despite its official
purpose, as a means of screening out what he felt to be salacious or
suggestive titles before they became films. He kept up internal
pressures with the Board of Directors of the MPDDA for some five
years. In December of 1930 Hays was granted the right to deny
registration of any titles submitted to the Registration Bureau which
were in his opinion "improper."
Hays was justifiably concerned with the issue of curbing salacious
or suggestive films by "nipping them in the bud," as it is said. In 1922
there had been a public religious controversy on film censorship in
Massachusetts. The federal Congress also had; some problems
brewing for the industry in the Senate. On June 29th, 1922 a U.S.
senator gave the following speech on the Senate floor concerning the
motion picture industry of the time:
"At Hollywood is a colony of these people where debauchery, riotous living, drunkenness, ribaldry, dissipation,
free love seem to be conspicuous. Many of these 'stars,' it is
reported, were formerly bartenders, butcher boys, sopers,
swampers, variety actors and actresses who may have earned
$10 or $20 a week. Some of them are now paid, it is said, salaries
of something like $5,000 a month or more, and they do not
know what to do with their wealth, extracted from poor people
in large part by 2M or 50<1:
admission fees, except to spend it in
riotous living, dissipation, and 'high rolling.' These are some of
the characters from whom the young people of today are
deriving a large part of their education, views of life, and
character-forming habits. From these sources our young
people gain much of their views of life, inspiration and
education. Rather a poor source, is it not? It looks as if
censorship is needed, does it not?" (Congressional Record
62:9657, June 29, 1922.)
Also, at the same time, the rev. Wilbur Fisk Crafts, founder of what he
called the International Reform Federation, and the rev. William
Sheafe Chase were whipping up the religious community on the film
censorship issue. Crafts called himself the D.C. "lobbyist for the lord"
against "vice." He repeatedly demanded Congress to rescue the
motion picture industry from the devil. Chase was the author of
Catechism on Motion Pictures in Interstate Commerce which was
a compendium of the christian crusaders' vomit against the film
industry of the day. It was published in innumerable editions.
The Massachusetts controversy, though, bears the closest look
since it had the most major impact of all on the film industries and
particularly Mr. Hays' passion for self-regulation. On November 10th,
1922 Massachusetts held a public vote on a film censorship bill. The
billwas rejected 553,000 to 208,000. This rejection was considered by
the filmcompany executives of the time as the "Waterloo" of political
censorship of motion pictures. With the exception of Louisiana and a
brief skirmish in Connecticut, no state has since enacted such
legislation. This was a particularly sweet victory for William Hays
because he had personally gone into the field to lead the campaign to
defeat this censorship law in Massachusetts at the polls. The fight was
not over yet, however. In 1923 Massachusetts rep. Upshaw
introduced a bill into the federal Congress as a retry of New Jersey
Page 14


rep. Appleby's bill of 1922 to create a Federal Motion Picture

Commission, this time in the Department of the Interior instead of the
Bureau of Education as suggested by his colleague a year earlier. The
bill failed passage and was reintroduced in 1926. It failed again at that
time because President Calvin Coolidge spoke out against it. In 1925
rev. William Chase had been instrumental in founding The Federal
Motion Picture Council to help arouse public sentiment for a
government commission to regulate the picture industry. That
organization, along with the cooperation of members of Congress like
representatives Appleby and Upshaw, were not good enough to take
filmout of the hands of the MPDDA and transfer it to the government.
As it turned out, Hays was right on time with his establishment of the
Title Registration Bureau of the MPPDA, even with his ulterior


Ulterior motives were not good enough, though, and Hays knew
that, too. On June 19th of 1924 Hays came forth with his own
"Formula" for self-regulation of film content. Hays's "Formula"
passed by resolution of the board of the MPDDA as the board
members could see the necessity thereof after the Massachusetts
vote. The purpose of the "Formula" was to permit the MPPDA to see
a review of any material planned for the screen before a picture was
made of it. It did not vest in the MPDDA the power to reject
objectionable material, to impose any sort of penalty, monetary or
otherwise, for disregarding its advice. Probably because the "Formula" had no real teeth and also because the member companies of
the MPPDA had had the hell scared out of them by two congressional
bills and a state vote, most of the member companies went along, by
and large, with the recommendations of the MPDDA board under
Hays's "Formula." In 1924 some 27 stories were rejected by Hays and
the MPDDA board. In 1925,20 were rejected and by 1926 only 10 as
producers and directors within the industry got a taste of what the
board did or did not deem objectionable.
In December of 1927 Hays liberalized his "Formula." Now, when a
play or book was rejected by the MPDDA board as objectionable for
the screen, the author would be asked to present his side of the case
as to why it should not be rejected by the MPPDA board. If his
arguments prevailed, he was permitted to sell his product to the same
or some other company. If the board rejected the argument, the
author was permitted to rewrite the work with the unsuitable material
removed and resubmit it under a new title. Writers did not like this
The American Atheist

very much, but it was all for the "good of the whole," an expected
In June of 1927 the subcommittee on studio relations of the
Association of Motion Picture Producers, Inc. (AMPP) drafted a
report on self-regulation. The subcommittee was comprised of a
group of employees of the Association of Motion Picture Producers.
The association was an entity which had evolved parallel to the
MPPDA but is not connected therewith. It was commonly called the
California or West Coast Association. It was established in 1924 and
was composed of 16 companies which are members of the MPPDA
and one non-member company. The subcommittee report was
formulated mostly due to the efforts of a man by the name of colonel
Jason Joy. William Hays had sent colonel Joy to California from New
York because he wanted more than just a voluntary agreement on his
"Formula." Col. Joy's job was to convince the West Coast groups of
the necessity of this. On the basis of the report twenty two production
officials of the seventeen member companies agreed to abide by a
resolution listing eleven things which "shall not appear in pictures
produced by members of this association, irrespective of the manner
in which they (the subjects) are treated." The resolution also listed
twenty six other subjects with respect to which producers agreed to
exercise special care. This formalized list came to be known in the film
industry as the "Don'ts and Be Carefuls." The "Don'ts and Be
Carefuls" were as follows:
Resolved, That those things which are included in the following
list shall not appear in pictures produced by tne members of
this Association, irrespective of the manner in tiJhich they are
1. Pointed profanity - by either title or lip - this includes the
words "God," "Lord," "Jesus," "Christ" (unless they be
used reverently in connection with proper religious ceremonies), "hell," "damn," "Gawd," and every other profane
and vulgar expression however it may be spelled;
2. Any licentious or suggestive nudity - infact or in silhouette;
and any lecherous or licentious notice thereof by other
characters in the picture;
3. The illegal traffic in drugs;
4. Any inference of sexual perversion;
5. White slavery;
6. Miscegenation (sex relationships between the white and
black races);
7. Sex hygiene and venereal diseases;
B. Scenes of actual childbirth - in fact or in silhouette;
9. Children's sex organs;
10. Ridicule of the clergy;
11. Willful offense to any nation, race or creed;
And be it further
Resolved, That special care be exercised in the manner in
which the following subjects are treated, to the end that
vulgarity and suggestiveness may be eliminated and that good
taste may be emphasized:
1. The use of the flag;
2. International relations (avoiding picturizing in an unfavorable light another country's religion, history, institutions,
prominent people, and citizenry);
3. Arson;
4. The use of firearms;
5. Theft, robbery, safe-cracking, and dynamiting of trains,
mines, buildings, etc. (having in mind the effect which a
too-detailed description of these may have upon the moron);
6. Brutality and possible gruesomeness;
7. Technique of committing murder by whatever method;
B. Methods of smuggling;
9. Third-degree methods;
10. Actual hangings or electrocutions as legal punishment for
11. Sympathy for criminals;
12. Attitude toward public characters and institutions;
13. Sedition;
Austin, Texas

14. Apparent cruelty to children and animals;

15. Branding of people or animals;
16. The sale of women, or of a woman selling her virtue;
17. Rape or attempted rape;
lB. First-night scenes;
19. Man and woman in bed together;
20. Deliberate seduction of girls;
21. The institution of marriage;
22. Surgical operations;
23. The use of drugs;
24. Titles or scenes having to do with the law enforcement or
law-enforcing officers;
25. Excessive or lustful kissing, particularly when one character or the other is a "heavy";
Resolved, That the execution of the purposes of this
resolution is a fair trade practice.
These "Don'ts and Be Carefuls" were the first systematic
statements on standards of decency and/or morality adopted by the
film industry. As such it was important to reproduce them herein
their entirety.
During the late '20s a man by the name of Martin Quigley, who was
to figure prominently in further "self-regulation" of motion pictures,
was the publisher of a number of trade journals and magazines, one of
which was entitled The Motion Picture Herald. Quigley was a
virulent catholic layman. He and William Hays had met in late 1929,
and in response to those talks Quigley drafted a code to enforce
morality in the making of motion pictures. Both men agreed that all of
the foregoing "voluntary" systems had not worked. They were joined
in their desire to create a mandatory code of some sort by Daniel J.
Lord, S.J. (That S.J. means "Society of Jesus," which is a catholic
order founded in 1534 that gained the reputation of being the pope's
gestapo; they are commonly known as the jesuits.), professor of
Dramatics, University of St. Louis (a catholic institution). "Father"
Lord had been an advisory producer of the film "The King of Kings"
(and we all know what that was about). He was also the editor of a
religious magazine The Queen's Work and a personal friend of
Quigley. The result of the union of these two staunch catholics with
William Hays was what came to be called the heavily moral QuigleyLord proposed code. On February 17th, 1930 the producer members
of the AMPP voted to accept the code. Then, at a March 31st meeting
of the MPPDA, the code was made official for the whole industry.
Roman catholic religious moral standards were to tightly control the
industry from this time forward. The first part of the Quigley-Lord
proposal was called simply the "Code," and the second part was
called the "Reasons." Both parts were formally adopted and had the
status of enforceable industry law under the resolutions of both the
MPPDA and the AMPP. What was referred to as the "Code" was a
summary of the prohibitions proposed by the Quigley-Lord team,
prepared by father Lord at the request of William Hays. The
"Reasons" is the original Quigley-Lord draft as presented to the
MPPDA and the AMPP. The text of the "Code" part or summary is as
Formulated by Association of Motion Picture
Producers, Inc., and the Motion Picture Producers
and Distributors of America, Inc.
Motion picture producers recognize the high trust and
confidence which have been placed in them by the people of
the world and which have made motion pictures a universal
form of entertainment.
They recognize their responsibility to the public because of
this trust and because entertainment and art are important
influences in the life of a nation.
Hence, though regarding motion pictures primarily as
entertainment without any explicit purpose of teaching or
propaganda, they know that the motion picture within its own
field of entertainment may be directly responsible for spiritual


Page 15

or moral progress, for higher types of social life, and for much
correct thinking.
During the rapid transition from silent to talking pictures
they have realized the necessity and the opportunity of
subscribing to a Code to govern the production of talking
pictures and of reacknowledging this responsibility.
On their part, they osk.jrom the public and from public
leaders a sympathetic understanding of their purposes and
problems and a spirit of cooperation that will allow them the
freedom and opportunity necessary to bring the motion
picture to a still higher level of wholesome entertainment for all
the people.

necessarily evil, subjects should be subject always to the

dictate of good taste and a regard for the sensibilities of the
IV. Obscenity
Obscenity in word, gesture, reference, song, joke, or by
suggestion (even when likely to be understood only by part of
the audience) is forbidden.
V. Profanity
Pointed profanity (this includes the words, God, Lord, Jesus,
Christ - unless used reverently - hell, s.o.b., damn, gawd) , or
every other profane or vulgar expression however used, is

1. No picture shall be produced which will lower the moral
standards of those who see it. Hence the sympathy of the
audience shall never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil or sin.
2. Correct standards of life,subject only to the requirements of
drama and entertainment, shall be presented.
3. Law, natural or human, shall not be ridiculed, nor shall
sympathy be created for its violation.
I. Crimes Against The Law
These shall never be presented in such a way as to throw
sympathy with the crime as against law and justice or to inspire
others with a desire for imitation.
1. Murder
a. The technique of murder must be presented in a way
that will not inspire imitation.
b. Brutal killings are not to be presented in detail.
c. Revenge in modern times shall not be justified.
2. Methods of Crime should not be explicitly presented
a. Theft, robbery, safe-cracking, and dynamiting of trains,
mines, buildings, etc., should not be detailed in method.
b. Arson must be subject to the same safeguards.
c. The use of firearms should be restricted to essentials.
d. Methods of smuggling should not be presented.
3. Illegal drug traffic must never be presented.
4. The use of liquor in American life, when not required by
the plot or for proper characterization, will not be shown.
II. Sex
The sanctity of the institution of marriage and the home shall be
upheld. Pictures shall not infer that low forms of sex
relationship are the accepted or common thing.
1. Adultery, sometimes necessary plot material, must not be
explicitly treated, or justified, or presented attractively.
2. Scenes of Passion
a. They should not be introduced when not essential to
the plot.
b. Excessive and lustful kissing, lustful embraces, suggestive postures and gestures, are not to be shown.
c. In general passion should so be treated that these
scenes do not stimulate the lower and baser element.
3. Seduction or Rape
a. They should never be more than suggested, and only
when essential for the plot, and even then never shown
by explicit method.
4. Sex perversion or any inference to it is forbidden.
5. White slavery shall not be treated.
6. Miscegenation (sex relationship between the white and
black races) is forbidden.
7. Sex hygiene and venereal diseases are not subjects for
motion pictures.
8. Scenes of actual child birth, in fact or in silhouette, are
never to be presented.
III. Vulgarity
The treatment of low, disgusting, unpleasant, though not
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VI. Costume
1. Complete nudity is never permitted. This includes nudity
in fact or in silhouette, or any lecherous or licentious
notice thereof by other characters in the picture.
2. Undressing scenes should be avoided, and never used
save where essential to the plot.
3. Indecent or undue exposure is forbidden.
4. Dancing costumes intended to permit undue exposure or
indecent movements in the dance are forbidden.
VII. Dances
1. Dances suggesting or representing sexual actions or
indecent passion are forbidden.
2. Dances which emphasize indecent movements are to be
regarded as obscene.
VIII. Religion
1. No film or episode may throw ridicule on any religious
2.Ministers of religion in their character as ministers of
religion should not be used as comic characters or as
3. Ceremonies of any definite religion should be carefully and
respectfully handled.
IX. Locations
The treatment of bedrooms must be governed by good taste
and delicacy.
X. National Feelings
1. The use of the flag shall be consistently respectful.
2. The history, institutions, prominent people and citizenry
of other nations shall be represented fairly.
The American Atheist

XI. Titles
Salacious, indecent, or obscene titles shall not be used.
XII. Repellent Subjects
The following subjects must be treated within the careful limits
of good taste:
1. Actual hangings or electrocutions as legal punishments
for crime.
2. Third Degree methods.
3. Brutality and possible gruesomeness
4. Branding of people or animals.
5. Apparent cruelty to children or animals.
6. The sale of women, or a woman selling her uirtue.
7. Surgical operations.
The prohibitions in the code concerning Methods of Crime, The
Use of Liquor, Miscegenation, National Feelings and Repellent
Subjects, were not in the original Quigley-Lord draft. They were
added later prior to the vote by William Hays. The "moral principles"
used by Quigley and Lord in drafting the code were based upon the
ten commandments. Father Lord thought that the basic moral
prohibitions in all the religions of the western world were based on the
ten commandments so that was his base for "his" code. This is
despite the fact that the ten commandments of his church, the roman
catholic, is a different set than those used by the protestant churches
which are in the majority in the United States. According to Quigley,
in his book Decency in Motion Pictures (MacMillan 1937), "to curb
the evilinfluence of evil pictures was to have the pictures made right ..
. at the source of production."
These code resolutions made it obligatory for each member
company of either association (MPPDA or AMMP) to submit to the
Studio-Relations Committee of the Association of Motion Picture
Producers (AMPP) every filmproduced before its negatives could be
sent to the processing lab for printing. Upon submission the AMPP
was required to inform the production manager of the company in
writing if the picture had been made in conformity with the code,
stating specifically wherein by theme, treatment or incident the
picture violated the code. In the case of violations the film's producer
was required to hold release of the film until changes satisfactory to
the AMPP had been made.
Appeal from the AMPP decisions was possible. The producer of a
specific film could appeal to a jury of three members of the AMPP's
Production Committee. This committee was composed of seventeen
studio executives one from each of the member companies of the
AMPP. The Production Committee served as a panel from which
three jurors at a time were selected for appeals purposed by rotation.
These three member panels came to be known as the "Hollywood
If the decision of the "Hollywood Jury" was not favorable, the
producer could appeal to the board of directors of the MPPDA in
New York.
The resolution also provided that a producer could have a script
submitted by him prescreened by the Studio Relations Committee
which would report back to him with "suggestions" as to subject
matter that may violate the Production Code (as the previously
plain-termed "Code" became known).
On June 6th, 1930 William Hays talked the advertizing executives
of the major MPPDA member companies into adopting a comparable
advertizing code to complement the Production Code. Shortly
thereafter on October 8th, 1931 the resolution providing for the
possible submission of scripts to the Studio-Relations Committee by
producers which had been optional for a short time was made
compulsory. Following closely behind the compulsory prescreening
of scripts on December 24th, 1931, the Studio-Relations Committee
was given the right to appeal to the MPPDA board of directors from
any "Hollywood Jury" decision that was not in their favor, an option
previously only held by the producer.
Despite this obvious pulling in of the reins on creativity in the
motion picture industry, the "Hollywood Jury" was used only six
times in the first 3}-2years of its operations. During that same period
Austin, Texas

every appeal from the "Jury" decisions was lost by the StudioRelations Committee in favor of a producer. The Committee
therefore fell back on the system of warning producers that certain
parts of their submitted scripts would be frowned upon.
At this time another name appeared on the scene. It was that of
Joseph I. Breen. Breen had been introduced to William Hays by
Martin Quigley who had in turn met Breen in Chicago. Breen, another
religious stalwart, had been employed in Chicago by cardinal
Mundelein to take care of the press relations for the eucharistic
congress of the catholic church held in Chicago in 1926. In January of
1934 Breen became chairman of the Studio-Relations Committee of
the AMPP. Remember this man; he will be important later.
Meanwhile, in the summer of 1933 William Hays called a series of
meetings of producers in the industry to warn them of their obligation
to carry out the Production Code resolution. Many producers had
become lax over the three years since the code had been passed. One
of these meetings was attended by two men by the names of Giannini
and Scott. Dr. A.H. Gianinni was then president of Bank of America
in Los Angeles. Mr. Joseph Scott was a prominent Los Angeles
attorney. These two spoke up at one of the meetings called by Hays
that summer and warned the producers in attendance that ifthey did
not stop producing pictures which were in violation of the code that
the catholic bishops of the United States were prepared to organize a
campaign among catholic lay persons to boycott their films. Dr.
Gianinni and Mr. Scott had been informed about the consideration of
such a plan within the church by bishop Cantwell of Los Angeles. It
makes sense that they would be the ones told, especially Dr. Gianinni,
since the catholic church was at that time the major stock holder in
Bank of America, and attorney Scott did some legal work for the

It was not long before the roman catholic church made good on its
threat. In October, 1933 the "most reverend" Amleto Giovanni
Cicognani, apostolic delegate to the United States, in an address
before a charities convention in New York kicked off the boycott.
One month later the American bishops at their annual meeting in
Washington DC appointed a Committee on Motion Pictures. The
committee members were the archbishop of Cincinnati, Ohio and the
bishops of Los Angeles, California; Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Then, in April, 1934, six months later, this
committee of bishops announced the creation of a nationwide
"Legion of Decency" which was headquartered in New York City. A
provision was made, almost immediately, for a personal pledge for the
members of the new legion. They signed a pledge to boycott any films


Page 17

listed as offensive to the church by church authorities in various

dioceses. It only took a few months for millions of rank and file
catholics to be signed up to the pledge. The church was now set up to
enforce a roman catholic moral system on motion pictures, a system
that had been drafted by two of its own, Quigley and Lord, in
accordance with its own special version of the "ten commandments."

"Then in April, 1934 . . . this committee of

bishops announced the creation of a nationwide 'legion of decency' which was headquartered in New York City .... They signed a
pledge to boycott any films listed as offensive
to the church by church authorities in various
dioceses. . . . The church was now set up to
enforce a roman catholic moral system on
motion pictures."
The "good work" of the roman catholic legion of decency spread
quickly around the country. Led by their cardinal, the first boycott
sprang up in Philadelphia. The Chicago legion signed up 500,000
catholic women almost immediately and set them out on the task of
haranguing theater owners who tried to show films on the legion "hit
list." In Detroit groups of loyal catholics spread "W~ Demand Clean
Movies" bumper stickers all over the city. The Brooklyn, New York
legion enrolled 500,000 persons almost overnight. To top it off, the
lutherans of Missouri joined in the campaign. In the summer of 1934
the Federal Council of the churches of christ in America issued a
warning of their own to movie producers to heed the code. The
members of the churches of christ would be forced to join ranks with
the catholics and in addition ask for federal censorship.
In June of 1934, shortly after the church of christ ultimatum,
WilliamHays sent Joseph Breen (Remember that name?) and Martin
Quigley as representatives to the American bishops' committee
meeting in Cincinnati. There is no written record of this meeting,
anywhere. I wonder why? Breen and Quigley came back with the
message that the legion of decency would relax its campaign if the
Production Code was more strictly adhered to by the member
companies of the MPPDA and AMPP. As soon as Quigley and Breen
got back to New York with this message from the bishops, an
immediate meeting of the board of directors of MPPDA was called to
discuss the bishop's "terms." In actuality they were "terms" of
surrender. The movie industry had little choice, in face of the grass
roots power of the roman catholic church in America, but to
negotiate surrender.
As a result of the emergency board meeting, the directors of the
MPPDA decided to change the Studio-Relations Committee of the
AMPP out in California into a Production Code Administration. That
was done on July 1st, 1934. The catholic boycott had been initiated in
October, '33, and by July, '34, not even a year later, the entire movie
industry had to succumb to its wishes. The old "Hollywood Jury" was
eliminated and Joseph Breen was given the first chairmanship of the
newly created Production Code Administration. Was it because
Breen was a firm catholic and had done work for the church in
Chicago in 1926 that his appointment as chairman of the PCA was
part of the surrender terms? No one may ever know for sure because
the minutes of that June, '34 meeting of the bishops in Cincinnati is
not on record.
As a result of the elimination of the "Hollywood Jury" the
producers now had only two options. They could accept the
recommendations of the Production Code Administrations (PCA) on
their scripts or they could appeal directly to the board of directors of
the MPDDA whose decision would be final. It was agreed that no
MPPDA member company would distribute, release or exhibit any
film produced by it or by a producer only distributing through it,
unless it had a certificate of approval signed by the director of the
PCA and the film bore the PCA "seal." This was the birth of the
Page 18

March, 1984

present rating system.

Prior to June 13th, 1934 member companies had agreed not to
produce or release a film which had not been approved by the old
Studio-Relations Committee, but the theaters had not agreed not to
exhibit such a film. Now the theater owners had been pulled in under
the control net of the MPPDA and AMPP. Every print of every film
shown had to have the seal of the PCA. On July 3rd, '34 the
agreement was given its first set of teeth. Failure to comply with the
code or the changing of a filmafter it had been awarded a seal without
PCA permission would cost a member company a fine of $25,000
payable to the MPPDA.
Then came the clincher for me as an Atheist. On July 2nd, '36 pope
Pius XI issued from Rome an encyclical letter about the screen and
movie industry in which he recommended that the system established
under the PCA in the United States be emulated by other nations
around the world. Pius XI said that the PCA code of 1930 was a "wise
and spontaneously taken decision." The bishops of the United States
had been involved in a coordinated theopolitical move on the film
industry directed out of the vatican in Rome. The icing on the cake
came in November, '36 when William Hays himself made a trip to
Rome to the vatican to have the pontiff personally reinforce his
encyclical. As a protestant, Hays had to go to have the pope tell him
how it was going to be in the United States.

In the autumn of 1935, meanwhile, the self-regulation under the

PCA code was extended to nonmembers of either MPPDA or AMPP.
That was the church in Rome's coup de grace to the movies.
The Production Code Administration operated in the following
1) A preliminary conference is held between the PCA's
director, staff and producer to consider the basic story before it
is adapted for the screen or purchased by a film company. The
plot as a whole is discussed as it relates to the code.
2) The script, when ready, is submitted by the producing
company for scrutiny of the PCA. The PCA staff examines the
script and the director of the PCA reports to the company on
anything it should change to meet the requirements of the
3) A conference is held with the writers to effect any required
script changes.
4) The PCA gives written approval of the script.
5) Conferences are held during production of the film to
The American Atheist


assure compliance with the script changes, and to have the

PCA staff okay any "on location" changes that may become
6) Sequences are previewed by the PCA during the course of
production at the request of the producer whenever questions
arise as to possible code violations. The PCA recommends that
"protection shots" are double shootings of a particular scene
two different ways or with two different scripts just in case the
producers first choice of the two for the filmis ruled in violation
of the code later on. This makes for double money often to be
spent in production of controversial films.
7) The PCA previews the entire film. Previews are done
before two staff members of the PCA who have been
overseeing production of the film and one who had not been
involved in the production stage. All three then get together
and make a report to the PCA board.
8) Any scenes, sequences, dialogue or action found to be in
violation of the code are deleted from the film.
9) A certificate of approval for the film is Issued by the PCA.
The roman catholic church authorities and the legion of decency
which still hung around after the victory worked so closely with the
PCA that during the period from 1934 to 1967 only five films granted
PCA code seals were placed on the "condemned" list by the legion.
One example will suffice. In '51 the film production of "A Streetcar
Named Desire" was passed by the PCA and given a code seal. The
legion of decency threatened a "condemned" rating for it on their
listing. PCA code censors worked with the legfon and Warner
Brothers editors to make additional cuts in the film so the legion
would give it a "morally objectionable" rating instead of "condemned." The legion of decency is still around. It is now called the
National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures, a more innocuous title.
There is also a protestant filmcouncil still around and it is now called
the Broadcasting and Film Commission of the National Council of
Churches. The code censors viewed their position with respect to the
legion over the years as primarily defensive in nature. The code
censors main concern was to keep the industry out of trouble with
local censor boards and groups like the legion. The code censors also
felt that keeping films in line with the code saved the financial
investments of the filmcompanies, which grew larger and larger with
time, more than it protected the public "virtue."

Austin, Texas


A point must be made here. I think it is made best by quoting a

noted author on censorship, Richard Randall, who said of the PCA,
"self-regulation under the code was actually more restrictive than
official censorship." From the very beginning back in 1909 when the
mayor of New York shut down movie houses, citizens and movie
houses alike were worried that if they did not self-regulate, the "long
arm of the law" would from the state or federal level. As it turned out,
they would have been much better offto have let the government take
over the censorship role. Out of their own fears they have created a
method of self-censorship that has increased in scope over the years
to something worse than than the slow hand of government could
have meted out in the same period.
The process of negotiation with the PCA's people, on the part of
producers, directors and writers, involved much bargaining and
horse-trading with the creative people pleading for story points. They
won some and they lost some. I know this experience very well
because I sat in on such bargaining sessions with a book publisher
over a book on separation of state and church and on church wealth
in America. The book was combed over by a protestant, roman
catholic, and jewish censor, and everything that "offended" any of
their particular prejudices was stricken. The author and I had to sit
there and plead with the publisher for each story point while the red
pen fell. This is freedom of the press and freedom of expression in
It was not long after the '30s that the courts decided to get into the
film censorship act. In 1948 the Supreme Court came down with a
decision in the case of U.S. v. Paramount Pictures. This was an
antitrust decision. The court said that major movie companies could
no longer hold giant theater chains. When the big studios lost control
over the theaters and the power to regulate exhibitors, as a result of
this case, it was easier for independent productions that did not meet
the PCA code to get distributed. Prior to this decision, 95%of the films
shown in the U.S. had the PCA code seal. By 1966 only 59% of the
films released in this country had the seal. In the '48 decision justice
Douglas said, "We have no doubt that motion pictures, like
newspapers and radio, are included in the press whose freedom is
guaranteed by the First Amendment."
In 1952 the Supreme Court ruled again on the case of Burstyn v.
Wilson. In that case the court ruled that expression by means of
motion pictures is included within free speech and free press
guarantees of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The case
involved New York state censors banning an Italian import film. This
case was instrumental in helping to break up most of the local censor
boards. By 1965 only four state and ten municipal boards were left in
the nation.
In 1956 the MPPDA and AMPP rescinded the parts of the
Production Code against miscegenation, prostitution and narcotics.
In 1961 another amendment to the code allowed" discreet" treatment
of homosexuality and other "sexual deviations." The great success of
European films on the American market that for the most part did not.
carry the PCA code seal and the influence of TV (something new that
came along in the '50s) helped bring about these changes in the code.
The PCA code seal as well as the catholic" condemned" rating began
to have less and less of an effect on the commercial success of a film.
With that fact firmly in mind the PCA in 1966 drastically altered the
code. The PCA office was now empowered to label approved films in
two categories. Either "Suggested for Mature Audiences" or
"General Audiences."
Then on April 22nd, 1968 the Supreme Court stepped back into the
ring with its decision in Ginsberg v. New York. In that case the court
ruled that material constitutionally protected for adults could still be
considered obscene for minors. On the same day the court handed
down a decision in the case of Interstate Circuit v. Dallas. In that
case the court invalidated a Dallas, Texas filmclassification ordinance
because of the vagueness of the classification standards used there in
particular. In the true style of the Supreme Court, however, they said
that classification systems with more tightly drawn standards could
survive constitutional tests. With this the court clearly opened the
door for state and municipal classification. The film industry


Page 19

executives immediately realized that they had to move quickly to

preserve their "self-regulation" for which they had worked so hard
through the years. If not they would face different standards for their
films in every market area. Within six months after the Dallas decision
the industry announced its own rating system to the public.
The system was swiftly approved by the then nine Motion Picture
Association of America (MPAA) companies, the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) and the International Film
Importers and Distributors of America (IFIDA). On October 7th,
1968 the plan was officiallyannounced to go into effect on November
1st of that year. Under the new plan any film could be made, and it
could be assigned one of four ratings by the MPAA.
1) "G" - All ages admitted, general audiences.
2) "M" - Suggested for mature audiences, adults and
mature young people.
3) "R" - Restricted, under 16requires accompanying parent
or adult guardian.
4) "X" - No one under 16 admitted.





Instead of abandoning the old Production Code altogether, the

MPAA retained an abbreviated version of it. It consisted of eleven
"standards of production" regarding violence, criminal behavior, illicit
sex, profanity, sex aberrations and cruelty to animals. Ex-MPAA
board members have said that these "standards of production" had
nothing to do with their ratings approved to be assigned to a given
film. The only reason a version of the old code was kept at all was to
tell Washington DC lobby and pressure groups that the industry still
had a moral standard. The old bug-a-boo of government censorship
had reared its ugly head again.
In 1970 the "M" rating was changed to "GP," meaning "General
audiences, parental guidance suggested." Then in 1972 "GP" was
changed to "PG" with a new definition of "Parental guidance
suggested, some material may not be suitable for pre-teenagers."
Films that are rated "G," "GP," and "R" are granted a PCA code seal,
but films rated "X" are denied a code seal to go along with the rating.
Therefore, despite MPAA publicity to the contrary the four
categories of ratings are not "equal." The MPAA officially gives the
excuse concerning the non-granting of a code seal to "X" films that
the association is committed to the legal defense of any film that
carries its seal. It could, therefore, not "afford" to come to the legal
defense of thousands of "skin flicks."
Page 20


I repeat again here that it was impossible to find out who the current
board members of the MPAA Code and Rating Administration
(CARA), which sits in Los Angeles, are. That information is just not
available for some reason unknown yet to this author. On can only
suspect strong religious affiliations of the members. I have managed
to find out something of what the current rating procedure for a film
should be. Stephen Farber who was on the board of CARA for about
six months during 1969 wrote a book about it, and it was used as one
of the references for this article. The procedures may be different by
now than those he witnessed in '69, but they should still be very close.
Mr. Farber is the only "insider" to have ever written extensively on
the subject of movie ratings.
I will now attempt to give you the procedure for rating a film as
briefly as possible.
Every CARA board member who sees a film fills out an individual
ballot explaining the reasons for his or her rating given to a particular
film. The ballot has separate sections for discussion of theme, visual
treatment of theme material, and language. The ballots are supposed
to be for research purposes and are forwarded to the CARA
psychiatric consultant after use. They are not seen again, especially
by the public. At a meeting each morning in Los Angeles the ratings of
films screened the preceeding day by the board are discussed and a
vote is taken for a final decision to be reached. Scripts may also be
discussed. More often, however, an individual board member is
assigned to a particular submitted script and has to write what is
called a "script letter." A "script letter" includes a projected rating
(what the individual board member thinks the movie should receive)
and a list of suggested eliminations, if any. That particular board
member sends the script back to the studio that submitted it without
consulting anyone else with his or her "script letter." The Administration of CARA then informs the company involved of the
board's decision after a vote is taken. If the company is dissatisfied
with the decision it can ask for a rescheduling of the film for
reconsideration of the decision. The film maker or studio representative may meet with the board (or more often with just the
administrator alone) to argue his case for a changed decision. If the
full board votes to stand by the original rating, the company can
appeal. The appeal goes to New York to the Appeals Board which
consists of representatives of MPAA member companies, NATO and
IFIDA. In many cases instead of appealing to New York the company
will hold editing negotiations with the CARA board and make
agreements to cuts in return for desired rating. This is where the
horse-trading comes back into play. The administrator has a great
deal of power in the whole process. Usually the rest of the .CARA
board will go along with whatever rating the administrator wants to
assign and/or whatever cuts he demands.
In 1969 three hundred sixty four films were rated by the CARA
board. In 1970 four hundred seventy one were rated. In 1971 five
hundred fifty two were rated. Until 1971 there was a New York City
branch of CARA consisting of four members. They rated many of the
films that came mainly from small independent distributors. Most of
those independent films were either made in New York or imported.
When it was inconvenient for the distributors to ship their films to
California, they were rated in New York. Now all films are rated in
According to Farber, most of the CARA board members
considered themselves to be rating the films they reviewed for the
sake of children and parents and not for their own sakes, or so they
said. Most of them, again according to Farber, wanted to say that they
were "protecting the sensibilities of the masses" when they restricted
sexual material, but in reality many of them were just personally
shocked or offended by things in specific films. So, most board
decisions, says Farber, were "no more than predictions of the
sensitivities of parents and troublemakers within the community."
Most of the board arguments tended to be over deciding between a
"GP" or a "R" rating for a given film. The films that got "X" ratings
were usually pretty obvious to all concerned from the start and were
unanimous decisions.
In the course of researching for this article another question came
The American Atheist

up which needs to be addressed at this point. The question is, "What

criterion, other than personal subjective considerations, are used by
the members of the CARA board when reviewing a motion picture or
an advance script?" I thought that surely there would be some written
guidelines. someplace. perhaps akin to the old "Don'ts and Be
Carefuls" of the mid-1920s. Ifthere are written guidelines, they are not
now available to the public or the press, and never have been. I was
able to find out that CARA has what they call a Policy Review
Committee. This Committee is composed of four representatives
each from NATO, IFIDA and the MPAA plus the CARA Chairman as
"ex officio" member. The chairmanship of the Policy Review
Committee rotates among the chief executive officers of NATO,
IFIDA and the MPAA. The Committee meets twice a year and the
minutes of those meetings are available only to the members of the
Committee. They are held in strict confidentiality. Perhaps the
answer to the question of whence the standards of rating are
currently derived is hidden from view somewhere in those minutes.
The official duties of the Committee are to determine policies, rules
and procedures for the implementation thereof. The secrecy of the
whole rating procedure is incredible. If I were rating movies, I would
desire some input from the actors and the public or media film
reviewers. I really don't know of what the CARA rating board people
are afraid. Perhaps they do not want the religious zanies to find out
that they have perhaps, in fact, despite pretenses to the contrary,
dispensed altogether with the old code.




+r++r r

t r+r

that in many cases are not carried out by the full board after they
screen the film.
Getting back to the appeals process for a minute, there is a final
appeals process also. It is before the Code and Rating Appeals Board
which is a separate entity from the Code and Rating Administration.
The Appeals Board meets in New York. It includes a maximum of 25
members. Thirteen from the MPAA (including Jack Valenti, current
President of that association and a representative from each of the
member companies of which there are currently 20), eight from
NATO (the exhibitors), and four from IFIDA (the independent
distributors). A producer or distributor who disputes the decision of
the Los Angeles CARA board simply files notice of desire to appeal in
letter to Valenti's office in New York and an appeals hearing is set.
The Appeals Board screens the film in question, then hears
arguments from both CARA and the company challenging the rating.
The Board then votes. A two-thirds majority by secret ballot is
needed to change a rating.
Well, that is the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me
me. Needless to say, I was shocked, as you the reader should be, of
the massive entanglement of the church, particularly the roman
catholic church, in the whole business of rating films. I had my naivete .
concerning freedom of expression in the publishing field shattered
years ago. Here goes any "faith," (a strange thing for an Atheist to be
messing around with, anyway) in those innocuous little letters on
movie posters which I mayor may not have had, I used the word
"innocuous" at the beginning of this article to describe movie ratings.
Now that I know what I know, they are not so "innocuous" anymore.
Like many things that we ignore, or let pass by, or take for granted,
those little letters are emblematic of just one more little freedom lost.
Over the years they pile up to some real big losses. It is just like other
little things that seem not to hurt very much: a little "innocuous"
prayer in school, or a little phrase with "god" in it on the money, or just
a tiny little tax break for parochial school parents.
I hope that I have in some way awakened the curiosity of some of
the rest of you out there with what I have said. Next time you go to a
movie look for the CARA seal and one of those little letters in the
corner (or in the middle, I guess it is, now) of the screen. When you
see that rating, just think that you may never know who voted to put it
there, or which bishop or cardinal influenced it. Think of it as just
another little piece of your freedom down the drain. After this I think I
shall not be getting very much pleasure out of movies anymore. I think
I may still go, however, just for the popcorn. I love popcorn. ~

.,.,..---:, .....




x '",

,..! . - -




v~ .. '' eo'
'~,' .. --: ~ \ ~

.p~V'. '"- - - -.~ ,



'-----~x.~.'~ "
.......~-' ,,

. '..i,~

All the CARA people realize also that "the rating game" has its
economic considerations, too. An "X" rating can cut a film's profit
potential by as much as 50%.An "R" rating can cut a film's revenue by
as much as 20%. As a result of this consideration in 1970 CARA
decided to broaden the "R" rating category by raising the age
limitation on it to 17 instead of 16. Thus, more persons out of the
movie-going population would be eligible to see an "R" rated film.
What cuts down on a film's revenue potential with a more restrictive
rating is that it reduces the available portion of the viewing public from
which the film can draw. The "PG" rating is now the most popular
with film makers. To some extent the "X" rating, like the parts of the
old regularly violated Production Code that were kept, is a
concession to the conservatives (Falwell and the like) and the
legislators in Washington. The board members of CARA are also
often harder on items they find in reviewing a script than they are
when they see the scene on the screen. So, the "script letters" that
individual board members send companies without consultation with
the others on the board sometimes mislead companies with "threats"
Austin, Texas

Balio, Tino, Ed., American Film Industry, Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1976,
Farber, Stephen, Movie Rating Game, Public Affairs Press, Wash. DC, 1972.
Moley, Raymond, The Hays Office, Bobbs-Merrill Co., New York, NY, 1945.
A Year in Review, June, 1968, annual report of the MPAA.
Decency in Motion Pictures. MacMillan. 1937.
Nizer, Louis, New Courts of Industry.
O'Hair, Madalyn Murray, Freedom Under Siege, Jeremy Tarcher, 1972,

March, 1984

Page 21



by F.J. Gould
W'th A Digest Review of:
I Ancient;
and "Modern" Philosophy

\c,r '~'':;*



his newly released edition by the American Atheist Press is a

reference text that should be in the hands of every Atheist.
Indeed, it is important reading for any person - even those with
oyster-like mentalities who sally back and forth between "belief" and
In a broad sense it is an expose of philosophy - laying before you
the timeless rantings of "scholars" of the past, those who indemnified
themselves with academic "degrees," positions of power and
influence in religion and government, and/or personal wealth. It also
demonstrates the (usually) pitiful resistance offered by the few who
dared oppose pompous authority.
For some time the American Atheist organization has taken the
rightful position that "philosophy," per se, is "stuff and nonsense." It
has represented, in its entirety, only a colossal waste of human time
and energy because its only purpose was, AND IS, an attempt to lend
credibility to absurdities. Some might argue that there were those
"philosophers" who argued against absurdities and that therefore
philosophy is a "valid educational device." To such individuals I can
only comment: Go to the nearest funny farm and argue, or debate,
with its idiot inmates. Perhaps you might even imagine that you may
be able to "talk sense" to those poor unfortunate individuals. If so, I
fear that you do not realize the content of madness. Absurdities
should only be-ignored by persons who understand that they cannot
be refashioned into pertinent possibilities.
Those, like Auguste Comte, who entered into philosophical
academia with the intention of bringing about change so as to
improve the miserable conditions faced by the common people of his
era, were, more or less, "fools" of their day and time. By and large, the
Comtes of history never seemed to realize that misery and religious
fantasy were the chief products of every major culture and society
that had ever existed throughout history, and that the verg,purpose of
authoritarian systems, dating back to the ancient witch-doctor
priests, was to generate and regenerate ignorance in the still ape-like
Page 22

March, 1984

minds of the" common" people - thereby perpetuating an adoration

of authority. Comte never realized that the absorbent minds of
children would have to have been isolated from mythology from the
beginning - not intrigued and entertained with it during formative
years - and that subsequently, as juveniles, those same children
should not be subjected to the boring discourses offered by "adults"
who believed in ghosts! Consequently, "society" incessantly pumps
out its muckery at a pace that would easily overwhelm an army of
"intellectually philosophical" Comtes. Meanwhile, science and the
constructive arts lay starving for attention as windbags bellowed their
philosophical orations.
Why then do we have the audacity to offer you this book
concerned, of all things, with philosophy? Simply this. The very page
that you are reading at this moment would be cited as "philosophical"
or "opinionated" by those who would challenge it statements. By
making available to you, in summarized form, the actual words and
ideas of history's philosophical procrastinators, we are following the
science format for learning - we are footnoting our position with
We could hardly suggest that you, individually, embark upon an
extended journey into philosophical courses that would require years
of voluminous reading. That would be the equivalent of asking YOU
to waste half of YOUR lifetime, as did the millions of philosophy buffs
before you. Yet, in order for you to have some idea of the reason for
our attitude of disgust toward philosophy, you must have, at least, the
pertinent evidences we offer.
This is the entire concept of Atheism - not to be decoyed into the
pitfalls of trivia by deviously placed deceptive devices intended only to
snare the unwary mind. But, instead, to "sniff out" the vile traps and
ruses placed in our way by secretive religious nitwits who would infect
our minds.
Once you have attained total Atheism through education you will
see quite handily that all of history's bible pages are simply low-grade
sheets of toilet tissue and that the only equitable use for the" chalice"
is as an ornamental urinal. The only proper treatment for religion is to
laugh in its lying face and to pity those too lazy to separate themselves
from it. And, you willcome to know, as is evidenced in this, our newly
released publication, that philosophy is exactly what American
Atheists claim - "stuff and nonsense"!
. / Gerald Tholen
Send Order Form To: American Atheist Press/Box
Austin, TX 78768-2117.
(Texas residents add 5% Sales Tax.)
171 pp.
$5.95 postage included

Or charge to my
Exp. Date


Bank Code

The American Atheist


nthe small town where I grew up, a longtime friendship developed

between myself and Dr. William T. Anderson - a general medical
practitioner who settled there in the early 1940s. "Doc" was one of
those typical and capable persons who could legitimately (and
proudly) claim the title, "country doctor." In the community, he was
more than a physician; he was also a friend of the people he served.
He was, by a number of years, my senior, and thus received the added
respect which some young people afford to certain folks who happen
to be a bit older. Yet, he was by no means the type who considered
himself "superior" because of age or any reason. Indeed, he always
impressed me as one who understood completely the word friend.
As time went on, I recall a particular humorous incident that
occurred. It was on an occasion when I was installing some flooring
material in a little house that he had owned for a number of years.
Having a few moments of escape from his very time-consuminq office
routine, he stood watching me work and we talked. It had been
characteristic for both of us, over the years, to maintain tolerable
senses of humor, and the conversation on that particular day followed
our usual jovial style. After a while he said - "Well, I've got to run. I've
got some minor surgery scheduled in about an hour." As he started to
leave, I suggested, still jokingly, "you wanna borrow my linoleum
knife, Doc. Ijust sharpened it, and it cuts like a razor!" He stood for a
moment, thoughtfully, then replied, "Naw, you know how it is
borrowing tools!"
For some reason, even though the conversation was all in fun, I've
remembered that little episode ever since. Perhaps it was because I
admire people who display a desire to be self-motivated, self-reliant.
Not that there is anything wrong with borrowing, for there surely is
not! However, borrowing should be approached with tact. It should
be done with a certain feeling of respect and appreciation for the
"property" of others. To begin with, one should not borrow
frivolously. In using something that belongs to another, certain
criteria should be considered: i.e., are we borrowing because of a
laziness that grows out of the lack of self-sufficiency that would enable
us to acquire for ourselves similar items or resources?; do we borrow
because of some inner jealousy centered on "things" belonging to
another? Or, do we, instead, borrow strictly for legitimate convenience and with a proper regard for the privilege of free use of
something that may enhance our situations or that was not otherwise
available. to us? One's character usually sets the standard to be
followed in borrowing and we should always remember that a
"borrowed item," regardless of circumstances, remains the true
property of the lender.
With that thought in mind, borrowing and/or lending is a powerful
vehicle by which people can move forward at an accelerated pace.
Indeed, life itself can be better enjoyed with it, if honesty and
legitimacy are intelligently maintained. Neither can we forget the
"obligations" on the part of the lender. Lending should be done within
the same perspectives. If one lends something "freely" no obligation
should necessarily accompany the gesture - unless, of course, one is
engaged in the commercial aspects of lending. There, profit and
obligation are prearranged conditions of lending.
As with most other things, the concepts of borrowing and lending
seem to evolve with time. I thought it might be interesting to point out
some of the less noticed shortcomings of "borrowing for the wrong
reasons" and how "borrowing" seems to be, at times, confused with
Austin, Texas

I have mentioned in any number of prior columns some of the

attributes that nations of people develop with respect to the
acquisition of lands and/or the methodologies of territorial expansionism. Remember Panama? It was an insignificant little strip of
jungle separating two great oceans prior to 1850. Subsequently there
arose the idea of building a canal which would link the East to the
West. Suddenly, Panama became "priceless real estate"! As it turned
out, the U.S. of A. became a principal investor in the project and was
awarded "certain rights" for its participation in the canal's construction. Now, it is likely that Panama will never really enjoy the
complete return of its property because of the canal's strategic value
to commercial and military involvement. It seems that we "borrow"
canal zones for "extended periods of time," and as long as the
Panama Canal retains its strategic importance "we" shall retain
"control" over Panama.
Interestingly enough, there are other inequitable practices in the
Central American region which have been accepted by the North
American public for so long that we have come to view them as
"standards." For generations we have "borrowed" economic advantage from those lesser nations, and because they were naive
enough to allow a continuation of the practice we "rewarded" them
with the insufferable and insulting indignation of "banana republics."
Look objectively for a moment at the circumstances endured by
"banana republics." During my last visit to a local supermarket I made
it a point to pay particular attention to the price of bananas! I was in
"luck." Bananas were" on sale." The price was 19 per pound - what
a buy! Directly opposite the bananas were some (I presume)
Washington State apples. The apples were 59 per pound. I began to
wonder about the circumstances which led to the establishment of
these two prices. It first occurred to me that bananas were far more
delicate and perishable than apples. The "shelf life" of any product
with a significant spoilage factor usually causes it to command a
higher retail price! Were the bananas priced "low" in order to move
them quickly? I then gave consideration to other factors involved.
What about growing, harvesting and shipping. Surely it would seem
that the agricultural production and shipment of delicate fruits might
involve more expensive methods than would be required for the
"sturdier" fruits. At any rate, I found myself wondering how much
agricultural income "banana republics" enjoyed when their principal
crop sold for a mere 19 per pound in U.S. supermarkets! This
caused me to recall the "shocking" escalation of South American
coffee prices a number of years ago. In only a few months I remember
that the price quickly rose from about 49 a pound to well over a
dollar a pound - and continued to increase until it reached, in
extreme cases, something near $3 per pound. I cannot help but
observe that we do not call any of the Central or South American
nations "coffee republics." Is it because those countries have learned
to do business the "American Way," by increasing prices until the
consumer is crushed under the weight of the pricing? When this
occurs we seem to afford some unconscious "respect" for the
producers of goods. We refer to it as capitalism when, in fact, it is
"monopolism." Capitalism implies that all of the participants in trade
should derive profit from the trading of goods. Monopolism, however,
seems to have become a cancerous outgrowth that is slowly killing
the once healthy cells we refer to as the "American Way." In my
estimation we have successfully "borrowed" bananas from the

March, 1984

Page 23

banana republics because, most certainly, at 19~per pound retail, we

have not paid for them. And, seeing as how we had no intention of
returning our "free" bananas, I can only ascertain that we have, in
truth, stolen them! To add insult to injury we now send them
pompous idiotic religious missionaries and Henry Kissinger!
At this point, and in keeping with my usual journalistic observations, I inject the question: What has this to do with Atheism? To
keep priorities in order let me first state that Atheism is an attempt to
enhance life through education. We therefore must define "life," ifmy
writing is to have any meaning at all. If you and I are engaged in a
discussion of life, I would ask you to define life for me. Do you mean
your life?Or would you be referring to the plural, your lifeand my life?
Or do we mean lifein general- all lives!It would be quite hypocritical
in a discussion of "enhancement of life through education" to
consider life a closed private corporation belonging to the few who
consider their lives important! If we are not prone to afford "fair
treatment" for all living things, we are not prone to afford fair
treatment for any living thing.
A South American farmer who raises bananas is as important to me
from an atheistic standpoint as a farmer who raises crops on North
America's "fruited plain." We simply have let our concepts of
melodramatic, macho-movie fantasy go too far. I cannot help feeling
disheartened when frenzied citizens applaud as the most powerful
war machine on earth crushes an "insignificant" Grenada. Do we also
cheer when someone swats a fly? How "heroic"!
But then, all we need to do is exclude such incidents from our
history texts and our young people of future generations will"never
know." This is the way we have always dealt with our many cowardly
actions in the past. It's why we have such a gung-ho, red-necked
attitude toward other nations now. We've always seen ourselves as
the" glorious Captain Marvel" heroes of history. We have continually
viewed the fear that other nations have had of us, because of our
bullying ways, as "respect." Does an abused wife or child respect a
wife-beating husband? Or do they simply fear him? Perhaps it has not
occurred to us, but times are changing. "Wars" are no longer fought
"at a distance" and in the manner we see in Hollywood epics. No more
armies in "soldier suits." The next "battle" may be in a crowded
neighborhood supermarket. The only "weapons" involved will
probably be a home-made pipe bomb. But it will strike a fear in the
hearts of Americans that has long been known to the rest of the
But, back to the topic at hand, borrowing. On the May, '83 cover of
American Atheist magazine was depicted an illustration entitled
"The World According to Ronnie." A characterized drawing of the
globe (earth) was shown thereon. The geographic separations of
"good" and "evil" nations was dramatized by religious emblems and a
"disenchanted devil." As could easily be seen, it mimicked certain
statements made by Reagan which concerned themselves with those
countries who had come under the influence of "godless communism." A few months later the American Atheist Press (publisher
of American Atheist magazine) sought to place a legitimate full-page
ad in the national Washington Post weekly periodical. Placement of
the ad was denied by the Post on the grounds that it" did not meet the
rigorous requirement standards" set down by their advertising
department. The ad's intention was simply to sell books published by
American Atheists. It was identical to the book ad on the inside back
cover of the January, '84 issue of American Atheist magazine. The
ad was in perfectly "good taste" and WAS accepted in the New York
Times weekly periodical, and will probably be included in a
forthcoming issue of a similar publication of the Los Angeles Times.
However, the Washington Post, it appears, is "more selective"
among its prospective advertisers.
I now find that the Post is not nearly so "selective" in its choice of
cover themes! The issue (December 5, '83) which should have
included OUR book ad had emblazoned on its cover "The World
According to Ronald Reagan." A world map in the background
showed an identical extension of the original idea portrayed months
earlier by American Atheist magazine - a characterized pictorial
displaying the geographic separations (i.e. Ronnie's) of "good" and
Page 24

March, 1984





The American Atheist




"evil" nations. Another Atheist idea "borrowed"; a more accurate

definition for the term "borrowed," in this instance, is plagiarized
(another instance of journalistic poetic license with respect to
"borrowing"). In another (July, '83) issue of American Atheist
magazine a cartoon was published which which displayed a characterized drawing of Reagan in a sitting position in front of a battery of
intercontinental missiles, depicted as a group of gigantic "sky
rockets." No caption was included because the drawing was selfexplanatory. Reagan was engaged in striking matches carelessly and
randomly and the smoke from the strewn-about spent matches
spelled out the words Syria, Lebanon, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
Approximately three weeks after publication of that issue of
American A theist a prominent legislator - none other than Speaker
of the House, "Tip" O'Neill - made a nationally publicized TV
statement that Reagan (in his foreign policies) was "playing with
matches." Once again, and as always, American Atheists are "good
Austin, Texas

enough" to "borrow" from, but not "good enough" to be recognized

by the "establishment's" viewpoint of Americanism.
I suppose that, after all, it's just as well. Ifthe "leaders of our nation"
and the "heads of the media" cannot steal hard-hitting ideas from the
Atheists, where willthey get any ideas at all? As long as the people of
this country are exposed to valid journalistic ideas, under any
circumstances, progress is made. Yet I doubt that any of the
pompous borrowers willremember the criteria I mentioned earlier in
this column, i.e. "borrowing should be done with tact" - credit
should be given to the original source - those who authored the
The condition is the same with religion - christian mythology is
borrowed from older and equally sordid mythologies; therefore the
"authors" of christianity are simply thieves of ideas! It's a vicious cycle
in the continuing efforts of people who are, on their own, unable to
think. They must "borrow" from those who can!
Credit for "great discoveries" is even plagiarized in the world of
science. Only rarely are concepts and theories credited to all of the
researchers involved. Usually a "noteable" person receives credit for
the ideas when, in fact, unknown undergraduates and/or associates
may be intricately involved in the formulations of scientific ideas and
information. Yet without a PhO, or similar prominence, science
papers are rarely "recognized" by the "scientific" community. I do not
have space here to elaborate on specific incidents to which I refer.
However, many are known to me. One of the more obvious of these is
possibly quite innocent in its origin simply because people, in general,
do not know the complete history of some of the major discoveries of
our times. A case in point is Edison and the electric light bulb. No one
would dare to insinuate that Edison, one of the great inventors of all
times, was not prominent in the introduction of electric lights. I, under
no stretch of my imagination, would suggest such a thing. He was very
prominent in the research which led to the discovery! Yet there were
a number of others involved in that discovery! You would have to
read extensively - as I have - to realize this. Edison himself had a
battery of associates who worked with him constantly in his New
Jersey "factory of scientific research and discovery." 00 you know
any of their names? If you are ever in New Jersey, you might find it
interesting to tour the Edison Museum. It is a fascinating experience!
And, you might also wonder why the men who worked with and for
Edison are not known for their part in modern lighting.
It just seems unfair to me that many people live their entire lives in
"obscurity." And yet, somewhere along the line, they might have
originated a single important concept - one magnificent thought that would change history. Or perhaps they only made a simple
contribution to the pleasurable livelihood of humankind. Maybe they
only knew how to grow bananas! Is it beyond our ability to consider
this a "contribution"?
A "Georgia boy," Norvell Hardy, and an Englishman named Arthur
Stanley Jefferson, achieved a greatness that surpasses that of kings
and presidents. It was not for any "serious" commitments to society.
As "Laurel and Hardy" they simply made the world laugh, uncontrollably. But even here we cannot discount those who helped to
bring this comic madness to us - the supporting actors and
actresses, the filmcrews, the directors, indeed all who helped to make
it possible for these two great clowns to make the world a little happier
place. Could we have excluded any of the "little people" who took
part in this great contribution?
Appreciation seems a small reward for the right to use a
convenience that is either owned or originated by someone else.
Perhaps with world conditions the way they are people have forgotten
how to appreciate. Maybe we never really knew in the first place. It
seems that we have developed an attitude that is easily swayed by the
jealousies generated between political, economic and religious
ingrates. (We have been taught only how to thank "god"!) We "strike
on command" at those people in the world community whom we do
not even know and understand. Ifthere is, as Reagan claims, anything
that resembles "evil" manifest in this world it is only a lack of
appreciation of life as a whole - for even life is a "borrowed" thing,
borrowed from a natural parent culture, the loan of which is not really
understood and only rarely appreciated. ~

March, 1984

Page 25


- :":!'-


In order to sweep some of the cobwebs off our Canadian politicalsociological-economic miseries, we have to impose greater accountability on both the mainstream and deviational religions which
currently benefit financially and philosophically under the protection
of the Canadian Constitution, the Canada Income Tax Act, the
Assessment Act, Education Act, and the Criminal Code.
Their dogma goes unchallenged and their wealth increases to the
detriment of medical research, hospitals, medicare, proper housing,
educational programs, day care, guaranteed annual incomes, and
other social amenities which could elevate the quality of lifestyle.
History has taught us that outright suppression or persecution
makes the fanatic more fanatical, so in order to compromise, allsects,
cults, churches, and religions should be supported on a volunteer
rather than a coercive basis.


1. Originally religions drew on myth from various sources and
pronounced it the inspired truth.
2, Roman emperors from Nero to Diocletian allegedly persecuted
christians for "disloyalty," and it was not until the time of the fourth
century emperor Constantine who was said to be "stirred by a flaming
cross in the sky" that christians were given worship privileges on a par
with the "pagans."
3. Eventually, under Theodosius, christianity became the sole state
religion and people, through fear of punishment or death, were
coerced into believing all manner of absurdities and contradictions.
The subsequent fifteen centuries of indoctrination have been so
forcefully effective that rustic and sophisticate alike rarely read,
question, or study the phenomenon.
4. These whims and accidents of history led into the Dark Ages with
religious justification to impede science, medicine, personal hygiene,
and to promote the inquisition, slavery, misogyny, and the witchburning hysteria.
5. Even with the growth of independent monarchies, the church
and state were closely united allies of tyranny and exploitation.
6. The last two hundred years have seen many secular advances (as
a rule never instigated by clerics), but clericalism still retains powers
and privileges that block science and liberalism.
7. In 1983, there are still political documents firmly in place that
prevent rational social progress from occurring.
Page 26



During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries French explorers
set out to revive catholicism, currently being challenged in Europe,
among the Canadian Indians. Dissension experienced in Europe was
not to be transported to New France for some time in the future. At
first, the catholic church in New France was very centralized while
the village grew up around it. Subsequently conflicts arose between
the French and the Indians, between the jesuits and the franciscans,
between the catholics and the huguenots, and between the puritans
and the anglicans after their influx from New England. By the
eighteenth century, many different protestant sects, as well as the
catholic church, enjoyed the support of powerful economic and social
interests. By and large, the various groups attempted to accommodate with the community, and were often led by unschooled
clergy. To this date, the religious bodies are not strictly accountable
as to how they raise their funds or how they dispense them. Also, they
use various methods at arriving at membership estimates, and they
don't necessarily keep track of attendance records at all.
Canada has a total population of over 24,000,000; according to the
1981 Census, about 11,400,000 classify themselves as roman
catholics, and about 10,000,000 classify themselves as protestant.
Around 2,600,000 classify themselves as eastern orthodox, jewish,
eastern non-christian, parareligious, or nonreligious. The 1977
Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches totals the inclusive
membership as about 14,497,842 served by about 30,000 clergy with
67 bodies reporting. Only about 25 bodies report their financial
congregational and benevolent contributions for that year as around
$255,161,000, There is no financial report from the catholics or
mormons, for example, and there is no indication of accumulated
interest, earned income, or bequests. The Canadian Church Growth
Center reveals that on a typical Sunday, only about 6,500,000 attend
any church - possibly 25% of the population.
The American Atheist

Despite apparent lack of active participation, Canadian governments on the federal, provincial, and municipal levels preserve
regulations and laws which stifle enquiry into clericalism.
On the federal level, our 1982 Constitution Act begins with the
premise that Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the
supremacy of god, but further explains that we are guaranteed the
right to worship, or not, as we wish, in the place of worship of our
choice. However, choice translates into NO CHOICE, because
through our tax system, all are forced to subsidize clergy and
churches. In addition, the courts have characterized the advancement of religion as charitable in law, thereby the Canada Income Tax
Act allows churches to assume the tax-exempt status of a registered
charity. Moreover, the same Act allows clergy tax deductions for
transportation as well as for value of his residence computed as
income, rent paid for a residence, or for fair rental value ifhe owns his
own home.
Complementing the Constitution and the Tax Act is the Criminal
Code of Canada whereby in principle anyone can be charged guilty of
an indictable offense if by threat or force he obstructs a cleric
celebrating divine service or performing other functions of his calling,
or assaults or uses violence towards the cleric on his way to or
returning from performance of a function. Also, anyone can be
charged guilty of a summary offence if he willfully disturbs or
interrupts an assemblage for religious worship, or who (at or near)
disturbs the solemnity of a meeting. In addition, another section of the
Code states that no person can be convicted of blasphemous libel
provided in good faith he uses decent language and attempts to
establish by argument an opinion on a religious subject. In other
words, it is implied that religious doctrine is axiomatically valid and
that any refutation must be very delicately handled.
On the provincial level, using Nova Scotia as an example, the
Education Act states, "It is the duty of the teacher to encourage in the
pupilsby precept and example a respect for religion and the principles
of christian morality."

"Currently, a lot of pressure is being heaped on

hospitals and medical facilities to restrain their
services. Hospitals account for about $66,484,
000(1979)of the nonrevenue-producing assessment, and while churches constitute almost
half of that assessment burden, not a word is
expressed about their accountability."
Lastly, on the municipal level, using Halifax naval seaport as an
illustrative example of civic politics, this small city with a population of
around 180,000 carries a nonrevenue-producing portion of its
assessment base of about $409,546,000. That is, this amount is
neither taxed nor does the city receive grants in lieu of taxation. A
further breakdown indicates that about $30,500,000 of this assessment base is occupied by churches. Taxation of churches is
prohibited by the Assessment Act and legislative changes would have
to be sought to force them to pay their fair share. As it is, the
residential and business occupants are absorbing the 30.5 million into
their own assessments and subsidizing the various religious groups
whether they concur or not. Currently, a lot of pressure is being
heaped on hospitals and medical facilities to restrain their services.
Hospitals account for about $66,484,000 (1979) of the nonrevenueproducing assessment, and while churches constitute almost half of
that assessment burden, not a word is expressed about their
In conclusion, one could say that Canada is becoming more secular
and that active loyalty is undergoing an erosion. Canadians are
proudly told they have "freedom of religion," but in fact they have no
financial freedom, and little legal-political freedom to combat the
aspects of clericalism with which they disagree. The state, the church,
the schools, and the legal system conspire to keep Canadians
uninformed about religion, and at the same time make them pay
handsomely for it.
Austin, Texas


1. Churches are given many privileges on the basis of their alleged
"good works," evidence of which is difficult to locate; however, in any
case social help is or should be provided by unbiased, trained
personnel who draw solutions to human problems from many
sources even including theological.
2. The Canadian Constitution, the Canadian Criminal Code, and at
least the Nova Scotian Education Act offer religion philosophical
protection, while the Canada Income Tax Act, with its clauses
regarding charities and clerical residences, and the Assessment Acts
give them financial privileges. Nonbelievers don't receive special
treatment, but are forced to financially support a plethora of absurd
belief systems.
3. It is possible that many of the classified census christians or
churchgoers are motivated by obscure social pressures rather than
any meaningful faith. However, the significant numbers outside the
acceptable norm are forced to subsidize those within holding private
opinions based on all manner of irrational premises.
4. As seen above, church property classified as "Commercial"
occupies about $30,500,000.00 worth of the total assessment in
Halifax City (1979). This amount is absorbed by resident home
owners and businesses into their own private assessments whether
they like it or not.
5. It isn't sensible that restraints have to be placed on medical
research, medicare, hospitals, secular schools, day care, and
sufficient annual incomes while church properties and their vast
incomes remain tax-exempt.

1. A campaign of sanity should be waged against religions and a
full-fledged Royal Commission enquiry may be indicated that might
result in private religious opinion being privately supported.
2. It can be argued and documented that churches are the greatest
perpetuators of various social evils such as:
antiscientific thinking
outdated morality
intellectual barriers
economic waste
warring hostilities
expensive, empty buildings
financial exploitation
dependence on the supernatural
conformity to a "divine" plan
ineffectual curbs on crime
psychological anxieties
self-abasement emphasizing an "after-life"
Therefore, a challenge to their accountability is nowin order.
3. There should be an absolute separation of state and church in
Canada because their symbiotic power ipso facto thwarts rational
progress in our society. At present, there is no avenue to expose the
invalidity of church dogma. Our major educational, legal, financial,
clerical, and political institutions are stacked so heavily on the side of
male-made myth that prospects for progressive development are
bleak. ~



By Derek Humphry(author
ofJean's Way)

Unique guide to self-deliverance for dying persons

$11 pIp. Membership (incls. newsletter) $15. Nonprofit.
Hemlock Society, P.O. Box 66218
Los Angeles, CA 90066. Phone (213) 391-1871

Page 27


theists, generally speaking, do not attempt to convert
others to Atheism. Most of us are secure enough, both in
ourselves and our Atheism, that we don't have to change others to
lend credence to our ideas. But that does not mean we cannot bring
about change. There is an old axiom which states that the best thing
you can give anybody is a good example. I have found that there is
much truth in that statement. Through example and education, I have
aided three people over the past year in ridding themselves of the
feared spectre of religion.

"There is an old axiom which states that the

best thingyou can giveanybody is a good example.
.. . . Through example and education, I have
aided three people over the past y~ar in ridding
themselves of the feared spectre of religion."
I am quite outgoing about my Atheism. I regularly wear a Tvshirt
emblazoned with the words "American Atheist," and it is common
knowledge at my place of employment that I am an Atheist. I never
hesitate to voice my opinions and ideas where the circumstances call
for it. I project confidence in my Atheism and myself. I have drawn a
variety of reactions with my approach, but quite a number of times I
find people who are in agreement with me to at least some extent.
The first person touched by my steadfast approach was myoid
friend Jim. When we first met in high school. Jim and I were both
professed christians. After leaving school, Jim joined the U.S. Navy
for two years. When he returned home at the end of his hitch, he was
shocked to discover that I had abandoned religion entirely. Jim was
scared; he thought I had taken leave of my senses. "It's safer to
believe than to not believe," he said fearfully. When I became a
full-fledged Atheist, he didn't know what to think. This had no effect
on our friendship, but he did fear for my "soul." (At least his "heart"
was in the right place, even if his mind wasn't.)
As time went on, Jim began to have doubts, many of which came
about as a result of things he learned from me. He developed a healthy
disdain for organized religion and began to question the validity of
christianity. His thoughts began to run even heavier in that direction
after my column began running in this magazine. He often read my
columns, which would generally lead us into very interesting
conversations. One day, while discussing the concepts of heaven and
hell, I made a facetious remark which, for Jim, helped put the matter
of religion into its proper perspective. Isaid, "Even ifthere is a heaven,
I sure don't want to go there. Allthey'd be doing is standing around all
day smiling at each other, listening to Pat Boone records and kissing
god's behind. Who needs that? I'd rather be dead."
The conversation went on, as I attacked the rampant sadism in the
concept of hell. But, unknown to me at that time, that wisecrack I had
made about heaven had set the wheels to turning in Jim's mind. He
later called and told me how that remark had opened his eyes and
made him see just how ridiculous the entire concept of religion really
is. At that point Jim became a total nonbeliever. We have had
numerous discussions since then, and he has read some American
Atheists' literature. He has reached the agnostic state in his mental
evolution, and it seems inevitable that he will become an Atheist in
Page 28

March, 1984

Jim certainly has not been shy when it comes to speaking out to
religionists who attempt to "witness" to him. He has deflated quite a
number of christian egos since abandoning the faith himself. In one
instance, Jim helped ease the mind of a friend who professed belief in
god and religion, but felt he was a lost sinner condemned to hell. Jim
filled him in on the other side of the story, a side which, not
surprisingly, was unknown to him. The dissertation which Jim
presented impressed him a great deal, and he admitted that what Jim
had said made a lot of sense. It looks as though Jim may be having an
effect on this individual similar to the effect I had on him.
One very extreme situation I encountered involved a young lady
who is going steady with a friend of mine. Debbie was shocked to hear
me proclaim myself as an Atheist and was even more shocked by the
confidence I have in my position. She would get very nervous when I
would say something of a "blasphemous" nature, and was afraid that
lightning would come down and killus all. Debbie was reared in a very
strict fundamentalist baptist home, which warped her mind considerably. She had developed doubts at a very early age, but was
frightened by them. She would even have nightmares over them
which would leave her very shaken. Calling on my background in the
mental health field, I tried to help her deal with her fears and put them
into perspective. We discussed her doubts and I helped her to realize
that they came about as a result of her mind trying to work in a logical
fashion. The problem was that her environment had suppressed her
mentally, and she was made to doubt her own reasoning ability. As it
had been with .Iim. one specific instance was to be a turning point. In
Debbie's case, it was reading Thumbscrew and Rack, an American
Atheists' publication dealing with torture devices used on heretics by
roman catholics. This helped Debbie to see how Sick and demented
religion really is and helped her to see that the doubts she had were
very valid. She has since become a deist, and has done well in
overcoming her religious related fears. It's too early to tell whether or
not Debbie will become an Atheist but, with the effort she is putting
toward improving her mind and self image, it is quite possible.
A very unique story is that of my friend Mike. He is one of those rare
individuals who was born a male, but has developed the thoughts and
feelings of a female. It is his hope to eventually have a sex change
operation. You can imagine the effect christianity has had on him. He
has had much difficulty accepting himself because he could never
measure up to the social stereotype of the "fine, upstanding
heterosexual christian male." He still believed in the existence of god,
but saw him as a sadistic maniac for making him like he is, only to toss
him into hell for it at a later date. Mike doesn't worry about god, hell,
or religion these days. After hearing some of the things I've had to say
about those concepts, they no longer concern him. He had already
thought about many of the ideas which I had presented to him, but my
method of presentation and wealth of reference materials was what
convinced him of their validity. He is now somewhere between an
agnostic and an Atheist and still growing.
It is important to keep in mind that I did not attempt to push my
Atheism on any of these people. I simply spoke my mind on the
subject when the situation was right. Further conversation came
about only as a result of their pursuing it. This should serve as proof
that Atheists do not have to convert people. Our stand is so logical
that any thinking individual who hears it will have to at least give it
some serious consideration. That is all one can reasonably expect.
Anything which results beyond that is gravy. You don't have to try to
The American Atheist

change anybody else's mind. Just speak yours! It works wonders.

A fellow member of American Atheists recently shared an experience with me which is indicative of the vast untapped resources
out there. During a meeting of his martial arts class the instructor,
after using a bible quotation to illustrate a point, asked how many of
the students were christians. A very small minority of the students
raised their hands. There are many people out there who would turn
their backs on religion in a minute if they knew what it was all about
and were made aware of its dangers. Others may be aware, but are

ignorant of the existence of an organization with the guts to stand up

and fight. This is the reason for the outreach of American Atheists.
We need to develop a strong united front against the religious lunatics
and we can't do it if we don't make ourselves known and bring those
of like mind into the battle. I know I sound like a broken record on the
subject of closet Atheism, but those inhibitions are something we just
can't afford. Ifwe all went public, made our stand known, and shared
our knowledge whenever possible, it might inspire less adventurous
"souls" to join the fight. ~

Join the "gang" in Lexington for

April 20th, 21st and 22nd, 1984
(Friday, Saturday & Sunday -

Easter weekend)

Radisson Plaza Hotel

Lexington, Kentucky

Featured Speakers:
Dr. Madalyn Murray O'Hair
Founder, American Atheists
Ms. Barbara Smoker
National Secular Society
London, England
Alfred Lilienthal

Middle East Perspectives


$35.00/ couple
$1O.OO/student or 65 and over - with I.D.
Austin, Texas

March, 1984

Page 29

ROOTS OF A THEISM / Madalyn Murray O'Hair


tis always difficult to obtain material on Atheists, no matter what

the era in which they lived. History has been written by theists and
the Atheist is the mortal foe. Obfuscations and deceit are the
order of any day. There is no hesitancy to distort, and the lie is tossed
easily into any recounting. Usually the most effective way to treat any
Atheist is to delete him or her from history completely. Seek out the
normal mode of reference and they are not mentioned. Hit is possible
to find mention, that is fragmented.
The history of the women's movement in the United States is
instructive on this. For if the historical person happened to be not
alone an Atheist, but a woman, she is distorted, muted or ignored. Ida
Harper is an acknowledged historian of the women's movement of a
hundred years ago, and yet her omissions and deceits concerned with
the Atheism of many great women are extraordinary. This is why she
is "acknowledged." Hshe would tell the whole truth, her reputation as
an "historian" would be ruined. To be lauded as an expert, an author
must write that which is acceptable to the power elite of the age -and
that "power elite" has always been theistic in the western world. On
the other hand when one goes to the "freethought" journals of that
day, the women are not as prominent as are the men. Indeed, the bias
of the freethought male has been so great that it has been felt until the
present day.

"Forif the historical person happened to be not

alone an Atheist, but a woman, she is distorted,
muted or ignored .... To be lauded as expert an
author must write that which is acceptable to
the power elite of the age - and that 'power
elite' has always been theistic in the western
world. On the other hand when one goes to the
'freethought' journals of that day, the women
are not as prominent as are the men. Indeed
the bias of the freethought male has been so
great that it has been felt until the present day."
Matilda Joslyn Gage was born in March (on the 24th, 1826) and she
died in March (on the 18th, in 1898). The editor of your American
Atheist journal, therefore, specifically asked for a cohesive discussion
of this great writer and thinker who contributed so much to women's
rights. There is little or nothing available. She was born in Cicero,
New York and was the only daughter of Dr. Hezekiah and Helen
Joslyn. Her father was of New England (Connecticut) and revolutionary stock. He was the principal physician in the town and
surrounding countryside. Her mother was the daughter of George
and Magdalena (Towers) Leslie of Scotland and was born near
Edinburgh, Scotland.
Dr. Joslyn's home appears to have been one of the intellectual
centers of the community. The dowry of Helen Leslie reflected that
Page 30


she was a wealthy lady of refined tastes, and the handsome furniture
and carpets which she brought to the marriage enabled the home to
be one of very comfortable circumstances. Dr. Joslyn was a liberal
thinker, an ardent abolitionist. He advocated temperance, woman's
rights and free thought (a euphemism for Atheism). He was keenly
interested in reform movements of "every kind and especially
hospitable to advanced thinkers who visited the town. In fact, his
home was a way station of the "underground railroad" along which
slaves found their way to Canada and freedom.
Matilda received her early education at home, her father instructing her in physiology, Greek and mathematics. The main thrust
of his teachings was to have her think for herself. Her mother
interested her in historic research. Later she attended Hamilton
seminary, Deruyter academy, and the Clinton Seminary (Clinton
Liberal Institute), which afforded her and other wealthy young ladies a
liberal education. She tried her hand early at both writing and
speaking and was only seventeen when she gave her first lecture
before a literary society in her home town.
At age eighteen, on January 6, 1845, she married Henry H. Gage,
who was a merchant. His dry goods business prospered from the
beginning, and by 1870 his estate was valued at more than $60,000.
The family was always financially comfortable. Hence, throughout
her life she dressed stylishly, helping to offset the popular impression
that a feminist could not be "feminine." A reporter described her in
1854 as a "medium-sized and lady-like looking woman, dressed in
tasty plaid silk, with two flounces." However, her ladylike exterior
only masked her constant dedication and her intellectual vigor.
Quickly after her marriage Mrs. Gage began to write upon antislavery and woman suffrage topics. Meanwhile, the new family moved
first to Syracuse, then to Manlius and finallyto Fayetteville (all in New
York) where Mrs. Gage made her home in the same house for
thirty-eight years. Family tradition suggests that Matilda Gage was
the dominant partner in the marriage, which lasted until Gage's death
in 1884.
Although she was much involved in her writing and outside
activities, her earlier married years were filledwith the responsibilities
of mothering her family. Also, she was further limited by long periods
of recurring invalidism. She devoted much time to her children's
education. Indeed one daughter fondly remembered her as "a
character of independence of thought and action, decided convictions, courage of opinions, strong personality, great love of liberty,
and sympathy for the downtrodden."
Yet, she was threatened, but never prosecuted, by the religious
fanatic, Anthony Comstock. The details of the incident are unknown.
She died in Chicago, Illinois, on March 18, 1898, at age 72. The last
years of her life were spent with a married daughter there. In the
winter of 1897-98 she was engaged in the preparation of a paper to be
read before the February meeting of the National American Woman's
Suffrage Association, a meeting commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the organized woman's suffrage movement. III health
prevented her undertaking the journey to Washington, DC, but she
sent the finished paper which was read to the convention. It was titled,
"Woman's Demand for Freedom: Its Effect upon The World." A few
days later she suffered a paralytic stroke (embolism in the brain) and
quickly died. She was buried in Fayetteville where she had lived most
of her life. In her own autobiography, Eighty Years and More,
Reminiscences 1815 -1897, Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote that she
had often signed books or autographs using the statement, "There is
a word sweeter than Mother, Home or Heaven - that word is
Liberty." She acknowledged that this had been a cry to the world of
Matilda Joslyn Gage to whom she gave full credit, and it is these
words which are carved on the gravestone of Matilda Joslyn Gage.
The American Atheist

She was the youngest woman to take part in the National Woman's
Rights Convention in Syracuse, New York. There, on September 8,
1852, she read a paper which posited that daughters should be
educated with sons, taught self-reliance and permitted some
independent means of self-support. Although she felt that she
"trembled in every limb" in giving the speech, she spoke firmly (albeit
with typical low volume), criticizing women's subservience and
advocating this educational and legal equality. She quickly became
associated with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the enfranchisement of
women became the goal of her life. Although a better writer than a
speaker, on several occasions she addressed congressional committees on the suffrage question. Intellectually, she was without doubt
among the ablest of the suffrage leaders of the century. She was a
capable organizer, a tireless worker, an historical researcher and a
brilliant writer. Unlike her contemporaries, she was interested in the
legal, economic, educational and religious as well as the political
aspects of "the woman question." In her era she was regarded as "one
of the most logical, fearless and scientific writers" of the day. Susan B.
Anthony noted, "She has been one of the most intensely earnest, true
women we have ever had in our movement. Had she been possessed
of a strong constitution _ .. she would have done more for the
emancipation of women than all the rest of us put together. With her
feeble health she accomplished wonders."

"She was the youngest woman to take part in

the National Woman's Rights Convention ...
There, on September 8, 1852, she read a paper
which posited that daughters should be educated with sons, taught self-reliance and permitted some independent means of support."
She was also active in the organization of the suffrage movement,
having joined the National Woman Suffrage Association at its
inception in 1869. This organization had an object of having the 16th
Amendment passed to secure the ballot to women. The President
was Elizabeth Cady Stanton; Susan B. Anthony was on the Executive
Committee; and Matilda Joslyn Gage was Advisory Counsel. The
three women were ever after very closely associated until their
respective deaths. Mrs. Gage held a brief presidency during 1875-76,
but she also functioned as a second vice president, vice-president-atlarge and chairman of the executive committee. The National
Woman Suffrage Association had its own newspaper, the Revolution
(during the first five months of 1870), to which, of course, Mrs. Gage
was a contributor. In May, 1876 she was replaced as president of the
national organization by Elizabeth Cady Stanton so that the most
publicized figure in the movement would be in command during the
centennial celebration of the Declaration of Independence. Mrs.
Gage was, however, author (co-author with Mrs. Stanton) ("it was
from her pen came") of the "Declaration of Rights" for women which
was presented at the Independence Day ceremonies that summer in
Philadelphia. This document addressed to the Men of the United
States was widely circulated. She also wrote the (important portions
of the) Woman's Declaration of Rights presented by the National
Woman's Suffrage Association in that celebration at Independence
Hali, on July 4th, 1876.
The New York State Woman's Suffrage Association was managed
by its Secretary, Matilda Joslyn Gage, when it began in July, 1870
(1869-70). In this position she corresponded with people favorable to
the cause in 47 counties, and she circulated 2,700 tracts. She was to
become president of this organization, a position she held for five
(nine) years.
She attended all of the annual National Woman Suffrage Association meetings and in May, 1875 became head of both the
National and New York State Suffrage Associations. It was during her
presidency that she appeared before committees of the federal House
and Senate on behalf of the cause.
Austin, Texas

She undertook also the literacy advocacy of the cause, published

Woman as Inventor in 1870, Woman's Rights Catechism in (1868?)
1871 and Who Planned the Tennessee Campaign in 1862? Or
Anna Ella Carroll vs. Ulysses S. Grant? in 1880. During 1878-81 she
published and edited (at Syracuse) the feminist National citizen, a

paper devoted to the cause of women.

Urged for many years by her colleagues to prepare a history of
woman's suffrage, Mrs. Gage, comprehending the total task of the
undertaking, the length of time and the investigation required,
refused, unless aided by others. During the summer of 1876, the plan
of the work was formulated between herself, Susan B. Anthony, and
Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The original plan was for three large octavo
volumes of one thousand pages, each containing engravings of the
most noted workers for woman's enfranchisement. (In the closing
chapter of volume one, completed in May, 1881, Mrs. Gage included a
slight resume of Woman. Church and State.) They solicited $5.00
each from 52 subscribers and with the $260 began the task. Matilda
Joslyn Gage was to find an office in Philadelphia, but for the most part
rental was refused to women. She finally secured 1421 Chestnut
Street. It is not known if an historical marker has been placed. The
third volume was ready in 1887 and completed the history up to 1884.
Its title was History of Woman Suffrage. At that time Matilda Joslyn
Gage sold her rights to Susan B. Anthony for $1,000. She completed
Woman. Church and State in 1893. The old Atheist journal, the
Truth Seeker, acquired proprietorship of this book and published the
"new and corrected" edition. Widely read, it stirred particular
objection by its chapters on the "Matriarchate" and "Celibacy" in
which she portrayed christianity as degrading to women because it
taught that woman was inferior to man and that woman was also
responsible for bringing sin into the world. On the historical status of
woman, Mrs. Gage seems to have been better informed than any of
her fellow workers. Besides these literary activities, she published
several of her own speeches, contributed many articles on woman's
rights to the public press, and edited and published The National
Citizen and Ballot Box for its three-year existence at Syracuse,
1878-1881. This has been defined as "the sprightly opinionated fourpage monthly newspaper of the National Woman Suffrage Association."
Interviewed late in 1890 Mrs. Gage felt that her most important
speeches were "Centralization," "United States Voter," "Woman in
the Early Christian Church" and "The Dangers of the Hour," and that
her most important work was Woman. Church and State.
The kind of argument she made for women is nowhere better
represented than in a letter which she wrote to The Fayetteville
(N. Y.) Recorder:

"Let the Woman's Pavilion (at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in

Philadelphia) gather all it can of woman's work, it will still fall very
short of an accurate representation of woman's industries and
inventions, because most of the large manufacturing establishments
are owned by men; and, although largely employing women, the
work done in these establishments owned by men will be entered in
men's names. For instance, Lynn, the great shoe-mart of the
country, employs more women than men in the manufacture of
shoes; yet, as no woman owns such an establishment, all such work
exhibited at the Exposition will come in under men's names. So also
of the numerous cotton-manufactories where prints and muslins and
cloths, both bleached and unbleached, are made: none of these will
appear as woman's work. The sewing silks and dress silks, the hat
and cap manufacturers, the broadcloth makers, the hop-shirt and
corset firms, the large clothing establishments, employ women
operatives to a great extent: yet the work will be entered in men's
"Women are burnishers of gold and silver, electroplaters, and
bronzers, watchcase makers, and also do the finer part of watches;
are painters of china, painters of tile, do work in holly-wood,
manufacture mirror-frames, table-tops, scones; are taxidermists,
engravers, painters, sculptors. Most of this work will be exhibited in
the general departments under men's names. The mechanical
exhibitions from Europe will be largely of woman's work. The finest

March, 1984

Page 31

Swiss-made watches are manufactured by women; the largest

maker of champagne in the world is a woman; 'tis a woman who
manufactures the famous Erard piano; the largest flaxmill in Europe
is owned by a woman; the delicate thread-weaving of the Old World
is woman's work, as also the wonderful lace-making and embroidery, valued higher than the most precious stones, - these are
all woman's work.

"Many of woman's inventions have been patented under men's

names. The largest foundry in the city of Troy is run to manufacture
horseshoes, one of ~hich is turned out every three seconds. The
machine which does this work was invented by a woman; but the
manufacture is carried on under a man's name, and will be exhibited
as man's work. A Tray foundry-owner once told me the best stove he
ever knew was invented by a woman, but the patent was taken out in
a man's name. The invention of the cotton gin, which revolutionized
the industries of the world, was due to a woman, Mrs. Greene,
though the work was done and the patent taken out by Eli Whitney.
One of the 'eariiest mowing-machines was perfected by a lady of my
acquaintance, now over eighty years of age, who aided her husband
in bringing that and a clover-cleaner to perfection. This was a New
Jersey woman: still another New Jersey woman is now living, who
invented the attachment to the mowing-machine, whereby the
knives are thrown out of gear when the driver leaves his seat, thus
lessening the liability to accident. The first large establishment in the
country for the manufacture of buttons, the Willistons', was due to a
woman, though it was run under a man's name. The self-fastening
button is a woman's invention. The machine for making satchelbuttoned paper bags was a woman's invention, and a very important
one at that; one that had long been tried for by men without success.
Before the Ames & Co., these machines were manufactured at the
works of that company.
"Of improvements in sewing machines, woman has invented a
great number, as quilting-attachments, threading while in motion,
attachments for sewing sails, etc. Elevators, lubricating felt for carwheels (a most important invention), volcanic furnaces for smelting
ores, steamer screws, machinery for cotton-factories, wood-sawing
machines, musical instruments, syllable type, submarine telescopes,
looms capable of doing three times the work of ordinary looms, are
among the various inventions of women of this country, that will, to a
great extent, be exhibited as man's.
"Most of the designs for carpets, oil-cloths, calico, and wall-paper
are woman's work, as are also designs for the embossing of paper,
monograms, etc.; but of this work but little will be credited to them,
for reasons I have above given. Women need to become something
more than laborers, something more than mere hands, in order to
secure just recognition of their industry: they need to themselves
become heads of establishments, to own the manufactories, as well
as to have designed the work done in them. So, at the best, the
Woman's Pavilion will poorly represent the industries of the women
of this country and of the world."
"She always had a knack of rummaging through old libraries,"
Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote (History of Woman Suffrage, I),
Page 32


"bringing more startling facts to light than any woman I ever knew."
In the presidential campaign of 1872, disagreeing with her husband,
she spoke for Grant, a strong state/church separationist proponent,
at a public rally and excoriated Greeley for his conservative views on
woman suffrage. It was during this campaign that she failed in her own
attempt to cast a ballot. Hence she naturally denounced the arrest of
Susan B. Anthony and stood resolutely with her although Anthony
received considerable criticism for attempting to cast a ballot and was
roundly denounced after her arrest. The ensuing years of legal battle
were not alone bitter but lonely. Anthony could only count on the
stalwart and faithful Gage to be always with her in it.
It was also in 1872 that she issued the call for a new party. She asked
for a convention to be held in New York on the 9th and 10th of May. It
was called the People's Party. (Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B.
Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage and Isabella B. Hooker were the prime
movers.) It was there that the first woman aspirant, Mrs. Victoria C.
Woodhull, was nominated for Presidency of the United States.
In 1880 Mrs. Gage was a delegate from the National Woman
Suffrage Association to the Republican and Greenback conventions
in Chicago and the Democratic convention in Cincinnati. They
secured a lukewarm endorsement of a half-hearted plank for women
in the Republican party. They failed completely with the Democrats.
In 1888 Mrs. Gage was prominent in arranging the International
Congress of Women at Washington. She was also a member of the
National Council of Women of the United States and a member of the
committee on the Woman's Bible to which she was a contributor.
From the inauguration of the movement for woman's emancipation
the bible had been used to hold her in her "divinely ordained sphere."
As the book became more obvious an obstacle to them, the basic
three, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Matilda Joslyn
Gage began to analyze it more closely and quickly came to the
conclusion that:
"The Bible teaches that woman brought sin and death into
the world, that she precipitated the fallof the race, that she was
arraigned before the judgment seat of heaven, tried, condemned and sentenced. Marriage for her was to be a condition
of bondage, maternity a period of suffering and anguish, and in
silence and subjection she was to play the role of a dependent
on man's bounty for all her material wants. and for all the
information she might desire on the vital questions of the hour,
she was commanded to ask her husband at home."
This led to a general and critical study of the scriptures and the
"Word of God." The women came out with an entirely different
interpretation than the men. Therefore, in 1892 Elizabeth Cady
Stanton proposed a committee of women to issue a Women's Bible,
with women's commentaries on women's position as seen in the old
and new testaments. Naturally, Mrs. Gage was asked to contribute
to The Woman's Bible and she did. Her work included commentaries on the book of kings and revelations. She naturally found
these to be astronomical interpretations - a mere reading of the
story of the seeming movement of stars. Asked to make a generalized
comment for the "Appendix," she wrote:
"The christian theory of the sacredness of the bible has been
at the cost of the world's civilization. Whether we regard the
work as custodian of the profoundest secrets of the 'ancient
mysteries,' a spiritual book trebly veiled, or as the physical and
religious history of the world in its most material forms, its
interpretation by the church, by the state, and by society has
ever been prejudicial to the best interests of humanity. Science,
art, inventions, reforms of existing wrongs, all, all have been
opposed upon its authority. That even the most enlightened
nations are not yet out of barbarism is due to the teachings of
the bible.
"From Thou shalt not make any graven image, or any
likeness of anything in heaven above, the earth beneath, or the
waters under the earth,' down to 'a woman shall not speak in
church, but shall ask her husband at home,' the tendency of the
bible has been to crush out aspiration, to deaden human
The American Atheist

faculties, and to humiliate mankind. From Adam's plaint, The

woman gave me and I did eat,' down to christ's 'Woman, what
have I to do with thee?' the tendency of the bible has been
degradation of the divinest half of humanity - woman. Even
the christian church itself is not based upon christ as a savior,
. but upon its own teachings that woman brought sin into the
world, a theory in direct contradiction, not alone to the
mysteries, but to spiritual truth. But our present quest is not
what the mystic or the spiritual character of the bible may be;
we are investigating its influence upon woman under judaism
and christianity, and pronounce it evil."
The full title of Mrs. Gage's major opus is Woman, Church and
State: A Historical Account of the Status of Woman through the
Christian Ages: with Reminiscences of the Matriarchate.

"The book is inscribed to the Memory of my Mother, who

was at once mother, sister, friend:
"Dedicated to all Christian women and men, of whatever
creed or name, who, bound by Church or State, have not dared
to Think for Themselves:
"Addressed to all Persons, who, breaking away from custom
and the usage of ages, dare seek Truth for the sake of Truth. To
all such it will be welcome; to all others, aggressive and
"This work explains itself and is given to the world because it
is needed. Tired of the obtuseness of Church and State;
indignant at the injustice of both towards woman; at the wrongs
inflicted upon one-half of humanity by the other half in the name
of religion; finding appeal and argument alike met by the
assertion that god designed the subjection of woman, and yet
that her position had been higher under christianity than ever
before: Continually hearing these statements, and knowing
them to be false, I refute(d) them."
The book was a 554 page assault upon the marriage of state and
church which had so cruelly done in womankind, and it was
magnificently documented and tightly argued.

Austin, Texas

Mrs. Gage's views on suffrage and feminism were considered to be

too radical by many members of the suffrage association during the
period 1878-1890. Meanwhile she had grown discouraged with the
slow advance of woman suffrage and became convinced that the

"She proposed that the churches trained men

to a 'belief in woman's inferiority.' From 1878
she attempted to convert the National Woman
Suffrage Association to this point of view, but
the bitter opposition which arose convinced
her that the existing societies had 'ceased to be
. ,"
teachings of the churches were the greatest obstacle to freedom. She
proposed that the churches trained men to a "belief in woman's
inferiority." From 1878 she attempted to convert the National
Woman Suffrage Association to this point of view, but the bitter
opposition which arose convinced her that the existing societies had
"ceased to be progressive." Therefore, in 1890 she broke away, in
essence she seceded, from the National Woman Suffrage Association
to form her own more radical organization, the Women's National
Liberation Association (Woman's National Liberal League) (Woman's National Liberal Union). She remained the president until her
death in 1898. The objects of this organization were:
(1) to assert woman's natural right to self-government;
(2) to show the cause of delay in the recognition of her demand;
(3) to preserve the principles of civil and religious liberty;
(4) to arouse public opinion to the danger of a union of church and
state through an amendment to the constitution, and
(5) to denounce the doctrine of woman's inferiority.
Basically the Union was designed to "show the cause of delay in the
recognition of woman's demands" as being the church.
She was the mother of one son, Thomas Clarkson Gage, another
who died in infancy and three daughters, Helen Leslie; Julia Louise
who married James D. Carpenter of Fargo, N.D. and Maud, who
married L. Frank Baum, the' author of The Wizard of Oz.
In all of the old "Ireethought" journals and books Matilda Joslyn
Gage is accepted as an Atheist. In the ordinary works on woman
suffrage she is treated with shortness. That the theist writers hated
her is quickly evident. The most that is noted of her Atheism is a poke
at a hoped-for diminishing mind, " ... her final years were primarily
devoted to religious and metaphysical questions."
Knowing that the "freethought" strain was in the entire 3generation family, from her parents to her daughters, it is significant,
now, for us to have a greater understanding that The Wizard of Oz is
most probably an unveiling of the phoniness of the god theory. ~


Page 33

A THEIST MASTERS / Matilda Joslyn Gage


he minds of people having been corrupted through centuries

by the doctrines of the church in regard to woman, it became
an easy step for the state to aid in her degradation. The system
of feudalism arising from the theory that warfare was the normal
condition of man, still oppressed woman by bringing into power a
class of men accustomed to deeds of violence, who found their chief
pleasure in the sufferings of others. To be a woman appealed to no
instinct in this class. To be a woman was not to be protected unless
such woman held power in her own right or acted in place of some
feudal lord. The whole body of villeins and serfs were under absolute
dominion of the feudal lords. They were regarded as possessing no
rights of their own; the priests had control of their souls, the lord, of
their bodies. But it was not upon the male serfs that the greatest
oppression fell. Although the tillage of the soil, the care of swine and
cattle was theirs, the masters claiming half or more of everything,
even to one-half of the wool shorn from the flock, 1 and all exactions
upon them were great while their sense of security was slight, it was
upon their wives and daughters that the greatest outrages were
inflicted. It was a pastime of the castle retainers to fall upon peaceful
villages, to the consternation of the women, who were struck,
tortured, and made the sport of ribald soldiers.s "Serfs of the body,"
they had no protection. The vilest outrages were perpetrated by the
feudal lords under the name of "rights." Women were taught by
church and state alike that the feudal lord or seigneur had a right to
them not only as against themselves, but as against any claim of
husband or father. The custom known by a variety of names, but
more modernly as "marchetta," or "marquette," compelled newly
married women to a most dishonorable servitude. They were
regarded as the rightful prey of the feudal lord or from one to three

'In the dominion of the count de Foix, the lord had right once in his lifetime
to take, without payment, a certain quantity of goods from the stores of each
tenant. Cesar Cantu. - Histoire Universelle.
2Two women seized by German soldiers were covered with tar, rolled in
feathers, and exhibited in the camp as a new species of bird.
Page 34

March, 1984

days after their marriage," and from this custom, the oldest son of the
serf was held as the son of the lord, "as perchance it was he who begot
hiirn. "
From this nefarious degradation of woman the custom of BoroughEnglish arose, the youngest son becoming the heir. 4 The original
signification of the word borough, being to make secure, the peasant
through Borough-English made secure the right of his own son to
what inheritance he might leave, thus cutting off his property from the
possible son of his hated lord. France, Germany, Prussia, England,
Scotland, and all christian countries in which feudalism existed, held
to the enforcement of marquette. The lord deemed this right his as
fully as he did his claim to half the crops of the land, or half the wool
shorn from the sheep. More than one reign of terror arose in France
from the enforcement of this law, and the uprisings of the peasants
over Europe during the twelfth century and the fierce Jacquerie, or
Peasants War, of the fourteenth century in France, owed their origin,
among other causes, to the enforcement of these claims by the lords
upon the newly married wife. The Edicts of Marley securing the
seigneurial tenure in Lower Canada transplanted that claim to
America when Canada was under the control of France."
During the feudal period when chivalry held highest rank in the
duties of the knight, women of the lower classes were absolutely
unprotected. Both church and state were their most bitter enemies;
the lords (even if in holy orders) did not lessen their claims upon the
bride. Most of the bishops and chanonies were also temporal lords.
The bishop of Amiens possessed this right against the women of his
vassals and the peasants of his fiefs, of which he was dispossessed at
the commencement of the fifteenth century by an arreet, rendered at
the solicitation of husbands. 6 Although the clergy, largely drawn from
the nobility, whose portionless younger sons were thus easily
provided for, sustained the corruptions of the lords temporal, yet
having connected themselves with the church, they did not fail to
preserve their own power even over the nobility.
The canons of the cathedral of Lyons bore the title of "Counts of
Lyons"; sixteen quarters of nobility, eight on side of the father; eight
on side of the mother. The marchetta or cuissage was still practiced
by them in the fourteenth century at the time Lyons was reunited to
the crown of France. It was but slowly, after a great number of
complaints and arrests of judgment, that the canons of Lyons
consented to forego this custom. In several cantons of Piccardy the
cures imitated the bishops and anciently took the right of cuissage,
but ultimately the peasants of this region refused to marry, and the
priests gave up this practice which they had usurped when the bishop
3Among the privileges always claimed, and frequently enforced by the
feudalry, was the custom of the lord of the manor to lie the first night with the
bride of his tenant. - Sketches of Feudalism, p. 109.
By the law of "Marquette" under the feudal system (which rested on
personal vassalage), to the "lord of the soil" belonged the privilege of first
entering the nuptial couch unless the husband had previously paid a small sum
of money, or its equivalent, for the ransom of his bride; and we read that these
feudal lords thought it was no worse thus to levy on a young bride than to
demand half the wool of each flock of sheep. Article on Relation of the Sexes.
- Westminster Review.
'The custom of Borough-English is said to have arisen out of the Marchetta
or plebeian's first born son being considered his lord's progeny. - Dr. Tusler.
5"lt is not very likely that Louis XIV thought the time would ever come when
the peasant's bride might not be claimed in the chamber of his seigneur on her
bridal night. Those base laws, their revocation, has been written in the blood of
successive generations."
6See Feudal Dictionary.

The American Atheist

had become too old to take his right. 7 The resolution not to marry
surprised and confounded the lord "suzerains," who perceived it
would cause the depopulation of their fiefs. During the feudal period,
bearing children was the duty pre- eminently taught to women. Serf
children increased the power and possessions of the lord; they also
added to the power of the church, and the strangest sermons in
regard to woman's duty in this respect fell from the lips of celibate
monks and priests. She was taught that sensual submission to man,
and the bearing of children, were the two reasons for her having been
created, and that the woman who failed in either had no excuse for
longer encumbering the earth. The language used from the pulpit for
the enforcement of these duties will not bear reproduction.f The
villeins were not entirely submissive under such great wrongs,
frequently protesting against this right of their suzerains. At one time
a number of Piedmont villages rose in united revolt, compelling the
lords to relinquish some of their powers. Although? the concessions
gained were but small, not putting an end to the lord's claim to the
bride but merely lessening the time of his spoliation, the results were
great in establishing the principle of serf rights.

"Serf children . . . added to the power of the

church, and the strangest sermons in regard to
woman's duty in this respect fell from the lips of
celibate monks and priests."
Marquette began to be abolished in France towards the end of the
sixteenth century.!? But an authority upon this question says that
without doubt the usage still continued in certain countries, further
asserting that even in this century it existed in the county of
Auvergne, and several vassals plead to their lords against the
continuance of this custom because of the great unhappiness it
caused them. The lower orders of the clergy were very unwilling to
relinquish this usage, vigorously protesting to their archbishops
against the deprivation of the right, declaring they could not be
dispossessed.'! Boems states that he was present at a spiritual
council of the metropolitane of Bourges, and heard a priest claim the
right upon ground of immemorial usage. 12
Although feudalism is generally considered the parent of this most
infamous custom, some writers attribute its origin to an evangelical
council, or to precepts directly inculcated by the church.'> whose
very highest dignitaries did not hesitate to avail themselves of the
usage. In 1471, quite the latter part of the fifteenth century, pope
Sixtus IV14sought admission to the very illustrious Piedmont family,
Della Rovere, which possessed the right of cuissage, allowing the lord
absolute control of his vassal's newly wedded bride for three days and
nights; a cardinal of the familyhaving secured the patent by which this
outrageous and abominable right was granted them. The rights of the
lords spiritual in the jus primoe noctis, at first, perchance, confined to
those temporal lords who holding this right entered the church, at last
extended to the common priesthood, and the confessional became
the great fount of debauchery. Woman herself was powerless; the
church, the state, the family, all possessed authority over her as
"The interests of ecclesiastics as feudal nobles were in some respects
identical with those of the barons, but the clergy also constituted a party with
interests of its own.
8M. Gerun, as quoted by Grimm, gives curious information upon this
9Par example, dans quelques seigneuries, on Ie seigneur passent trois nuits
avec les nouvelles marriees, il fut convenu qu'il n'eu passant qu'une. Dans
d'autres, ou Ie seigneur avant Ie premiere nuit seulment, ou ne lui accordes
plus qu'une heure.
lOCollins de Plancy.
llFeudal Dictionary,

p. 179.
12Claiming the right of the first night with each new spouse. - Boems
Decisions 297,117.
13Raepsaet, p. 179.
14Thepopes anciently had universal power over the pleasures of marriage.

Feudal Dictionary,

Austin, Texas

against herself. Although eventually redemption through the payment of money or property was possible, yet a husband too poor or
penurious to save her aided in this debasement of his wife. IS This
inexpressible abuse and degradation of woman went under the name
of pastime, nor were the courts to be depended upon for defense.w
Their sympathies and decisions were with the lord. Few except
manorial courts existed. Even when freedom had been purchased for
the bride, all feudal customs rendered it imperative upon her to bear
the "wedding dish" to the castle. Accompanied by her husband, this
ceremony ever drew upon the newly married couple a profusion of
jeers and ribald jests from which they were powerless to protect
themselves. While in ancient Babylon woman secured immunity by
one service and payment to the temple, the claim of the lord to the
peasant wife was not always confined to the marriage day, and refusal
of the loan of his wife at later date brought most severe punishment
upon the husband.'?
Blessing the nuptial bed by the priest, often late at night, was also
common and accompanied by many abuses until advancing civilization overpowered the darkness of the church and brought it to an
end. When too poor to purchase the freedom of his bride, the husband was in one breath assailed by the most opprobrious names.P
and in the next he was congratulated upon the honor to be done him
in that perchance his oldest child would be the son of a baron.'? So
great finally became the reproach and infamy connected with the
droit de cuissage, as this right was generally called in France,2o and so
recalcitrant became the peasants over its nefarious exactions, that
ultimately both lords spiritual and lords temporal, fearing for their
own safety, commenced to lessen their demands." This custom had
its origin at the time the great body of the people were slaves bound
either to the person or land of some lord. At this period personal
rights no more existed for the lower classes than for the Blacks of our
own country during the time of slavery. Under feudalism the
property, family ties, and even the lives of the serfs were under
control of the suzerain. It was a system of slavery without the name;
15Inthe transaction the alternative was with the husband; it was he who
might submit, or pay the fine, as he preferred or could afford. Relation of the
Sexes. - Westminster Review.
16These (courts) powerfully assisted the seigneur to enforce his traditional
privileges at the expense of the villeins. - H.S. Maine.
The courts of Beam openly maintained that this right grew up naturally.
I7Sometimes the contumacious husband was harnessed by the side of a
horse or an ox, compelled to do a brute's work and to herd with the cattle.
18Heis followed by bursts of laughter, and the noisy rabble down to the
lowest scullion give chase to the "cuckold." - Michelet.
19Theoldest born of the peasant is accounted the son of his lord, for he,
perchance it was, that begat him. When the guests have retired, the newly
wedded husband shall permit his lord to enter the bed of his wife, unless he
shall have redeemed her for five shillings and four pence. - Grimm
2oDroitde cuissage c'est Ie droit de mettre une cuisse dans Ie lit d'une autre,
ou de coucher avec Ie femme d'une vassal ou d'une serf.
So much scandal was caused that finally the archbishop of Bourges
abolished this right in his diocese. - Feudal Dictionary.
21Ayoke of cattle and a measure of wheat was afterwards substituted for a
money ransom, but even this redemption was in most cases entirely beyond
the power of the serf.
Under the feudal system the lord of the manor held unlimited sway over his
serfs. He further possessed the so-called jus primoe noctis (right of the first
night), which he could, however, relinquish in virtue of a certain payment, the
name of which betrayed its nature. It has been latterly asserted that this right
never existed, an assertion which to me appears entirely unfounded. It is clear
the right was not a written one, that it was not-summed up in paragraphs; it was
the natural consequence of the dependent relationship, and required no
registration in any book of law. If the female serf pleased the lord he enjoyed
her, if not he let her alone. In Hungary, Transylvania, and the Danubian
principalities, there was no written jus primoe noctis either, but one learns
enough of this subject by inquiry of those who know the country and its
inhabitants as to the manners which prevail between the landowners and the
female population. That imposts of this nature existed cannot be denied, and
the names speak for themselves. August Babel - Woman in the Past.
Present and Future.



Page 3S

the right of the lord to all first fruits was universally admitted;" the
best in possession of the serf by feudal custom belonged to the lord.
The feudal period was especially notable for the wrongs of women.
War, the pastime of nobles and kings, brought an immense number of
men into enforced idleness. Its rapine and carnage were regarded as
occupations superior to the tillage of the soil or the arts of peace.
Large numbers of men, retainers of every kind, hung about the castle
dependent upon his lord, obedient to his cornmands.P At an age
when books were few and reading an accomplishment of still greater
rarity, these men, apart from their families, or totally unbound by
marriage, were in readiness for the grossest amusement. At an age
when human life was valueless, and suffering of every kind was
disregarded, we can readily surmise the fate likely to overtake
unprotected peasant women. They were constantly ridiculed and
insulted; deeds of violence were common and passed unreproved.
For a woman of this class to be self-respecting was to become a target
for the vilest abuse. Morality was scoffed at; to drag the wives and
daughters of villeins and serfs into the mire of lechery was deemed a
proper retribution for their attempted pure lives; they possessed no
rights of person or morality against the feudal lord and his wild
retainers. All christian Europe was plunged into the grossest
imrnorality.e' A mistress was looked upon as a necessary part of a

monarch's state.25 Popes, cardinals, and priests of lesser degrees,

down to the present century, still continued the unsavory reputation
of their predecessors.w "nephews," "nieces," and "sacrilegious"
children are yet supported by the revenues of the church, or left to
poverty, starvation and crime. It was long the custom of christian
municipalities to welcome visiting kings by deputations of naked
women,27 and as late as the eighteenth century a mistress whose
support was drawn from the revenues of the kingdom was recognized
as part of the pageantry of the kingdom.
25In deference to that public sentiment which required the ruler to pose
before the world as a libertine, Friedrich Wilhelm I, of Prussia (17131740),
although old and in feeble health, kept up the pretense of a liaison with the wife
of one of his generals, the intimacy consisting of an hour's daily walk in the
castle yard. - August Babel.
26Down to Pius IX. See The Woman the Priest and the Confessional.
27When the emperor Charles II entered Bourges, he was saluted by a
deputation of perfectly naked women. At the entrance of king Ladislaus into
Vienna, 1452, the municipal government sent a deputation of public women to
meet him the beauty of whose forms was rather enhanced than concealed by
their covering of gauze. Such cases were by no means unusual. - Woman in
the Past Present and Future.

22Ina parish ouside Bourges the parson as being a lord especially claimed the
first fruits of the bride, but was willing to sell his rights to the husband.
23The infamous noble who accompanied
a certain notorious actress to this
country in the fall of 1886 possessed forty livings in his gift.
24No greater proof of this statement is needed than tme rapidity with which
the disease brought by the sailors of Columbus spread over Europe; infecting
the king on his throne, the peasant in the field, the priest at the altar, the monk
and nun in the cloister.




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.Zip -------March,1984


Exp , Date~


The American Atheist

END OF THE TUNNEL / Michael Battencourt


could, at the drop of the merest invitation to pontificate, quote

profusely about the wonder of books. It is a wonder not much
talked about anymore, buried as we are under the hype for new
"learning systems" and swayed by the fond idea that the computer
willsomehow increase one's literacy because it uses the alphabet on
its keyboard. Yet it is a wonder worth bruiting about, not only
because of the pleasant warm glow of nostalgia it causes, but also
because it has a solid political utility to it.
Dylan Thomas said that "My education was the liberty I had to read
indiscriminately and all the time, with my eyes hanging out." How
often would you hear any such sentiment from the graduates of our
public schools and, for that matter, from our besttprivate schools?
Reading in school is a chore. I know - I've assigned enough reading
to enough choruses of groans to know that the thought of picking up a
book and diligently paying attention to it is, to many, Sisyphus work.
This summer, on their information cards, I had my students list their
favorite books and authors, as well as how often read. The composite
list was weighted heavily towards Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., John Knowles,
John Irving, J.D. Salinger, Robert Ludlum, Stephen King. A few
students, a minority, read what we might consider "good" literature:
Dickens, Shakespeare, Dante. The reading habits were even more
interesting. While some stated that they read all the time, most said
that they might read a book every two months or five books a year.
Some were diligent newspaper and magazine readers, but yet others,
ifthey read magazines, limited themselves to Time or Newsweek or
Sports Illustrated or Reader's Digest. My students are reading on
their own, to be sure, but not particularly intellectual fare and not with
any attitude approaching voraciousness. When they talk about
"hanging" out, they are not talking about their eyes.
Perhaps it is a bit naive on my part to expect them to be better-than
they are. After all, they lack much of what makes reading both
enjoyable and necessary to the human spirit. For them, books are not
a primary way to get information. There are less demanding teachers
willing to dilute complexities down to platitudes, ana media
dependent not upon the word but upon a wash of images, sound, and
vacuous stereotypes to slip its message across. Add this to a culture
whose primary requisites are acquisition, anxiety, turbulent uprootedness, and the featherbedding of the self, and we are far away from that
Yankee desire for plain living and high learning and closer to some
mixture of Tantalus, Circe, and Mae West.
Reading well takes time, and self-discipline, and a certain kind of
farmer's appreciation for the heft and texture of solid things. Henry
Ward Beecher, hopefully not speaking of a bygone era, said, "Where
is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?" You either do or do
not know what he means. When I go to Boston I love to go to the
Brattle Book Shop. I rarely buy anything; I simply like the feel of being
surrounded by books. There is a tactile excitement in wandering up
and down the aisles, watching a thousand varieties of script reach out
to me, smelling the sweet staleness of a book one or two hundred
years old.
This kind of sensual and intellectual experience has been pretty
much killed off for my students. The school system deadens the
excitement of books by forcing people to read in the most unnatural
ways. And since books do not have flashing lights or a place to carve
Austin, Texas

your initials when you've nuked five thousand alien ships, they strike
the adolescent as static and dull-witted. Most of all, a voraciousness
for books and for the ideas in them, and the demand for time to read
and digest, comprises a simplicity that is anathema to our culture's
message. If one reads and gets his pleasure from the unadorned
engagement with the printed page, then there is little else one needs.
As Erasmus pointed out in the sixteenth century, "When I get a little
money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes." A
person who believes that books and reading are more essential to life
than material necessities is a dangerous man because he will not
consume the coin of the realm for consumption's sake. Instead, he
asks for himself the integrity of his mind, and thus places himself by
definition in opposition.
Perhaps, then, that is why my adolescents, and the greater portion
of American society, are such horrible readers. The schools and the
society at large have worked to induce a conformity of attitude and
action; reading, contrary to the piety of the President and his
commission, would only negate this scheme by allowing people to
think for themselves. And adolescence, that most conformist of time,
would be the best reinforcement of this societal pressure because
teenagers by definition have no legal responsibilities for themselves
and no useful place in the culture. How could they, then, have any
dangerous thought beyond rebellion against parents?
Reading as radicalism? Indeed. It has always been thought to be
such, a way to connect minds and actions so as to nullify the
existential barriers of space and time. But our culture has gelded that
notion rather cleanly. Today one does not read to link up with ideas
and writers of the past; it is not an historical activity. It is instead
self-massage, a search for thin buns and washboard stomachs and
fictional characters who reflect our modern love of avoidance and
safety. Books today are sold as opiates, unregulated by any FDA of
the mind. G.K. Chesterton once remarked that there is a great
difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and a
tired man who wants a book to read. We are, it seems, becoming very
tired. ~


Page 37



tis impossible for me to appear on radio or television, or even at a

university or college, without someone asking me about the validity
of "prophecies." There are a number of "old reliables" upon which
religion depends to give it credence before the world. The most
notable of these are miracles, prayer (and what it effectuates), and, of
course, prophecy.
One of the most prolific Atheist writers and publishers of all time
undertook the printing and distribution of books to challenge all of
these concepts. He was D.M. Bennett, who flourished about the time
of the CivilWar in the United States. He gave a voice to one author of
whom I had never heard, one WilliamRathbone Greg, who wrote The

Creed of Christendom: Its Foundation Contrasted with Its Superstructure. One really has to hand it to Atheists; they have beautifully

exciting titles for their books. In any event this book deals with the
theory of "prophecies," and you will be instructed by what William
Rathbone Greg has to say. Are you ready?
"A prophecy, in the ordinary acceptation ot the term,
signifies a prediction of future events, which could not have -,
been foreseen by human sagacity, and the knowledge of which
was supernaturally communicated to the prophet. It is clear,
therefore, that in order to establish the claim of any anticipatory statement, promise, or denunciation to the rank and
title of a prophecy, four points must be ascertained with
precision - viz., (1) what the event was to which the alleged
prediction was intended to refer; (2) that the prediction was
uttered in specific, not vague, language before the event, (3)
that the event took place specifically, not loosely, as predicted;
and (4) that it could not have been foreseen by human sagacity.
"Now, there is no portion of the sacred writings over which
hangs a veil of such dim obscurity, or regarding the meaning of
which such hopeless discrepancies have prevailed among
christian divines, as the prophetical books of the Hebrew
Page 38

March, 1984

canon. The difficulties to which the English reader is exposed

by the extreme defects of the received translation, its confused
order, and erroneous divisions, are at present nearly insuperable. No chronology is observed; the earlier and the later,
the genuine and the spurious, are mixed together; and
sometimes the prophecies of two individuals of different
epochs are given us under the same name. In the case of some
of the more important of them we are in doubt as to the date,
the author, and the interpretation; and on the question whether
the predictions related exclusively to jewish or to general
history, to Cyrus or to Jesus, to zerubabble or to christ, to
Antiochus Epiphanes, to Titus, or to Napoleon; to events long
past, or to events still in the remote future - the most
conflicting opinions have been held with equal learning ....
There is no department of theology in which divines have so
universally assumed their conclusions and modified their
premises to suit them, as in this.
"I. In the first place, it is not uninstructive to remind ourselves
of a few of the indications scattered throughout the scriptures
of what the conduct and state of mind of the prophets often
were. They seem, like the utterers of pagan oracles, to have
been worked up (before giving forth their prophecies) into a
species of religious phrenzy (sic), produced or aided by various
means, especially by music and dancing. Philo says, 'The mark
of true prophecy is the rapture of its utterance: in order to
attain divine wisdom, the soul must go out of itself and become
drunk with divine phrenzy (sic).' The same word in Hebrew
(and Plato thought in Greek also) signifies 'to prophecy' and 'to
be mad'; and even among themselves the prophets were often
regarded as madmen - an idea to which their frequent habit of
going about naked, and the performance occasionally of still
more disgusting ceremonies, greatly contributed." (We must
remember that this book was written in 1876.)
"II. Many, probably most, of the so-called prophets were not
intended as predictions in the proper meaning of the word, but
were simply promises of prosperity or denunciations of
vengeance, contingent upon certain lines of conduct. The
principle of the Hebrew theocracy was that of temporal
rewards or punishment consequent upon obedience to or
deviation from the divine ordinances; and in the great
proportion of cases the prophetic language seems to have been
nothing more than a reminder or fresh enunciation of the
principle. This is clearly shown by the circumstances that
several of the prophecies, though originally given, not in the
contingent but in the positive form, were rescinded or
contradicted by later prophetical enunciation.
rescinding of prophecy in ... Samuel ... is very remarkable
and shows how little these enunciations were regarded by the
Israelites (from our modern point of view). Compare, in
Samuel ... where the Israelites are promised that they shall
not be moved out of Canaan nor afflicted any more, with the
subsequent denunciations of defeat and captivity in a strange
land. Also In ... Samuel ... compare where the permanent
possession of the throne is promised to David, and that a lineal
descent shall not fail him to sit upon the throne of Judah, with the curse pronounced on his last royal descendant,
Coniah: Thus saith the lord, Write ye this man childless:'
(Jeremiah xxii. 30)

The American Atheist

"It is now clearly ascertained, and generally admitted among

critics, that several of the most remarkable and specific
prophecies were never fulfilled at all. . . . The remarkable,
distinct, and positive prophecies in Ezekiel (xxvi, xxvii) relating
to the conquest, plunder, and destruction ofT yre by Nebuchadnezzar, we can now state on the highest authorities, were not
fulfilled.... The same may be said of the equally clear and
positive prophecies of the conquest and desolation of Egypt by
Nebuchadnezzar in both Jeremiah (xliii 10-13) and Ezekiel
[xxix, xxx, 1-19). ... In Hosea, we have a remarkable instance
of self- contradiction of prophecy. In viii. 13 and ix. 3 it is
affirmed 'Ephraim shall return to Egypt' while in xi. 5 it is said,
'Ephraim shall not return to Egypt.' Isaiah (xvii. 1) pronounces
on Damascus a threat of ruin as emphatic as any that was
pronounced against Tyre, Egypt, or Babylon. 'It is taken away
from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap. ' Yet Damascus
is to this day the most flourishing city in those countries.
"IV. We find from numberless passages, both in the
prophetical and the historical books, that for a considerable
period the Hebrew nation was inundated with false prophets,
whom it was difficult and often impossible to distinguish from
the true, although we have both prophetical and sacerdotal
tests given for this express purpose. It even appears that some
of those whom we consider as true prophets were by their
contemporaries charged with being, and even punished for
being, the contrary. In Deut. (xviii. 20-22) the decision of the
prophet's character is made to depend upon the fulfillment or
nonfulfillment of his prophecy. In Deut. (xiii. 1-5) this test is
rejected, and the decision is made to rest upon the doctrine
which he teaches. If this be false, he is to be stoned, whatever
miraculous proofs of his mission he may give. From Jer. (xxix.
26,27) it appears that the high priest assumed the right of
judging whether a man was a false or a true prophet; though
Jeremiah himself does not seem to have been willingto abide by
this authority, but to have denounced priests and the prophets
who supported them (Jer. v. 31).
"V. In the case of nearly all the prophets we have little
external or independent evidence as to the date at which their
prophecies were uttered, and none as to the period at which
they were written down, while the internal evidence on these
points is dubious, conflicting and, in the opinions of the best
critics, generally unfavourable to the popular conceptions. The
books of Kings and Chronicles, in which many of these
prophecies are mentioned, and the events to which they are
supposed to refer, are related, were written, or compiled in
their present form ... about the year b.c. 530, i.e. from 50 to 200
years after the period at which the prophecies were supposed
to have been delivered.
" ... we have no instance in the prophetical books of the Old
Testament ... in which we can say with certainty - that the
narrative has not been tampered with to suit the prediction, or
the prediction modified to correspond with the event.
"We have already had ample proof that the Jewish Writers
(sic - with capital letters) not only did not scruple to narrate
past events as ifpredicting future ones - to present History in
the form of Prophecy - but that they habitually did so.
" ... The state of the case appears to be this: That all the Old
Testament prophecies have been assumed to be genuine,
inspired predictions; and when falsified in their obvious
meaning and received interpretation by the event, have
received immediately a new interpretation and been supposed
to refer to some other event. When the result has disappointed
expectation, the conclusion has been, not that the prophecy
was false, but that the interpretation was erroneous. It is
obvious that a mode of reasoning like this is peculiar to
Theological Inquirers (sic - with capital letters).
"One of the of the most remarkable attempts to retain the
sacredness and authority of Hebrew prophecy, while admitting
the nonfulfillment or the inadequate fulfillment of many of its
Austin, Texas

predictions ... (has been) the doctrine of double meaning. (In

this it is conceived that) all prophecy had a double meaning an historical and obvious, and a spiritual ... signification (sic)and that the spiritual one only could receive a complete and
adequate fulfillment.
"... We must confess our amazement at the obvious and
extreme unsoundness of (the entire idea of double meaning) ...
(as) it assumes strange and contradictory improbabilities.:
first, that god was unable to convey his meaning to the
secondly, that he infused this meaning into the words
which were uttered, although he could not infuse them
into the mind of the man who uttered them; and,
thirdly, that we can see further into the mind and
meaning of god than those to whom he spoke."
I willget back to William Rathbone Greg, but it is at this point that
we should look at some specific prophecies and again I take from a set
of English Atheist writers, Foote and Ball, and from their book, The
Bible Handbook, issued in 1888.
A few unfulfilled prophecies are these:
Adam was to die on the day he ate the apple. Instead he
married Eve and set up housekeeping which led to the human
For having seduced Eve, the serpent was to eat dust. Of
course, serpents' diet, we now know, is other than that.
Cain slew Abel and was to become a fugitive and a
vagabond. Instead he dwelt in the land of Nod and built a city
there called Enoch.
Then, god promised that harvests uiould- never cease
(genesis viii. 22). But later in the same book, genesis xli. 56,
harvest ceased all over the face of the earth for several years.
Abraham was to receive the land of Canaan and his
descendants were to retain it forever. Yet, in acts vii. 5 it is
acknowledged that god gave Abraham "none inheritance in it,
no, not so much as to set his foot on."
The Israelites were to be afflicted as slaves in Egypt for 400
years. Yet in the bible Joseph and his flock had a time of great
prosperity in Egypt. The period of affliction, estimated by bible
scholars, is about 82 years. And, historically there is no
evidence that the jews were ever in Egypt in great mass as
slaves, or that there was a grand exodus of them out of Egypt.
In any event they were to return from Egypt in the fourth
generation from Abraham. But Joseph and his brothers were
the fourth generation and they were then just going to Egypt.
Sarah was to be a mother of nations. Of course, she was not.
Josiah's end was to be peaceful. But he actually was slain in
No uncircumcised or unclean persons were to ever enter
There was never to be any rainfor nations that did not keep
an annual feast at Jerusalem (zech. xiv. 17-20). Well, we all
know that rain still falls, and that it falls on all nations.

"We have already had ample proof that the

Jewish Writers ... not only did not scruple to
narrate past events as if predicting future ones
- to present History in the form of Prophecy
- but that they habitually did so."
As William Rathbone Greg concludes, "Yet all these unnatural
explanations are resorted to . . . to avoid the conclusion that the
Prophets were ... (simply) earnest men, shocked with the unrighteousness around them - seeing impending evil- bold enough
to denounce wickedness in high places - imbued with a faith that
national delinquency or national virtue would meet with poetic hope
or inevitable retribution - and they prophecied only this, and spoke
only to their times, as they knew it then." 00 .
March, 1984

Page 39



Watch out for the wee-minded ones,
Garbed in their long-flowing robes of lies,
Cowering o'er myth-made canes,
Clutching THE little black book of antiquity.
(Damn that "divine" ragdoll)
Ah, though many weave tiny-fibered, timid-seeming lives,
Ashamed to exist, (and few shall be missed)
Beware them all, I say,
Every wee-minded, "god"-drunken one,
For however meek or clamorous their v.oice,
Nay feckless or forceful their demeanor,
Amid throes of "Just As I Am,"
They'll skewer you for christ, careless lamb.

Truth like fear come fast, last long.

Jump from dark corners like coiled cats.
Remain hidden, always there, the next shadow.
You may walk past them but they will come running,
To drag you down with wretched growl
Tear your flesh, mix blood with spit.
If they let you up, if you can get up,
You will walk with a lighter step.

Truth like fear.

Paula Lawson

Laura Langland


The rock ribs of the weary land
Are white and wasted like the bones
Of dinosaurs, bleached by the passing years.
The ponds are hollow eyes of nothingness
Where the sad wind sighs
Like a sick-souled woman in tears.
Oh, cry, Land, cry for your yesterdays,
When the trees stretched tall to the sun,
And the grass lay green on the hill,
When the brooks leaped down to the rivers
And the blue ponds lay
Opal pale in the morning's chill.
Yes, cry, Land, cry that man came through
With his saw, and his plow and his eager haste.
Cry and remember as the slow sand seeps
In rippled waves o'er the rusted plow
And across the cracked doorstep,
That man too, weeps.

Earth wakens now from frozen sleep.

Life's blossoms now will grow
As colors phase from drab to green
And life renews its flow.
The early morning distant calls
Of geese returning home
They shift like seasons swept by time
Once more the need to roam.
For Spring now heralds all that live
And beckons Summer's days,
And thaws the frozen wastefulness
To mend the Winter's ways.
And life will flourish for a time
And we will gain - a while
For Summer's pleasant laughing face
Begins with Springtime's smile.
gerald tholen

Beth M. Applegate
Page 40



The American Atheist








Write to: American Ath'eists/P.O.

Box 2117/Austin,

TX 78768-2117























"It is not reasonable that a wise man
should hazard himself for his country,
and endanger wisdom for a set of fools."
Theodorus the Atheist
(circa 400 h.c.)


















~O ~O 'H')33dS

~O WOa33~~



~O ~~03~EIH.l