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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 inforrriation, 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 arid 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 Categories

Life membership
Sustaining membership
Family/Couple membership
Individual membership
Senior Citizen/Unemployed*
Student membership*



*I.D. required
All membership categories receive our monthly "Insider's Newsletter," membership cardts), a
subscription to American Atheist magazine for the duration of the membership period, plus additional
organizational mailings, i.e. new products for sale, convention and meeting announcements, etc.

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

(Vo1.26, No.6)

June, 1984

Ask A.A
News & Comments: "Creche;" "Ronald Reagan, God's Lobbyist"
Reader Service Information
American Atheist Radio Series
Letters to the Editor


Talmudic Fundamentalism And The Arab-Israeli Conflict - H.J. Skutel.
Sundays in the Dark - Joe David
The Idiopathy Of The Human Brain - Robert Ostrander


Fanaticism On-Wheels - Margaret Bhatty
A Letter From A Long Lost Cousin - Richard Smith
While Freedom Burns - Gerald Tholen
Spirits In The Material World - Michael Bettencourt

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
Alexander Stevens
Richard M. Smith
Gloria Tholen
Non-Resident Staff
G. Stanley Brown
Jeff Frankel
Merrill Holste
Margaret Bhatty
Fred Woodworth
Clayton Powers
Michael Bettencourt
Cover Art
Roger Stewart


The American Atheist magazine is published monthly by the

American Atheist Press (an affiliate of American Atheists), 2210
Hancock Dr., Austin, TX 787562596, 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 787682117. Subscription is provided as
an incident of membership in the organization of American
Atheists. Subscriptions alone are available at $25.00 for one year
terms only. (Frequency monthly. Library and institutional discount:
50%.) Manuscripts submitted must be typed, double-spaced 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
The American Atheist magazine
is indexed in
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ISSN: 0332-4310

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Please notify us six
weeks in advance to
ensure uninterrupted
Send us
both your old an-d
new addresses, Ifpossible, attach old label
from a recent magazine issue in the bottom address space

As we - including all nonreligious
citizens - enter this new era of "constitutional christianity" (see related Supreme Court rulings included in the
News & Comments article, "Creche,"
on page 6 of this issue), everyone would
be wise to note that state-church separation is now a "disturbing" concept in-sofar as our legal/justice system is concerned!
The Court's majority opinion, ". _. the
Constitution does not require complete
separation of church and state; it affirmatively mandates accommodation ..
. of all religions, and forbids hostility
toward any," says it all! Consequently,
the wrecking ball of religion has effectively smashed that single barrier originally
designed to protect the rights of individuals. Future U.S. generations may now
be destined to become a culture of
idiorhythmic robots who, in time, will
have forgotten the art of individual
thought. If you think differently, or that
this is an unfounded fear, simply consider the circumstances of the more rabidly controlled religious nations of the
The ongoing problem in America is
that people here, pampered by the security blanket of relative affluence, and
armed with a "magic" credit-card economy, have ceased to accept the conditions
of a real world. Consistently, voters have
dashed our freedoms on the rocks of
oblivion by "hiring" incompetent, windbag politicians on the basis of their
We must now reap the poisonous
harvest of a court system that no longer
serves a constitutionally minded public.
Recall that the judges therein are, for the
most part, the appointed Igor-like henchmen of those pompous degenerates who
think religion is the savior of an intellectually degenerate society.
It' is sad that only a handful of our
elected officials ever display the courage
to resist the massive religious onslaught
against human intelligence. It is sadder
still to watch a seemingly unconcerned
public rush "hell"-bent into the waiting
arms of religious fascism and, at the
same time, imagine themselves to be
patriots of freedom.
Gerald Tholen

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

Austin, Texas

June, 1984

Page 1

EDITORIAL / Jon Garth Murray




nce again we are back to the issue of prayer in school. This

organization, American Atheists, was founded in the wake of
the controversy following directly behind the Supreme Court decision of 1963 in Murray v. Curlett which dealt with that issue. Twenty
one years later we have a battle over a constitutional amendment in
the Senate of the United States over the same issue. We have here a
very similar situation to the rebirth of controversy over the issue of
the teaching of evolution in the public schools that many thought was
over at the time of John Scopes. Now that issue has come to the
limelight again and is being debated in court rooms and school boards
around the country, with more animosity than ever before. Why
should prayer come to be a national issue again now, twenty years
The answer to that question is rather complicated and must take
into account a number of factors. The Supreme Court, back in 1963,
did NOT ban "individual voluntary prayer" in public schools. The
court was concerned with two cases that had fact situations in which
there were state-sponsored "religious ceremonies" being conducted
on a daily basis in the classrooms of the school systems of two states.
What the Court said was that "prayer" was and ought to be a private
affair and that prayer was an inextricable part of any religious
ceremony. You could not have a religious ceremony without prayer
or vice versa. The chief concern of the Court was the issue of state
sponsorship. The state could not administer, compose, or finance a
religious ceremony, which also meant "prayer." At no time did any
Page 2

June, 1984

Justice say that individual voluntary prayer on the part of any student
at any time would be impermissible. Individual students have always
maintained the right under the Constitution to bow their heads and
pray before an exam, or before eating in the school cafeteria, if that
was their custom at meals at home. Any student could pray in the
halls, by their locker, or any place else on the school grounds. That
freedom is consistent with prayer as a private affair. The Court did
not desire to have the state say "you will only pray during this
particular time period of the day, in this particular setting, or with
such and such a particularly- worded prayer."
Individual voluntary prayer, as far as the leaders of every religious
community in the country are concerned, is not enough. "Volunteerism" has never been a part of the tenets of any religion. All religions
dictate that one must "pray" or suffer a list of possible consequences.
The basic nature of religion is to force prayer on everyone be it
sincere or insincere, genuine or hypocritical. The bottom line is that if
everyone is forced into prayer it will make those who do it on their
own look better and feel more comfortable in partaking of an exercise
that is simply silly. If you arrive at a party in a Bozo suit, and no one
else is in costume, you feel silly. Ifeveryone else is in costume too, you
feel at ease. The same is true of prayer. Ifyou bow your head and start
to mumble on your own, you look silly if no one else in class is doing
the same thing. Ifthe teacher forces everyone else to join with you or
observe a moment of silence while you do your thing without being
laughed at, you feel much better about it.
Prior to the 1963 decision, the majority of the states did not have
any prayers, organized or otherwise, in their school systems. This
was especially true of the Western states. Most of the persons who
grew up in states like California in the fifties and sixties never had
prayer in their classrooms. The states that did have prayer were
chiefly Eastern seaboard states and the deep South. The two cases
that led to the Supreme Court decision were from Maryland and
In fact, this nation has had a long history of turmoil along
denominational lines concerning the issue of prayer in the schools. As
long as 130 years ago religious persons began dividing up over the
prayer issue.
In 1854 a young roman catholic student by the name of Bridget
Donahue was expelled from a public school in Maine. She was
expelled because she refused to participate in the protestant
mandatory prayer. The priest that urged her into the act of
noncompliance was later tarred and feathered by the local cornmunity. In 1859 in Massachusetts Tom Wall, age 11, had his hands
beaten severely with a rattan stick over a 30minute period to force
him as a roman catholic to submit to saying the mandatory protestant
prayer. His father sued the teacher for assault. The court dismissed
the charges saying that if the young man could legally refuse to read
the bible and say the prayer he could legally refuse to listen to it also
and that would be viewed as a "war upon the bible" by the community
which could not be tolerated. Over 100 roman catholic children were
expelled from the public schools in several states during the mid1800s over refusals to participate in protestant prayers.
Cincinnati, Ohio, between 1829 and 1860, was turned into a 19th
century Londondery (Northern Ireland), withfactions bickering over
protestant versus catholic prayer in the schools. The Ohio State
The American Atheist

Supreme Court had to become involved to help keep the situation

from boiling over. In 1843 the controversy turned into violence in
Philadelphia also. In that city two roman catholic churches in the
suburb of Kensington were burned to the ground. Mob rioting in the
streets ensued. A convent as well as individual homes were destroyed
in the violence, with persons actually being shot down in the streets
during confrontations with authorities. In New York City a catholic
bishop armed his parishioners who then stood guard around the
catholic churches that had been threatened by the protestant mobs.
All of this violence, destruction and hatred was over the issue of
whether to use the protestant King James version of the bible or the
catholic Douay for required religious ceremonies in the public
schools. From 1854 to 1952 litigations ran off and on in Massachusetts, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Texas, Georgia, California, Colorado, Minnesota, South Dakota, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Nebraska,
Illinois, Louisiana and Washington between protestants, roman
catholics and finally jews. All during this period the U.S. Supreme
Court refused to review any of the cases because, it claimed, there
was "no substantial federal question" for it to review.
New York state finally broke the deadlock battle of protestant
versus catholic in 1951 when the State Board of Regents for Schools
composed a "nondenominational prayer" which they felt would be
neutral enough to stop the bickering. It was immediately challenged,
and the ensuing case took almost eight years to work its way to the
U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court said that it was not
constitutional for a state to compose a prayer fo,r.public school

"Thus the issue of prayer in school has been

the subject of more legislation and litigation
than any other issue in the last 150 years of our
nation's history."
After that New York state case the only case on prayer involving an
Atheist litigant began in Maryland in 1959.As Atheists, the litigants in
Murray v. Curlett had the best solution to the problem of
denominational strife over school prayer: Simply don't have statesponsored prayer at all. That would leave nothing about which to
fight. The Supreme Court liked the idea.
Since June of 1963, twenty one years ago this month, there have
been seven major, and dozens of minor, challenges to the Supreme
Court decision on both state and federal levels. In each and every
case state courts or federal district or appellate courts have upheld
the Atheist solution of no religious ceremonies at all in public schools.
When all the litigation failed, some 148 different amendments to the
Constitution were introduced into Congress on the prayer questions,
with most of them never getting off the ground.
.Thus the issue of prayer in school has been the subject of more
legislation and litigation than any other issue in the last 150 years of
our nation's history. Why? The answer is twofold. In the legislative
branch of government, on both national and local levels, the
"lawmakers," as they are called by the press, have been faced
(particularly since the end of World War II) with issues of day-to-day
bipartisan nature having to do with the economy and the maintenance of the health, education and welfare of our citizenry. Legislators at all levels have suffered both psychologically and functionally
from impotence. They have been unable to come to solutions or
conclusions about some of the growing problems of managing a
nation, from a purely logistical standpoint, with a geometrically
growing population and economy. They must show that they can
accomplish something. If they cannot accomplish anything with real
issues (like the current economic "balanced-budget" squabble), they
must turn to an area in which they can appear to accomplish real
forward movement, an area such as "social issues." Particularly
during election years, the fight for school prayer has sprung up again
and again in legislative circles. During this election year the social
issues are threefold: prayer in schools; tuition tax credits for parents
who send their children to private schools, of which 90% are
Austin, Texas

parochial; and abortion. These are seemingly "winnable" issues

through which the legislators can demonstrate their non impotence.

This is a real fantasy world for any elected official. They all know
that in reality the social issues are just as insoluble in a political sense
as the issues of economy and foreign policy. You are "damned" by
one faction or another whichever way you as a legislator vote. Instead
of being able to live with their impotence to come to reasonable
conclusions on certain matters, they stir up the masses every few
years over issues such as school prayer that are better off left as they
To further complicate the situation prayer has been a legislative
and executive branchforeign policy issue (not just a domestic one),
since the end of World War II.Subsequent to our national leadership
deciding that the USSR was our enemy instead of an ally after the war,
religion has been used as a part of our anticommunist foreign policy
thrust on a regular basis. To substantiate our conflict with the political
system of communism, the people in power had to establish,
truthfully or not, that as human beings the people of the United States
were somehow fundamentally different from the people of the USSR.
This was done through the expediency of religion.

"The continued and growing impotence of our.

.. government to cope with the problems of a
modern world add to its desire to turn to a
fantasy world in which the problems simply
either go away or have the lack of a solution to
them justified by demonstrating the alleged
inherent 'goodness' or 'sincerity' of those unable to cope with those problems."
Our two nations have the same fundamental economic and social
problems of expanding populations and industrialization. In order to
make our brand of solutions to those problems look better than their
brand of solutions, our leadership had to show that our solutions were
based on a more solid ground than just "mere logic," and it therefore
had to be established that our solutions were the "spiritual" product
of a religious people. How could our leaders claim that and not have
evidence of that "spirituality" in such places like our public educaJune, 1984

Page 3

tional system that would train leaders? They could not. Attempts will
continue to be made to place religious ceremonies into our public
schools so that it willbe demonstrated to the non capitalist world that
our "spiritual base" makes our economic system a better one. What
we have here is another example of legislative and executive reaction
to the problem of impotence, only spilling over into the area of foreign
We cannot do any better job under "free capitalism" (Ever noticed
how the government still controls our money supply?) of solving the
economic problems of the 20th century than can any other country
under a socialist or communist system. In order to "save face,"
though, up pops the issue of prayer and others of that social ilk as ifto
say "we can't solve our real problems either, but at least we are pure
of heart." That really does the victims of those problems a lot of good
in the meantime, doesn't it? So, getting back to the question asked at
the beginning of this editorial on why a revival of prayer as a national
issue, the answer is again clear. The Westernjudeo-christianity that is
in common in this nation is a religion based on intolerance and full
compliance. It is a belief system that simply cannot function unless
"every knee shall bow." This necessitates the forcing of prayer on the
populace again and again as the belief system, to stay alive, fights
apathy and increased access to information. The continued and
growing impotence of our legislative and executive, and now even
legal. branches of government to cope with the problems of a modern
world add to its desire to turn to a fantasy world in which the problems
simply either go away or have the lack of a solution to them justified by
demonstrating the alleged inherent "goodness" or "sincerity" of those
unable to cope with those problems.

"Religion is not only the problem rather than

the solution, but worse - it prevents the
solution from coming about."
While these mind games are going on, the problems continue to
build toward the point of no return. No one, except the Atheists, see
that the real issue is not prayer or abortion or tuition tax credits at all.
It is a political and economic system that, despite the best and noblest
of historic intentions, does not work anymore given the current fact
situations. Prayer is not a solution to a failing system. It is an escape
from any possible solutions, and that is certainly not what is needed
right now. The last thing in the world our country needs now is to have
an educational system teach our children as a lifevalue system that if
all else failsthem, simply "pray." When faced with the problems of life,
if you sat and talked them over with some imaginary entity (like
Harvey the rabbit) and called that entity anything but god, the men in
the white coats with the straightjacket would come and take you
away. For some reason people think that they can continue to get
away with that kind of irrational behavior and maintain, at the same
time. their current standard of living and social harmony.
Religion is not only the problem rather than the solution, but worse
- it prevents the solution from coming about.


A second generation Atheist, Mr. Murray has been the

Director of the American Atheist Center for 8 years and is also
the Managing Editor of the American Atheist. He advocates
aggressive Atheism.

Page 4

June, 1984

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

Tucson, Arizona
Orange, California
S. Francisco, California
Denver, Colorado
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Tampa Bay, Florida
Atlanta, Georgia
'Chicago, Illinois
Central Illinois
Evansville, Indiana
Des Moines, Iowa
Lexington, Kentucky
New Orleans, Louisiana
Boston, Massachusetts
Detroit, Michigan
Eastern Missouri
Reno, Nevada
Northern New Jersey
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Schenectady, New York
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Portland, Oregon
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Houston, Texas
Salt Lake City, Utah
Northern Virginia
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

(512) 458-5731
(602) 623-3861


The American Atheist

This new column is distinctly different from "Letters to the Editor" where you state your opinion. This column is designed to
.answer your questions as to why American Atheists does the things that it does, takes the positions that it takes, or practices the
customs that it practices. It is not a "Dear Abby" column, since it will not be giving advice. The letters being answered here, now,
are illustrative of what we consider typical: The "Ask A.A." question - with "A.A." replies.
Dear AA:
I have a serious question to ask, and I
hope you'll give me a good answer.
Why is it that Atheisfs seem to hate and
fight each other like the stupid christians do
among themselves?
For example, one woman from Colorado
who calls herself an Atheist hates a man in
California who calls himself an Atheist. He
seems to hate her. Madalyn seems to hate
both of them and both of them hate the first
lady of Atheism. The hatred is the same
between freethinkers, rationalists, agnostics, etc. Why this gawdamn hatred?
Bolder Landry
Dear Bolder:
No one has ever seen. in print any
American Atheist attack on any alleged
Atheist group or individual. That is not our
style. Madalyn Murray O'Hair cannot and
will not become involved in "hating" "either
christian or Atheist. It would consume her
emotionally and psychologically. Again and
again and again she has pointed out that
"The enemy is religion, not one another. "
During the last 21 years, at some time
every so-called Atheist leader in the United
States has been personally visited by Dr.
O'Hair, who went to their homes, knocked
on their doors and said, "Let's see how we
can work together." For. the first ten years
of the existence of American Atheists every
name received by Dr. O'Hair was sent to all
of the little struggling "freethought, rationalist, secularist, agnostic and humanist"
groups in the United States by her. None
ever reciprocated. American Atheists has
been invaded by persons who have stolen
state mailing lists in order to start "rump"
groups, usually having a focus other than
Atheism. There is not one alleged Atheist
group in the United States which has not
gained by the mailing list of American
Yet, American Atheists and Madalyn
Murray O'Hair have been the objects of
attacks by every single so-called Atheist
group in the United States, barring none.
One, for example, sent letters attacking Dr.
O'Hair to every religious editor in the
nation, and those religious editors promptly
got to Dr. O'Hair to tell her that with Mends
like the little alleged Atheist groups she did
not need enemies.
American Atheists is attacked because it
is a purist group. It is the single group in the
nation which trumpets the weltanshauung
of Atheism and refuses to hide what it
Austin, Texas

represents under a cowardly name. Every

other group, with all their euphemisms,
attain nothing and are virtually unknown.
Put all together, they have less numbers,
less power, less base and less history than
American Atheists have in Rhode Island.
They exist only in the shadow of American
Atheists. If the American Atheist Center
were to "go down," they could not last a
month for the major attacks now borne by
American Atheists would then be directed
at them.
It has been the continued policy of American Atheists that ifsomeone in the organization begins to make trouble, we simply drop
that person from membership. American
Atheists must direct their efforts toward the
state/church separation battle and the battle lor civil libertarian rights of American
Atheists_ We cannot divert our energies
toward the petty quarrels and warfare of
piss-ants who detract from the main battle.
Disabuse yourself that we have ever
"attacked," or "hated," or "fought with"
any group or any individual. We simply drop
him, her, or them, and go on with the battle.
Every one of the 51 Chapters of American' Atheists is instructed from national
office to go about the business of Atheism
and to ignore all attacks on American
Atheists or Madalyn Murray O'Hair. Every
Chapter is likewise under the instruction to
never attack any other so-called Atheist
organization or person.
We plan to continue this policy. The
enemy is religion, and we have no intention
of fighting anywhere but on that front.
Our question to you, Bolder, is why in the
hell are you wasting time and energy worrying about the chaff when you have the
wheat in American Atheists?

Dear AA:
I have three questions.
1. Is Madalyn O'Hair a communist? I don't
care, but when I'm asked as told I want the
2. Where do you stand on animals? I'm big
on animal rights and welfare. As you know,
christians tell me god put these animals here
for man to do with as he pleases. I cannot
buy any cruelty.
3. I ama poor cleaning lady. I would like to
join for myself and my husband. Could I
send you $25.00 for two months, and then
be signed up? I'm 49 and Jack is 50, so we
June, 1984

are not senior citizens.

Barbara Smith
Dear Barbara:
1. Madalyn O'Hair in her public appearances represents all Atheists. They are
across the board in the political spectrum.
She cannot and should not endorse any
political position. When persons ask you
concerning American Atheists, you MUST
answer that there is every political opinion
in the organization. We have no restrictions
at all and recognize Atheism and state/
church separation as the issue.
Madalyn O'Hair speaks only for herself
when she gives her political ideas. She has
been a committed Anarchist for 50 years.
To use the McCarthy phrase which frightens so many people, "She is not now and
never has been a member of the Communist Party" nor committed to its ideology. We caution you not to speak for her.
She can do that well enough herself, and
needs no one to take up the cudgels for her.
2. People are a part of the animal kingdom. We are members of what is called the
primate group, species "homo sapiens. " As
such, Atheists are concerned about all
animals. We have sought some articles in
respect to the need to understand this
rela'tionship and would appreciate it if those
steeped in the need to care for animal life
would send essays on that to Robin MurrayO'Hair, editor of American Atheist.
3. We have a category of membership
for those who have financial problems.
Depending upon the circumstances of each
case, we give special consideration, and
have issued membership at a cost of as low
as $5. a year. In special cases, we simply
bestow membership free as a function of
our educational outreach.

Address questions to:

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





On March 5th of this year, the United States Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision held that the sponsorship of a "nativity scene" by a city is
constitutional. Although the decision was immediately made available to your editor by NoelScott, Director of the Washington, DC Chapter
of American Atheists, an analysis could not be brought to you before this time since the American Atheist magazine has a two-month "lead"
time. As you read this issue, the August issue has already "gone to press" and the September issue is being put together. The American
Atheist is an analysis magazine, not a "news scoop" journal, of which there are many in the United States, hardly any of which present news
worth the scooping. Here, then, is the analysis of Lynch v. Donnelly, using as much of the U.S. Supreme Court language as possible, both in
and out of quotation marks.
ach year, in cooperation with the downtown retail merchants'
association, the city of Pawtucket, Rhode Island erects a
creche in a park owned by a nonprofit organization and
located in the heart of the city's shopping district. A creche has been
displayed for 40 or more years and consists of the traditional figures,
including the "Infant Jesus, Mary and Joseph, angels, shepherds,
kings and animals, all ranging in height from 5" to 5'." In 1973, the
current creche was purchased by the city for $1,365. The City alleges
that now the erection, dismantling, cartage, storage and the cost of
lighting is about $20/year. Since the minimum wage is $3.65 an hour,
this is to say that perhaps 5Yz hours of labor at that rate are involved
each year, which is stretching the minimization of the cost a bit thin,
and immediately makes one aware that prevarication and deceit were
factors in the case.
The District (or lower) Court which heard the case held that by
using the creche the City "tried to endorse and promulgate religious
beliefs" and that the "erection of the creche has the real and
substantial effect of affiliating the City with the Christian beliefs that
the creche represents." Therefore, this "appearance of official
sponsorship confers more than a remote and incidental benefit on
Christianity." The court based its decision on a finding of facts that:
(1) the creche had a religious content;
(2) the creche was not seen as an insignificant part of the display;
(3) the creche's religious content was not neutralized by the
(4) the creche was celebratory and not instructional; and that
(5) the City did not seek to counteract any possible religious
In toto, the District Court found, "the City has accepted and
implemented the view of its predominantly Christian citizens
that it is a 'good thing' to have a creche in a Christmas display,
because it is a good thing to keep 'Christ in Christmas.' "
The City was, therefore, permanently enjoined from including the
creche in the display, as the Court declared such action to be violative
of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. At this point, any person would wonder why
the City did not simply sell the creche to a local church group and
have that church group sponsor it since the display was on privately
held land anyway. Why did the City, gratuitously, insist that the City
government be the sponsor of the creche, other than for political
reasons of those in power? Almost immediately political divisiveness
surrounded the issue, to such an extent that every court, and the
media, have been impressed by the magnitude of the fight.
The mayor personally made the decision to appeal to the Court of
Appeals for the First Circuit, which affirmed the decision of the lower
court. The mayor, then, amidst much political rhetoric, appealed to
the U.S. Supreme Court, which granted certiorari (i.e. review). The
case had been a number of years in litigation (1979 to 1984).
Chief Justice Burger delivered the opinion of the U.S. Supreme
Court, and White, Powell, Rehnquist and O'Connor joined him. That
opinion begins by reaching into older U.S. Supreme Court decisions
to take fragmentary statements to build up a thesis that separation of
state and church is impossible. "Some relationship between govern-

Page 6

June, 1984

ment and religious organizations is inevitable," and "between the

objective of preventing unnecessary intrusion of either the church or
the state upon the other ... the reality (is) that ... total separation of
the two is not possible." The Court, of course, lies in its teeth. When
Thomas Jefferson stated, while still in office as the President of the
United States, that the First Amendment was meant to "erect a wall
of separation" between state and church, he knew history as well as
the reality and legal need for the separation.

Some examples of the simplicity of state/church separation are

(1) If a "Year of the Bible," a "Day of Thanksgiving," or a "Day of
Prayer," is to be declared, this can easily be done by
representative members of the clergy; no government participation is necessary.
(2) No other nation in the world has religious slogans on its
currency and there is no need for a religious slogan on U.S.
(3) All government assemblies, including those of legislative bodies
and public schools, can be rapped to attention by a gavel; no
prayer is necessary.
(4) There is no need for "blue laws" to restrict all the people of our
nation to accommodate the religious habits of the minority who
attend church on Sundays.

The American Atheist






~:..~; .~~:.; __---

z.->- -


(5) As in this case, religious displays can be erected, maintained,
disassembled and stored by religious organizations on privately
owned land. No government involvement is necessary.
(6) If taxes run with land, with stock and bond purchases, with
business enterprises, the churches and religious organizations
should pay at the same rate that any other purchaser does,
being made fully aware that they - as any other person or
entity - purchase at their peril when taxes are involved in the
exercise. There need be no "exemptions" from ordinary
taxable items or activities.
(7) Ifschools, generally, must have health and welfare standards for
children in attendance, the church schools cannot be exempted from such minimal safety standards.
(8) If teachers need to be certified as competent to teach diverse
subject areas, teachers in religious schools cannot be exAustin, Texas

empted from the qualifications necessary.

For the U.S. Supreme Court to say that separation of government
and religion is impossible only speaks to an acknowledgment of the
saturation of government with religion. With this as a premise upon
which a decision is to be built, it is axiomatic that the Court will, for
self-protection of the so-saturated government, protect religion. The
Court, therefore, immediately proclaimed that the Constitution
"affirmatively mandates accommodation ... of all religions,
and forbids hostility toward any." If"hostility toward any religion"
is "forbidden," the Atheist cannot exist in the United States,
protected by any law at all. The author of this article is as "hostile" to
all religions as she is hostile to war, racism, sexism, poverty, injustice,
violence and exploitation of humans, animals, natural resources, and
air, sea and land. Everything rotten in the world is predicated upon
religious ideas. But the court reveals its bias even further, for
June, 1984

Page 7

"Anything less (than affirmative accommodation) would require ...

'callous indifference' ... ". But indifference is simply another word for
"neutrality" which the Court has professed and should have. The
Court then goes on with a litany of continuing customs which it sees
as free from any conflict with the concept of state/church separation
and first among them is the opening of state legislatures (or other
government bodies, including the Court itself) with prayer. Having
already ruled upon this in the case of the Nebraska legislation in 1983,
it felt called upon, through guilt, to repeat and attempt to clarify its
arguments for that wholly religious decision.
The second whining rationalization by the court is a survey of
religious statements or proclamations by Congress and by past
presidents. It pointed particularly to a day of thanksgiving which was
proclaimed by Congress on November 26, 1789, but neglected to
point out that the prayer was directed to "the Great Lord and Ruler of
Nations" which was a deistic and not a christian concept. it equated to
the phrase, " ... Nature and Nature's God ... " in the Declaration of

"Chief Justice Burger delivered the opinion

of the U.S. Supreme Court, ... That opinion
begins by reaching into older U.S. Supreme
Court decisions to take fragmentary statements to build up a thesis that separation of
state and church is impossible."
Independence, a notoriously deistic document. This is a classic deceit
which the United States Supreme Court and the religious leaders use
in a continuing way. After programming the nation for over 100 years
(post Civil War to date) to the idea that any reference to a "god" is to
the judeo-christian god - and specifically to jesuchrist - they fold
every other concept in the term. Then, as Madison pointed out, once
a precedent of any nature is found, even when the distortion of it is
obvious, the religious freely build upon it.
The third, unrelated excuse was a series of symbolic laws recently
signed, indicating that this mandate for affirmative accommodation
was alive and well. The first of them was federal statute 36 USe. 186,
signed into law on July 30,1956, which prescribed a national motto for
the nation: "In God We Trust." The Court detached this from its
history and neglected entirely to point out that this phrase was
adopted during the height of the McCarthy Un-American Activities
hysteria and that it superceded the totally secular phrase used from
1776 to 1956, viz: "E Pluribus Unum" (Latin: "From many [people]
comes one [nation]).
A second symbolism was that this phrase, "In God We Trust," was
mandated for our currency by federal statue 31 USe. 324 (again
during that McCarthy terrorism). Even more pernicious is that the
U.S. Supreme Court does not point out that the phrase was ordered
for the money before it had been made into the motto and that with a
rush of embarrassment the law to make "In God We Trust" our
national motto was pushed through (July 11, 1955) when it was
discovered that the currency mandate was not really supported by
custom or law.
Unabashed, the Court goes on with its further "symbol" excuse
that "One Nation Under God" is a part of the pledge of allegiance to
the American flag, "recited by thousands of public school children and adults - every year." What is not mentioned is that the pledge
came out of World War I and had no religious language in it. When
your author was a child in public grade school the pledge of allegiance
said each morning eschewed the idea of god. The law revising the
pledge to include the phrase "under god" was one of three symbolic
laws passed during the McCarthy hysteria (this one on June 14,1954)
to ward off the threat of Communism by invoking god's name, much
asa vampire or a demon can, allegedly, be backed down by a crucifix.
Over and over again, for 23 years now, American Atheists have
pointed out that ifreligion wins the "symbolic" war, it can and willtake
over the country as we move into a christian theocracy. Ronald
Reagan and the Falwellians see that the time for that takeover move is
now, in 1984.
Page 8

June, 1984

Not content with these premises the Court bolsters its shaky
argument with a statement that "Art galleries supported by public
revenues display religious paintings of the 15th and 16th centuries,
predominantly inspired by one religious faith." The National Gallery
in Washington regularly exhibits "more than 200" religious paintings
including "those depicting the Last Supper, the Birth of Christ, the
Crucifixion and the Resurrection." it neglects to note that art history
reveals that one could not be a certified "master" from any art school
or university in Europe during the period of the 15th and 16th
centuries unless one (coercively) completed works of these "events,"
particularly that of the crucifixion. This was a period of history when
the roman catholic church was completely dominant on the continent
and where any dissent away from christianity brought death.
Lutheranism, beginning in the 16th century, although subscribing
completely to christian tenets, nonetheless precipitated the devastating 3D-Years War in Germany. Only religious art could be
recognized or survive at the time.
Turning to what should be impermissible objets d'art the Court
even noted, "The very chamber in which oral arguments on this case
were heard is decorated with a notable and permanent symbol of
religion: Moses with the Ten Commandments." This should be
considered to be a blight in the courtroom which needs to be removed
rather than to be a constitutional representation of the saturation of
our political and judiciary system with christianity.
The Court reinforces its standing on shaky "tradition" by saying
that "Congress has long provided chapels in the Capitol for religious
worship and meditation." Again, this signals a failingof the congressmen, that they need to go to such chapels for "advice" from god,
instead of using their own education, political acumen, and human
experiences to assist them in making decisions in respect to
legislation which affects us all.
American Atheists have pointed out, until we are weary of it, the
statement of James Madison in his 1784 Memorial and Remonstrance
Against Religious Assessments, which contains the following advice:
"The freemen of America did not wait till usurped power had
strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in
precedents. They sawall the consequences in the principle, and they
avoided the consequences by denying the principle." Again and again,
during the past 23 years, American Atheists have "denied the
principle" and have been called every gross name in the book by both
the "conservatives" and the "liberals" of our nation who would
protect religious precepts and the swallowing of the nation by
christianity because of their timidity and their fear that religion cannot
be confronted. Usurped religious power has strengthened itself by
exercise and entangled the question of state/church separation in
precedents and it is only by sweeping it clean that the morass can be
"Countless other illustrations of the Government's acknowledgment of our religious heritage and governmental sponsorship of
graphic manifestations of that heritage" include the federal statute 36
USe. 169th, to proclaim a National Day of Prayer each year.
The Court almost wept that it could not "mechanically" take an
"absolutist approach" on state/church separation as it continued
down the yellow brick road to the point of denouement that god is
really a Falwellian. The Jeffersonian phrase of a "wall of separation"
between state and church means to this primarily Nixon-appointed
Court, "a blurred, indistinct, and variable barrier depending on all the
circumstances of a particular relationship." The lessons of history
have been lost on the old christian-indoctrinated men of the U.S.
Supreme Court. They acknowledged that, when it was convenient,
the Court has applied a tripartite test by inquiring whether a
challenged law or conduct (1) has a secular purpose, (2) whether its
principal or primary effect is to advance or inhibit religion, and (3)
whether it creates an excessive entanglement of government with
religion. However, as it has reviewed recent cases it admits that it has
not considered such an analysis "relevant," particularly when it came
to the saying of prayer in state legislative bodies. It noted, albeit
genteelly, that one of its chief tricks, "Even where the benefits to
religion were substantial," was to find "a secular purpose" to let the
exercise sneak into the culture as "constitutional." These have been:
The American Atheist

The District Court had found that political divisiveness was

engendered by the display. But, "this Court has not held that political
divisiveness alone can serve to invalidate otherwise permissible
conduct," particularly when it sees no such divisiveness in the 40-year
history of the display (purchased in 1973, twelve years ago, not forty).

(1) that large sums of public money for textbooks supplied

throughout the country to students attending churchsponsored schools benefit the children only and not the
religious schools;
(2) that expenditure of public funds for transportation of
students to church-sponsored schools protect the children's
(3) that federal grants for college buildings of churchsponsored institutions of higher education only promoted the
secular part of the students' education at those schools;
(4) that tax exemption for church properties was appropriate
because churches "do good";
(5) that children being released from public schools during
school hours to attend religious classes elsewhere promoted
parents' wishes and "free choice";
(6) that noncategorical grants to church-sponsored colleges
and universities were, in the last analysis, for "education only";

"Since the Court has already visited the

largess of tax dollars and special privileges on
religion, it then states 'We are unable to discern a 'greater aid to religion deriving from
inclusion of the creche than from these (other)
benefits and endorsements, ... ' "


(7) that the enforcement of "Sunday Blue Laws" was only so

the people of the nation could have "a day of rest" already
established by religion as a custom.
Therefore, the Court could only look at the creche "in the context
of the Christmas season." One's heart sinks at the phrase alone. If
anything about" Christ" goes during the" Christ"mas season, one is
immediately put on notice that a score of "secular" reasons will be
found to prop up governmental sponsorship of "Christ"ianity. And,
that is immediately upon one. "The City, like the Congresses and
Presidents, however, has principally taken note of a significant
historical religious event long celebrated in the Western world. The
creche in the display depicts the historical origins of this traditional
event long recognized as a National Holiday." The "secular" purpose
is to celebrate the holy-day and to depict the origins of that holy-day!

Since the Court has already visited the largess of tax dollars and
special privileges on religion, as above indicated, it then states "We
are unable to discern a greater aid to religion deriving from inclusion
of the creche than from these (other) benefits and endorsements, ... "
Seeing that it could not deny arguendo, however, that there is some
advancement of religion from the action of the City of Pawtucket
sponsoring the creche (Why didn't the City instead sponsor a
different nonreligious symbol along with the clown in the display, the
elephant, or the teddy bear?), the Court held this to be an "indirect,
remote and incidental benefit on Christianity."
Austin, Texas

To round out its "sell-out" to christianity, Justice Blackmun

concluded that the creche is "passive," that the nature of the
christmas holiday is religious, but that it brings people into the central
city and serves commercial interests and benefits merchants and
employees. Although there may be secular reasons given for retaining
a religious display sponsored by the City government, he made a
'shocking analogy:
"That a prayer invoking divine guidance in Congress is
preceded and followed by debate and partisan conflict over
taxes, budgets, national defense, and myriad mundane subjects, for example, has never been thought to demean or taint
the sacredness of the invocation (emphasis added)"
It is incredible that five U.S. Supreme Court justices would think in
these terms and yet have ruled that prayer, which they both revere
and think to be efficacious, before legislative bodies is constitutional.
With this kind of "intellectual lag" in their thinking, it is immediately
apparent that they support a creche sponsored by government
because they are, in their hearts and unfortunately in their minds, still
religious. And, they know it, for the majority concluded with the
"If the presence of the creche in this display violates the
Establishment Clause (of the First Amendment), a host of
other forms of taking official note of Christmas, and of our
religious heritage, are equally offensive to the Constitution."
In that they are correct, indeed, so they add:
"Any notion that these symbols (prayer in legislative and
government bodies, "In God We Trust" on currency, "Under
God" in our pledge, etc.) pose a real danger of establishment of
a state church is far-fetched indeed." Therefore, "We hold that,
notwithstanding the religious significance of the creche, the
City of Pawtucket has not violated the Establishment Clause of
the First Amendment."
Justice O'Connor, worried about the political divisiveness which
has, indeed, been caused despite the sloughing off of this problem by
the majority opinion, decided that she needed to add her two cents and that is about what her opinion is worth.
She opines that government is prohibited from making adherence
to a religion relevant to a person's standing in the community.
Apparently, she has not read the state constitutions of Mississippi,
Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Arkansas which prohibit
Atheists or agnostics from holding office or public trust, provisions
which clearly make adherence to a religion relevant to the standing of
the Atheists in the communities in which they live. But, she notes that
government can run afoul of this prohibition in two principal ways:
(1) through excessive entanglement with religious institutions
(a) may interfere with the independence of the institutions,
(b) give the institutions access to government not fully shared
by non adherents to religion,
(c) foster the creation of political constituencies defined along
religious lines;
(2) through government endorsement or disapproval of religion.
After delineating these areas, she simply drops the matter there.
In the case of the Pawtucket creche display, there was political

June, 1984

Page 9

divisiveness and O'Connor wants to make the point that this cannot
be an "independent test of constitutionality." Yet, she notes" Political
divisiveness is admittedly an evil addressed by the Establishment
Clause." My gawd! must we all vote for Reagan to avoid "political
divisiveness"? Is uniformity of political opinion a constitutional
mandate? Of what can the woman possibly be thinking? Political
divisiveness, she goes on, occurs when there is perception that
government has endorsed religion or that "institutional" entanglement is excessive.
Therefore, she wants to enquire - as if we did not know - has
Pawtucket actually endorsed christianity either objectively or
subjectively by its display of the creche? Is there a true secular
purpose? And her entire reasoning is set forth in a bald, unsupported
statement: "Iwould find that Pawtucket did not intend to convey any
message of endorsement of Christianity ... " This despite the fact that
the much conveyed message of the mayor of that city was that he
intended to "put Christ back into Christmas." Although the finding of
facts is the job of the lower court, and although that lower court had
found that:
(1) the creche had a religious content;
(2) the creche was not seen as an insignificant part of the display;
(3) the creche's religious content was not neutralized by the setting;
(4) the creche was celebratory and not instructional; and that
(5) the City did not seek to counteract any possible religious
O'Connor swept this aside with "The District Court's conclusion
concerning the effect of Pawtucket's display of its creche was in error
as a matter of law." The four dissenting justices in their minority
opinion (written by justice Brennan) note: "Justice O'Connor's
concurring opinion properly accords greater respect to the District
Court's findings, but I am at a loss to understand how the court's
specific and well-supported finding that the City was understood to
have placed its stamp of approval on the sectarian content of the
creche can be dismissed as simply an 'error as a matter of law.' "
Just as the majority, whose decision she had joined, relied on the
legislative prayers, the "In God We Trust" on currency and coins, the
prayer with which the U.S. Supreme Court opens, as evidences that
"intent" is secular, she parrot-like repeated these symbolic precedents. She added: "This display celebrates a public holiday, and no
one contends that declaration of that holiday is understood to be an
endorsement of religion." American Atheists for over 100 years have
contended that the declaration of religious holidays (5. U.S. C. 6103(a)
- federal holidays include Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Washington's Birthday, Labor Day, Veteran's Day and Christmas) is understood by them to be an endorsement of religion.* We are swept off the
Her brilliant conclusion: "I cannot say that the particular creche
display at issue in this case was intended to endorse or had the effect
of endorsing christianity." O'Connor's drivel is an insult to any lawyer
in the land.

*The Court's dissent noted that christmas was not even recognized
as a federal holiday until the late 19th century after the States had first
made it into legal holiday:
"Ch. 167, 16 Stat. 168 (1870). There is no suggestion in the brief
congressional discussion concerning the decision to declare Christmas day a public holiday in the District of Columbia, (emphasis
added - ed.) that Congress meant to do anything more than to put
the District on equal footing with the many other States that had
declared those days public holidays by that time (1870, ed.) (And
what was the discussion in those States about establishing this
religious holiday? The Court did not examine it. - ed.). See Congo
Globe, 41st Cong., 2d Sess. 4805 (1870).
"Significantly, it was not until 1885 that Congress provided holiday
payment for federal employees on December 25. See J. Res. 4, 23
Stat. 516 (1885)."
Page 10

June, 1984

Justice Brennan dissented and he was joined by Marshall,

Blackmun and Stevens. Noting that the criteria to be applied to the
case is still allegedly a tripartite test inquiring whether a challenged
law or conduct (1) has a secular purpose, (2) whether its principal or
primary effect is to advance or inhibit religion, and (3) whether it
creates an excessive entanglement of government with religion, these
four justices found that Pawtucket's creche amounted to an impermissible governmental endorsement of a particular faith. They
were also startled to find that the majority justices only applied these
three standards superficially simply because the christmas holidays
were familiar and agreeable to the majority. Sharply critical the
minority notes, "It seems that the Court is willing to alter its analysis
from Term to Term in order to suit its preferred results."


... your tax-exempt donations
Since both sides can play the game of picking out bits and pieces of
earlier decisions upon which to predicate their arguments, the
minority dissent then pointed to statements from 1947 ". . . that
government maintains a position of neutrality with respect to religion
and neither advances nor inhibits the promulgation and practice of
religious beliefs;" and from 1962 that "a union of government and
religion tends to destroy government and degrade religion." The evils
at which the Establishment Clause was aimed, they say, are the
"sponsorship, financial support, and active involvement of the (state)
in religious activity." Since Pawtucket did not make a statement of
fact as to why it participated in the display by purchasing, displaying
and maintaining the creche, -these justices thought that the intent
could be inferred. In court the City claimed that it had only
participated to "promote pre-Christmas retail sales and to help
engender the spirit of good will and neighborliness commonly
associated with the Christmas season." Other than the fact that
almost everyone in the nation is unaware of this type of alleged reason
for the existence of government anywhere, this could be taken
arguendo, the minority said, to see where it led. The minority found
that these two reasons claimed could have been accomplished by
other means and suggested that the display of Santa Claus, reindeer,
and wishing wells would have accomplished the purposes. In fact,
several representatives of Pawtucket's business community testified
that if the creche had been removed, the overall christmas display
would have promoted the downtown holiday trade equally as well
without it.
Secondly, the minority thought that the display of the creche could
not possibly promote retail commerce, or cause good will, especially
since the mayor and other city leaders had testified that the creche
had the wholly religious purpose of "keeping Christ in Christmas."
The American Atheist

Therefore, the christians found that the government of the city of

Pawtucket had placed its imprimatur of approval on the particular
religious beliefs (christianity) exemplified by the creche, having
unique and exclusive benefit of public recognition and approval of
their views. "The effect on minority religious groups, as well as on
those who may reject all religion, is to convey the message that their
views are not similarly worthy of public recognition nor entitled to
public support. It was precisely this sort of religious chauvinism that
the Establishment Clause was intended forever to prohibit. In this
case ", . . when the power, prestige and financial support of
government is placed behind a particular religious belief, the indirect
coercive pressure upon religious minorities to conform to the
prevailing officially approved religion is plain." Pawtucket owns the
creche and it has singled out christianity for special recognition and
The minority saw that the majority had advanced two principal
arguments to support its position. The minority saw neither as being
First, it treated the creche in a holiday "context" while nothing in
the case said that the City had included the creche as a "significant
historical religious event" which had only "incidental and indirect"
benefit to christianity. The creche was in the most central and highly
visible location within the park display. It was a life-sized tableau
marked off by a white picket fence. The location lent the creche
significance. It was placed near the most enticing parts of the display
for children - Santa's house and the talking wishing well. The creche,
. the minority found,
"is the chief symbol of the Christian belief that a divine Saviour
was brought into the world and that the purpose of this
miraculous birth was to illuminate a path toward salvation and
redemption. For Christians, that path is exclusive, precious
and holy. For those who do not share these beliefs, the
symbolic re-enactment of the birth of a divine being who has
been miraculously incarnated as a man stands as a dramatic
reminder of their differences with Chnstian faith.
" ... the creche is far from a mere representation of a
'particular historic religious event.' It is, instead, best understood as a mystical recreation of an event that lies at the heart
of the Christian faith.
"The fact that Pawtucket has gone to the trouble of making
such an elaborate public celebration and of including a creche
in that otherwise secular setting inevitably serves to reinforce
the sense that the City means to express solidarity with the
Christian message of the creche and to dismiss other faiths as
unworthy of similar attention and support."
Second, the minority notes that the majority attempted to justify
the creche by a faulty syllogism:
(1) Government may recognize christmas day as a public holiday.
(2) The creche is nothing more than a traditional element of
christmas celebrations.
(3) Therefore: the inclusion of a creche as a part of a government's
annual christmas celebration is constitutional.
"The vice of this dangerously superficial argument is that it
overlooks the fact that the Christmas holiday contains both secular
and sectarian elements." The minority is in error. The fault is the
initial premise that the government may recognize religious days as
public holidays. It is the religious leaders who must call for religious
observances by their flocks, not for the government to coerce
religious observances by the public at large. When the government
moves to fasten public recognition on a particular day for celebration
it is an inherent necessity that the recognition should be for a secular
reason, such as Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Washington's
Birthday, Labor Day and Veteran's Day, for which all may participate.
In this instance. one reason (unacceptable to Atheists but acceptable
to politicians who kow-tow to religious zealots) might suffice: The
christmas celebration by the christians causes such a major
disruption of government and business, due to the christian
"heat season," that it is not feasible for "business as usual" and,
therefore, a day of "common rest" must be provided, which
Austin, Texas

could be designated as a "Winter Celebration Day." Government officials should be able to participate in the secular event of a
holiday such as this. As the minority emphasizes, "But when those
officials participate in or appear to endorse the distinctively religious
elements of this otherwise secular event, they encroach upon First
Amendment freedoms. For it is at that point that the government
brings to the forefront the theological content of the holiday, and
places the prestige, power and financial support of a civilauthority in
the service of a particular faith."
. The minority then looks at the argument as to whether or not the
Court has officiallyacknowledged religion with "In God We Trust" on
our coins, "under God" in our pledge of allegiance, prayer at judicial
sessions and in legislative bodies, a national motto acknowledging
god and religious holidays such as "Thanksgiving;" and it sees that
" ... if government is to remain scrupulously neutral in matters
of religious conscience, as our Constitution requires, then it
must avoid those overly broad acknowledgments of religious
practices that imply governmental favoritism toward one set of
religious beliefs.
"Despite (a) body of case law, the Court has never
comprehensively addressed the extent to which government
may acknowledge religion by, for example, incorporating
religious references into public ceremonies and proclamations
and (we) do not presume to offer a comprehensive approach.
Nevertheless, it appears from prior decisions that at least three
principles ... may be identified.
"First, although the government may not be compelled to do so by the Free Exercise Clause, it may,
consistently with the Establishment Clause, act to
accommodate to some extent the opportunities of
individuals to practice their religion.
"Second, our cases recognize that while a particular
governmental practice may have derived from religious
motivations and retain certain religious connotations, it
is nonetheless permissible for the government to pursue
the practice when it is continued today solely for secular

June, 1984

Page 11

"Third, ... such practices as the designation of 'In God

We Trust' as our national motto, or the references to
God contained in the pledge of allegiance can best be
understood ...
as a form of 'ceremonial deism,'
protected from Establishment Clause scrutiny chiefly
because they have lost through rote repetition any
significant religious content. Moreover, these references
are uniquely suited to serve such wholely secular
purposes as solemnizing public occasions, or inspiring
commitment to meet some national challenge in a
manner that s.imply could not be fully served in our
culture ifgovernment were limited to purely nonreligious
Now, that is as much balderdash as has been heard recently. Paper
and hard currency would still be used as a medium of exchange
whether or not it had upon it the phrase, "In God We Trust," and the
pledge of allegiance was used in every school in the land and during
World War II without the corruption of the phrase "under God" in it.
Even with the minority writing a dissent, religious nonsense is
intruded into a legal issue.
It is possibly only to the jews that the next remark is made for the
minority as it begins its conclusion by noting the majority ruling that
"the Court takes a long step backwards to the days when Justice
Brewer could arrogantly declare for the Court (in 1892) that 'this is a
Christian nation.' Those days, (we) had thought, were forever put
behind us .... "
One other short dissent was filed by Justice Blackmun, joined by
Justice Stevens. These two, speaking in insulted religious tones, felt
that the creche used for commercial purposes denied "the sacred
message that is at the core of the creche."
Altogether, March 5, 1984 was a very bad day for Atheists in the
United States. A minority court can always speak strongly as long as
it knows the law is spoken by the majority. It is sheltered from the
consequences of its remarks.
As the law stands interpreted by this decision, "... the Constitution (does not) require complete separation of church and
state; it affirmatively mandates accommodation
. . . of all
religions, and forbids hostility toward any." This ruling affirms
that the United States is one nation under god. Note the relative
positions of the two entities. Atheists are in continually worsening
legal position even as their numbers grow. It is imperative that we use
the Weicker strategy (see p. 13 of this issue, article titled "Ronald
Reagan, God's Lobbyist."), which is to debate vigorously in the public
forum to educate our 235+ million citizens about the true nature of the
dying beast: judeo-christianity.


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The American Atheist




resident Reagan, muting religion somewhat as he campaigned
on the issue of reaganomics and the slogan, "Are you better
off than you were four years ago?", still held out in his 1980 bid
for the White House that he was also running as a supporter of
America's "traditional values." In the last four years he has made it
increasingly clear that these are all religious "values." American
Atheists and radical right-wing religionists sniffed that out during the
first campaign, while the media did not understand until their noses
were rubbed in it. That came when Viguerie, Falwell, Robertson,
Bakker and the rest started to demand immediate concessions from
an elected Reagan for their support in his campaign.
He never had to rhetorically ask "Where's the beef?" They had the
beef. But knowing well that he could count on their support (since
they had nowhere else to turn), Reagan deliberately kept it on the
back burner, tantalizing the hope of the radical religious right with
whiffs of the odor of a cooking theocracy during his first four years in
office. As time for re-election approached, his "Year of the Bible" (for
1983) gave them their hope for another try and his slowly moving
efforts in behalf of goals of half a dozen religious -groups ("all
constituent groups" - an aide explained) bolstered them all to a new
preparedness. For the mormons there was forced virginity; for the
evangelicals, an attack on sex education; for the roman catholics,
tuition tax credits; and for all of the nuts, all tqgether, an endorsement
of creationism, bible classes in schools, government-sponsored
school prayers, religious rhetoric bordering on the insane intruding
into domestic and foreign politics.
It was no surprise then in January that Reagan announced his
candidacy for reelection one day and the next day made it known that
his issues agenda was religio-political. The theme: in 1983 he had
proclaimed "The Year of the Bible;" 1984 would be "the year we put
its (the bible's) great truths into action." No one realized he really
meant what he said until March when the ominous issue was joined in
the Congress of the U.S. on the presidential "Prayer in Schools"
maneuvers. In this scheme of things, god was to move at the whim of
Reagan, god's special interest lobbyist in the White House.
And even before the issue got media-hot, the White House was
ready for it. In late February, a new "electronic mail system" was put
into operation with its first agenda to promote Reagan's constitutional
amendment for prayer in the public schools. On February 28th, the
Public Affairs Director shot out the first issue of "talking points" to
explain the Reagan administration position. Electronic mail is distributed to all Cabinet secretaries, agency heads and other "administration spokesmen" so that the whole team could adhere to the same
"line." Each agency then further distributes to anyone having
"appropriate upcoming speaking opportunities." The first comment
reminded senior officials of what Reagan had said in his weekly radio
talk of February 25th:
"President Reagan believes that prohibitions on school
prayer stand the First Amendment on its head. 'Ask yourselves,'he said Saturday, 'can it really be true that the First
Amendment can permit Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen to march
on public property, advocate the extermination of people of the
Jewish faith and the subjugation of blacks while the same
amendment forbids our children from saying a prayer in
school.' "

Austin, Texas

When asked if the message on prayer involved a "political" rather

than an administrative or executive use of the system, the Public
Affairs Director replied simply, "No."
Reagan had already shown what was to come in February when he
spoke to a rally for his reelection in Iowa. There, he drew enormous
applause from the assembled Republicans when he called for "the
God who loves us" to be "welcomed back into our children's
classrooms" after having been "expelled" from the same by the U.S.
Supreme Court. This later became thematic in the debate.
In fact, on the day after he announced his candidacy for reelection,
he spoke to the National Religious Broadcasters where he first prayed
" ... that 1984 will be the year we put (the bible's) great truths into
action." One can only hope that he is not looking toward Armageddon. But, he also ushered in the year with his own thoughts about the
nation's economic troubles: "The best way to balance the federal
budget is . . . by all of us simply trying to live up to the Ten
Commandments and the Golden Rule." For those of you who
thought you knew what reaganomics was based on, this may come as
a surprise.
Naturally, the first order of the day would be a holy war, a jihad on
the Atheists, agnostics, heretics, secular humanists, civil libertarians
and other heathen, since Reagan is intent on being the chief
theologian for a state religion, which coincidentally happens to be
fundamentally his. That religion is basically militaristic and gives
sufferance or tolerance only to the majority. The "problems of the
United States - pornography, crime, drugs, adultery, fornication,
violence - come not from kids who pray, but from kids who don't
pray." The solution: Force all kids to pray. The underlying thesis: The
state has the right to impose religion, particularly the President's, on
everyone as a panacea for the nation's ills.
As a game plan of the strategists unfolded, it was chilling. First the
President made his "I will run again" pronouncement in January.
Later in February, Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker, Jr. (R-Tn.)
appeared on "The 700 Club" religious TV show to pump up support
for the beginning fight. But Jerry Falwell pulled off the incredible when
he had Ronald Reagan furnish him with a five-minute taped message
as a conclusion for his nationwide TV special of March 4th, titled "The
Moraland Spiritual State of the Union." President Reagan read the
First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, paused
dramatically, and then stated that nowhere in the Constitution was
there an explicit mention of "separation of church and state."* it was
only a small part of the direct appeal to both religion and the religious
which Reagan has mounted. More than 50 tapes of another threeminute message from Ronald Reagan was used by many fundamentalist religious broadcasters on their religious cable networks. These
videotape spots urged viewers to write and call Congress in support
of Reagan's proposed constitutional amendment to restore government sponsored prayers in public schools. And, TV actor Efrem
Zimbalist Jr. joined in with spots of his own. A key tactic was the use
of the electronic media by flashy and visible evangelists to reach their
members and viewers who were "pushy" school prayer advocates.
*It was Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (a U.S. Supreme Court
Justice from 1902 to 1932 and an outright Atheist) who observed,
"There is nothing in the Constitution to prevent the American people
from making fools of themselves."

June, 1984

Page 13

By February 28th Reagan had sent personal letters to 500 religious

leaders urging them to generate support for the school-prayer
Many of the more politically wise establishment religious leaders
were angry with Reagan's "sideshow revival" in his quest for votes,
and most questioned his sincerity. Those people, with whom he is in
disagreement on the issue of a nuclear freeze and domestic budget
cuts, are finding themselves ignored, they claim, as he develops a new
"Southern strategy" for the Republicans. Trying to find votes in the
traditionally Democratic South, Reagan is attempting to have the
fundamentalists move into the Republican camp in return for school
prayers and aid to white-flight church schools. Even some embittered
baptists noted that Reagan and his White House aides ", . . are
interested only in the TV (fundamentalists) and groups that completely agree with their point of view. These are men who use religion as a
crude lever on the emotions of responsible, church-going people people who are voters."
Said a roman catholic official, ''They want to deal with church
leaders, but they exclude all but the most dollar-wise and those who
have no problem waving a flag in one hand and a crucifix in the other
to attract followers, the sideshow revival types. This is a White House
that feels it has bested American bishops on the nuclear war issue by
appointing an ambassador to the vatican who willspeak with the pope
Even the jews were critical: "We fear that schools will make up
prayers that are narrow in scope, (i.e. christian - ed.) directed at one
religion rather than all. The White House is insensitive to the idea of
Jewish children being left out, made to feel that they are not part of
mainstream America. Mr. Reagan is more intent on school prayer as a
political tool."
Reagan's aides conceded that the president could be criticized for
mixing religion and politics: "It's a gamble, but it's a gamble we'll win."
And Falwell was with the White House: "I think it is sour grapes by
his opponents. I don't think he's trying to get Jesus Christ's
endorsement. It's not a matter of God being on our side. Reagan is on
God's (side) .... It is the voice of morality that people seek in their
leadership. Is he wrong to give it to them?" And, in another interview
Falwell added, "It's amazing how an election year can help people get
their philosophy right."
And then, to add to the hoopla, the sports stars were called in.
Knowing that the Senate was going to begin debate on the prayer
issue on March 5th, the House got a head jump by permitting the'
religious to flock to. a House Republican Study Committee to give
testimony on prayer.

~ ..





Some of the first up were the coaches of one of the fiercest rivalries
in American football. This time they sat on the same side of the field,
giving their signals for prayer. Joe Gibbs, coach of the Washington
Redskins, saw that the removal of prayer from the schools had
"caused a breakdown in our schools' discipline." But Tom Landry of
the Dallas Cowboys went further to state that "when we removed
Page 14

June, 1984

God from our public schools, ... what we did was accelerate the
moral decay of our country." The Washington Times, on March 8th,
gave one fullpage to an interview with Landry. In this he revealed that
he had been a part of the "Fellowship of Christian Athletes" for more
than 20 years and that" ... the major thrust of the program has been
to get into the junior high and high schools an opportunity to get the
coaches and athletes together as a witnessing group . . . on the
But other luminaries in attendance were just as bright. They
included Rosey Grier (former defensive tackle for the New York
Giants and the Los Angeles Rams), Lenny Moore (formerly with the
Baltimore Colts and a member of the NFL Hall of Fame), Mark
Moseley (place kicker for the Redskins), and Meadowlark Lemmon
(ex-Harlem Globetrotter). Roger Staubach, who was supposed to be
among those in attendance, did not make an appearance. But
Desmond Wilson (star of "Sanford and Son") was there, his
"wisdom" showing through his prayers as he stated without qualification, "Bringing God back into the classrooms will help in putting an
end to the stabbing, rapes, drugs, alcohol and other serious problems
in the schools."
The Study Committee, billed as "a legislative support group"
(whatever that means), provided the forum to the stars to accommodate 130 Republican Congressmen wanting the return of prayer to
schools as a campaign issue. The game plan by the House Republicans was to bring pressure on Congressmen to sign a discharge
petition to dislodge the prayer amendment from a House subcommittee onto the floor of the House. A "discharge petition"
requires the signature of 218 House members to.force legislation to
the floor. The prayer petition for discharge was drawn up on February
23rd, and its backers predicted that it could take months before the
necessary signatures were obtained. The Study Committee forum
was a calculated risky trick to gain those signatures quickly. On
February 28th this game plan was discussed by Falwell in a press
interview in Atlanta, Georgia. Hundreds of evangelicals were to
assemble for a prayer session in the Capitol rotunda. Afterwards they
were to hold an all-night vigilon the steps outside while Rep. Newton
L. Gingrich (D-Ga.) kept the House in session until dawn. The
marathon debate, or "testimonial" session was to be recorded in the
Congressional Record, which would later provide for the fundamentalists a SOD-page"special edition" on the school-prayer issue.
One speaker at the forum, a school teacher who had taught in
Maryland public schools for forty years, said, without equivocation,
"The choice is yours. You can vote in the affirmative and be on the
side of God, George Washington, the Founding Fathers and President Reagan. Or you can vote 'no' and be on the side of Khrushchev,
Madalyn Murray O'Hair and the millions of agnostics and atheists
who do not recognize America as 'one nation under God'. "
Meanwhile, on the same day,.Reagan was telling a conservative
senior citizens' group that "it would be nice to show the world that
America is still one nation under God."
Reagan personally presided over a strategy session of Republican
leaders at the White House on March 2nd. There, he and they
decided how to manage a session set for March 5th, when the Senate
was to begin a major debate over the Reagan-proposed constitutional
amendment which would permit organized government-sponsored
prayer in public schools. The measure had been bottled in the Senate
Judiciary Committee as prayer proponents struggled to write a
"winner." The formula was not found. Usually the Committee
reaches an agreement on competing amendments offered, but this
time in an unprecedented move the Committee simply dumped
several amendments onto the floor of the Senate without recommending any of them - an unusual procedure for a measure as
important as a constitutional amendment. One stipulated silent
prayer, the other oral prayer. Reagan's proposed amendment,
advocating the latter, read as follows:
"Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit
individual or group prayer in public schools or other public
institutions. No person shall be required by the United States
or any state to participate in prayer. Neither the United States
The American Atheist

or any state shall compose the words of any prayer in the public
One of the difficulties, of course, was that this amendment was
quickly given the appellation of the "Voluntary Prayer Act" when it
concerned prayer imposed upon children who were, by compulsory
attendance and truancy laws, required to be enrolled in public
schools. The object was to convince the children that they needed to
pray, regardless of the form or content of the prayer.

The Reagan-proposed amendment had itself been amended at the
behest of Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), and the last sentence in the
above-quoted amendment was his. According to the committee's
majority report, the Thurmond prohibition would cover "any government official," including school board members, school administrators and teachers, "since they are all considered agents of the state."
Prayers, the Senate committee suggested, could be "offered by the
students themselves, suggested by members of the clergy, or taken
from religious literature." At issue was the fact that the Constitution'
forbids "the state" to make any laws in respect to the establishment of
religion and the word "state" includes all officers and employees of
government. Therefore a public school teacher could not possibly be
allowed to mandate the use of a particular prayer. If a prayer is to be
read, it would need to be chosen by students or parents and not
employees of the school. And, under all of the federal-aid-to-school
laws, ifCongress, or the Department of Education, or school boards,
or principals, or teachers drew up such prayers or prayer guidelines,
federal aid could be denied to the schools involved.
Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), chosen to lead the Senate floor fight for
the president, quickly announced, "There are many religious people
who believe, from a public prayer viewpoint, that vocal prayer is the
only way to pray." Yet, the second proposed amendment was hiscalling for silent prayer.
The amendment would affect 39,000,000 students in 83,700 public
In the over 200 years that we have been a nation, all the assaults
upon the idea of state/church separation have been very covert. For
example, the phrase "under God" was added to the Pledge of
Allegiance (flag) with few people knowing about it until after the fact.
About the same time (mid-1950s) the mandatory phrase "In God We
Trust" became our national motto and appeared on our currency and
coins as a fait accompli in those perilous times of McCarthyism.
Much of the largesse of government to the churches (gifts of land,
building and money, primarily) has simply not been reported in the
media. This is, however, the first time a direct and open assault has
been made on the First Amendment of the Billof Rights, the attack
being directly against the Constitution with the object of amending it.
The White House also interpreted the amendment as permitting a
wide range of activities in schools, such as prayer at school assembly
and and bible-study groups for interested students as well as the
*There are, additionally, 4,962,000 students in private schools. Of
these, about 1,019,000 are in non-church affiliated schools. Of the
balance, 3,138,000 are in roman catholic, 232,000 in baptist, 218,000 in
lutheran, 112,000 in "other christian schools," 85,000 in jewish, 82,000
in seventh-day-adventist, 76,000 in episcopal schools.
Austin, Texas

prayers in homerooms. In addition, the amendment provided for

similar activity in all "public institutions."
A proposed amendment to the Constitution needs to muster a
two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate and still requires
ratification by three-quarters of the state legislatures before it
becomes a part of the Constitution. This issue has been in and out of
Congress and a number of state and federal courts since 1963 when
the initial decision from the United States Supreme Court removed
reverential reading of the bible and collective recitation of the lord's
prayer from the public schools (Murray v. Curlett, 374 U.S. 203). On
one previous occasion, in 1970, a prayer bill had actually passed the
Senate but did not make it through the House. The Reagan hope was
for oral, organized, government-sponsored prayer, but the issue was
confused with Sen. Hatch's constitutional amendment for silent
prayer, the latter of which was to garner enough votes at least for that
version if the oral prayer amendment failed.
But, at the same time, the lobbyist for Moral Majority, Inc. was
everywhere evident as he plugged for "totally student-initiated
prayer." The fear of many senators, however, was that the little dears
at the insistence of their parents would bring to school the most
fundamentalist christian prayers to recite. To avoid this, a faction
appeared which wanted the teachers to choose the prayers.
Even so, at the White House meeting it was agreed that the
fundamentalists, who are the current most fervent advocates of the
prayer, had their "best chance in decades" to push the amendment
through both chambers of Congress. Although they thought that the
victory was theirs from the- beginning, they openly stated that the
margin for "win" would be slim. Reagan saw the issue as a way to
energize these radical right-wing religionists who had supported him
in his 1980 bid for the presidency, both monetarily and through
vigorous campaigning, but who had "felt ignored" in the president's
first time. The issue at hand, as they saw it, was the contention that
the U.S. Supreme Court, at the insistence of Atheist Madalyn Murray
O'Hair, had twenty years ago "expelled God from the schools." This
distortion became a theme of the fight, but they would stand by the
monolithic theme. The fact is, however, that the U.S. Supreme Court
had not banned religious activity in the public schools; it is the U.S.
Constitution that does. Allthe Supreme Court did was to enforce that
constitutional prohibition.
Reagan felt that his "social issues" agenda had helped to elect him
to office the first time, including (1) a constitutional ban on abortion,
(2) a constitutional amendment to permit school prayer, (3) tax
credits against income tax for "tuition" paid for children in parochial
schools, and (4) a call for chastity combined with the continuing
attempt at repression of sex education or birth control information
from the outreach of women in the nation. The strategy was simple

June, 1984

Page 15

because Reagan felt he was reaching to simple people. The abortion

issue had proved to be divisive and unpopular to women, with whom
he was already in difficulty, as a Republican, over the E.R.A. issue.
The school prayer issue, however, had support from a (less than
credible and quickly done) Gallup survey, the torqued result of which
claimed that 82% of the populace wanted prayer in schools. Moreover, Mr. Reagan felt that the prayer issue fit well into his wider
strategy of portraying himself as a man who had returned oldfashioned moral values - "fundamental American values of hard
work, family, freedom and faith" - to American life, all of which
amounted to what he claimed to be a "spiritual reawakening" of the
nation not alone under his administration but because of his own
personal religious stance, a clear messianic idea.
Meanwhile, editors across the country were pointing out that 22 of
Reagan's political appointees had resigned under an ethical cloud and
wondered aloud why the messiah had such associates. Another
telling jab was in the form of a question, "What self-respecting deity
would want to be in America's classrooms when Reagan in three
years has proposed $9 billion worth of decreases in public education?
The president tells the schools to go to hell and then wants god in the
Although one religious faction held out for teacher-led prayers so
that there could be pre-censorship or pre-monitoring of prayers,
alleged "strict constructionists" of the First Amendment, including
senators like Thurmond, wanted the children to bring in the prayers,
which would mean that the more aggressive fundamentalist parents
could try to inflicton the captured audience the ideas of their brand of
christianity, as above indicated.
Sen. Baker came out of the session saying that he would maneuver
how he could, with parliamentary tactics or heavy lobbying by the
president, with vote exchange deals or what was necessary to force a
final vote within two weeks, i.e. a March 16th deadline. The battle was
off to a running start since the Falwellian-type fundamentalist
protestants had already been using their television "missions" to
drum up support for the amendment. Under their instruction the
rabid religious zanies had begun by February to saturate all congressional offices with both telephone calls and mail. Falwell, of course,
urged his viewers to lobby Congress and offered the telephone
numbers of wavering senators on the television screen.
The campaign was a well-financed one, primarily through the
efforts of these television evangelicals. Prayer vigils were organized.
Church sermons stressed the importance of influencing congressional rank-and-file, as well as leaders. It was also apparent that the
Republican-controlled Senate was the right place to start. The
Democratic-controlled House had kept the current prayer amendment bottled up in committee for years and had not in the past twenty
years demonstrated that a prayer bill or amendment could get
through that chamber. Late in February in the meeting with the
conservative group of older people, Reagan had assured them that he
was going to pursue prayer as a reelection issue. He promised that he
would "keep the heat" on the House and use the prayer issue to
attack the Democrats who have control in that chamber.
In the House of Representatives, in addition to the Study Committee gambit, a resolution was attempted to show support for prayer, all
directed to influencing the Senate. In this correlated plan more than
50 represenatives had 15 hours of speeches written to give on the
floor of the House beginning Monday, March 5th at 12:30 pm and
continuing throughout the night if it were felt to be necessary. This
was the first all-night session of the House since 1978. The prayer
measure was not before the House. The religious display staged there
was simply to bring public pressure on wavering senators and on
House Democratic leaders who had bottled up the prayer amendment in committee. But Rep. Don Edwards, who heads up the House
Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights, summed up the
dilemma which was to face the House: "Catholics envision a Catholic
prayer. Protestants envision a Protestant prayer. Jewish people
know there won't be a Jewish prayer, and Mohammedans know there
won't be a Mohammedan prayer."
And, we add, Atheists never had a prayer and never wanted one.
Page 16

June, 1984

When it was all over the marathon included 20 hours of what

amounted to religious testimonials in support of school prayer with 64
House members giving speeches. It was ended in prayer by Rep. John
S. McCain III(R-Ariz.), who spent 5Y2 years as a U.S. prisoner of war
in North Vietnam.
Early in the morning of March 6th after the all-night session of the
House, Rep. Marjorie Holt (R-Md.) made a statement that " ... the
United States is a Christian nation." Serving in the Speaker's chair
then as a favor to the leadership, jewish Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.)
said, "When I heard that I thought: Well, if this is a Christian nation,
how come some poor Jew had to get up at 5:30-in the morning to
preside over the House of Representatives?"
The next day Holt retreated, "I apologize for the use of a narrow
exclusionary term. I was not speaking from a written script when I
made the error."
Meanwhile Ronnie Reagan sent a letter to the House members, a
copy of which was read by House Republican leader, Robert H.
Michel (R-Ill.). Reagan praised the congressional action and the allnight vigilas " ... a clear demonstration of the broad-based support on
the issue." He urged all House members to sign the discharge petition
to force House action on the measure.
Meanwhile evangelical groups held a prayer vigil on the drizzly
Capitol steps in their effort to help propel the amendment to Senate
passage. They were addressed by Rep. Gingrich, a leader of the
pro- prayer forces in the House. The police managed to steer the
pro-prayer demonstrations to the west side of the U.S. Capitol
building and the anti-prayer demonstrators to the east side. And
although there had been talk of a massive pro-prayer turnout, the
Capitol police estimated the number there at 1,000, while pro-prayer
proponents estimated it at 2,000. In either estimate, it was a long way
from the "mass" expected.
In the interim law professors were caustically saying that the push
for the prayer amendment was for political reasons only. President
Reagan, they stated, had decided that there is political gold in a prayer
amendment and it is much easier to focus direction there than on the
real problems of our nation's life."What is happening," said one Duke
Law School professor, "is the use of the Lord's name in partisan
politics. The ancient word for that, I believe, was blasphemy." The
reference was in line with the statements of Justice Hugo Black in the
government-composed "Regent's prayer" case, Engel v. Vitale (370
u.s. 421) in 1962 when he said that religion is "too personal, too
sacred, too holy" to be mixed up with government. Many of the
religious opponents of prayer took this line also,
Meanwhile, the show was on. Just as the Senate was to begin its
session, early on March 5th, the U.S. Supreme Court, in an obvious
political move to influence the debate, issued its ruling in the case of
Lynch v. Donnelly having to do with a government-sponsored,
taxpayer-financed nativity scene, erected each year by the city of
Pawtucket, Rhode Island. (See p. 6 of this issue; article entitled
"Creche." In its decision, the court insisted:
"The concept of a 'wall' of separation between church and state
is a useful metaphor but is not an accurate description of the
practical aspects of the relationship which in fact exists. The
Constitution does not require complete separation of church
and state; it affirmatively mandates accommodation, not
merely tolerance, of all religions, and forbids hostility toward
any." (Emphasis added)
The impact that this was to have on the Senate is obvious.
The Senate began its debate after its (paid) chaplain had opened
the Senate with a prayer and said, "Our hearts are heavy that prayer
should be a controversial and divisive issue. Brood over this place and
restrain anger, meanness, hostility and a vindictive spirit." He
apparently knew christians well. Sen. Thurmond introducing the
amendment, referred to the president's support and called the
amendment "of vital importance to the well-being of our nation." Sen.
Baker declared that it was brought to the Senate to remedy "the U.S.
Supreme Court ban on prayer" in 1963 which was "a tragic
(continued on p. 37)
The American Atheist

H. J. Skutel



Propagated by a smaller number within Israel's orthodox jewish

minority (15-25%of the population), the extremist dogma calls for the
forceful creation of a theocratic state whose institutions and frontiers
are in strict conformity with the dictates of the torah - comprising,
for them, what christians call the old testament and the post-biblical
interpretive commentaries known as the talmud.
Accordingly, some observers refer to these individuals as "Talmudic fundamentalists" - the intent being, clearly, to place them on
par with their fanatical counterparts in the islamic East and christian
It was the extremists' perception of judaism to which former Israeli
defense minister Ariel Sharon alluded, when, during his May 8
appearance last year at New York's Sutton Place Synagogue, he
blamed mounting Israeli opposition to the invasion' of Lebanon and
occupation of the West Bank on a lack of jewish education.
"I think that what happened to us in Israel is that we were a part of
judaism. We went away fromjudaism. We don't teach the Bible as it
should be taught. We don't educate our youth to be proud of what our
forefathers did." (the "forefathers" being the conqueror-architects of
ancient Israel - Joshua, Saul, David, et al).

"This land was given to us by God. The government has made an

error to think that democracy is the way to live in Eretz Israel.* It isn't.
We have to live by the Torah."
- West Bank settler Dvorah Klein
(quoted by David Shipler in the New
York Times, April 19, 1983)

"... the extremist dogma calls for the forceful

creation of a theocratic state whose institutions and frontiers are in strict conformity with
the dictates of the torah."

*i.e., the "Land of Israel." Never to be confused with the State of

Israel, it refers to all the territory in the bible which "God" promised the

nearly December, Israel's new defense minister, Moshe Ahrens,

joined leaders of Gush Emunim on the occupied West Bank in an
intimate candle lighting ceremony marking the fifth day of the
jewish festival of hanakkah. For opponents of the ruling Likud bloc,
here was further evidence of official support for religious extremists
committed to realizing jewish hegemony within a Greater Israel.
"The very rapid increase in the power and the public influence of
jewish religious fanaticism is, in my opinion, the most important social
fact in Israel," warns Professor Israel Shahak, chairman of the Israeli
League for Human and Civil Rights.

Austin, Texas

What, then, are the origins of this torah-based chauvinism which

eschews universal humanistic ethics? Who are its leading proponents? And, most important, what are the doctrines themselves
which contravene efforts to achieve a genuine peace with mutual
trust between Arab and Israeli?
From its inception in the latter part of the 19th century, political
zionism, whose goal was the creation of a jewish "national home,"
encountered opposition from ultra-religious or orthodox jews.
Cleaving to the letter of the torah, these pious traditionalists,
concentrated for the most part in the insular shtetls ("little towns") of
Eastern Europe, upheld that the "ingathering of the exiles" in the
promised land could only be effected by a divinely-appointed

June, 1984

Page 17

redeemer, and any attempt by man to accelerate this event was

blasphemous and destined to fail. Hence, they viewed with horror
political zionism's appropriation of biblical writ in order to suffuse an
irreducibly profane enterprise with an aura of heavenly fiat.
This is not to say, however, that orthodoxy disassociated itself
from all efforts to introduce a jewish presence into the yet
"unredeemed" land. It did subsidize a number of settlements and
religious colleges in Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed and elsewhere. But
these colonies were regarded as no more than ancestrally hallowed
loci of sacred learning where the devout student of the talmud
undertook his "spiritual completion," and never as part of a
concerted effort to usurp a divine prerogative.
Drawing on the strident images of the contemporary Middle East,
long-time critic of political zionism, reform* rabbi Elmer Berger,
elaborates on the nature of this essentially benign religious zionism:
"Leaving aside theological quibbles, this zionism threatens
no one's political rights or human dignity. It does not use
bombs, or drive people from their homes or claim territory
which is the patrimony of others. This zionism says that when,
in divine wisdom, jews and other humans have attained that
state of moral perfection, God - not Mr. Sharon - willsend
his messenger, the Messiah, to lead Jews back to Zion, which,
to quote the prophet Isaiah, 'will be a house of prayer for all
peoples.' "
It was this interpretation of scripture which, in part, motivated a
group of Munich rabbis to protest the convening in' that city of the
First Zionist Congress (1897), forcing zionist leader Theodor Herzl to
move the proceedings to Switzerland.
During the inter- war period, orthodox jewry was confronted by a
series of challenges necessitating an accommodation with political
Impoverished by, and reeling from the dislocations resulting from
the first World War, they found it more difficult than ever to oppose
zionist activities - secular and religious - elated over the now
publicized Balfour Declaration, wherein the British Secretary of State
had promised a zionist notable, Lionel Rothschild, a "national home
for the jewish people" in Ottoman- controlled Palestine.
More disconcerting were developments in the holy land. There,
supervision of the yishuv, or jewish settlement, was entrusted by the
newly installed Mandatory administration to the Zionist Commission
(of the World Zionist Organization). "In the eyes of their new rulers
[i.e., the British]," explains historian Emile Marmorstein, "the Jews of
Palestine were no longer primarily members of a religious community
but units of a national group."
The Commission, in turn, saw to it that a zionist supporter,
Abraham Isaac Kuk (18651935), an orthodox jew and native of
Latvia, was elected in 1921 to the influential post of first Ashkenazi
(European) chief rabbi of Palestine. In what orthodox traditionalists
saw as an heretical dilution of the fundamental tenets of religious
zionism, Kuk declared that the return to Palestine, being orchestrated by secular forces, heralded the coming of the messiah.
Reservations about supporting the "national home" waned
considerably in the face of increasing European antisemitism in the
last years before the Second World War, and dissipated almost
entirely with the post-war revelations of the holocaust, a majority of
whose victims were the orthodox and ultra- orthodox (mystically
oriented) hasidic jews of Eastern Europe. Accordingly, after much
internal dissension, the foremost representative body of world
orthodox jewry, the Agudah Israel (Union of Israel), based largely in
the U.S., declared its support for the nascent "national home" - with
certain qualifications: They would only work within the existing
zionist framework in a manner conducive to protecting and
enhancing orthodox institutions. In Palestine, as throughout the

Diaspora, they argued, the lives of all jews must be made consonant
with the commandments of the torah - for how else would the
ethical-religious preconditions be set for the "final redemption"?*
Though still formally antizionist, a statement by the Agudah in their
Israeli daily Hammodia, four years after the establishment of the
jewish state, prefigured the crassly ethnocentric and expansionist
doctrines which constitute the ideological core of religious extremism
in Israel today:
"The world was createdfor the sake of Israel [i.e., the jewish
people). It is the duty and the merit of Israel to maintain and
fulfillthe Torah. The place where Israel is destined to live and,
therefore, to maintain the Torah, is the Land of Israel. This
means that the raison d'etre of the world is the establishment of
the regime of the Torah in the Land of Israel. The foundation of
this ideal has been laid: there are now Jews living in their
homeland and fulfillingthe Torah. But completion has not yet
been attained,for all Israel does not yet live in its land, not even
the majority, and the greater part of the Promised Land is still in
the enemy's hands." (My emphasis)
It was the Six-Day War of June, 1967 which gave decisive impetus
to the mobilization of the fanatically inclined. Divine intervention, it
was believed, was responsible for the return to the jews of their
ancient patrimony of Judea, Samaria, Gaza, Golan and the Sinai.
"The entire country is ours," rejoiced rabbi T zvi Yehuda Kuk, son
of Abraham Kuk, spiritual mentor of the religious extremists. "There
is no Arab land here, only Jewish land, the eternal land of our
forefathers - and that land, in its original Biblical borders, belongs to
the sovereignty of the jewish people."
No less miraculous, to the fundamentalists, were the military
reversals which befell the attacking Egyptians in the 1973Yom Kippur
In a decided show of support for extremism, the first act of
Menachem Begin after winning the 1977 parliamentary elections was
to attend a torah scroll dedication ceremony at the "illegal" West
Bank settlement of Elon Moreh, established by the hitherto reviled
orthodox zealots of Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful).



~:fi:':r, ~'(--: .-;;';.








Begun in 1974 by rabbi Moshe Levinger, the movement has since

become a "powerful, professional and well-financed operation,
employing eight full-time, paid officials," and enjoying the support of

*The reform movement in judaism, which arose in late 18th century

Germany in response to the Enlightenment, repudiated the selfserving, tribalistic interpretation of the torah and proferred, in its
stead, an ethical-religious universalism inspired, in its view, by the

*The over 100,000 member satmar hasidic sect, with some 5,000
followers in Israel, staunchly refuses to cooperate on any level with
the jewish state. During his visit to Jerusalem last June, New Yorkbased sat mar leader, rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, allegedly distributed
$3 million to sat mar schools, institutions and individuals to reaffirm
the sect's commitment to complete independence from the "seeularists.'

June, 1984

The American Atheist

Page 18

numerous members of right-wing secular and religious parties in the

Knesset. "There is no doubt," wrote reporter Aidit Zertal in the daily
Ha 'aretz (Feb. 15, 1980), "that the allocation of resources to Gush
Emunim, through the various Israeli government ministries, is one of
the most brilliant financial feats in the history of the country."

"... the document entitled "The Inheritance of

the Northern Tribes" showed most of the place
names in Lebanon and Syria in their Hebrew
form and advised the reader that Lebanon was
no more than 'the land of the [Biblical Hebrew]
tribe of Asher and its families.' "
Levinger's hundreds of followers, in some 30 settlements, asseverate that the messianic event is imminent and can actually be
hastened by the further conquest of, and implantation of jews on,
Eretz Israel. In contrast to the Agudah Israel Party (which holds four
seats in the Knesset) "whose opinion about the coming of the messiah
is a passive one. Our opinion," explains one Gush sympathizer, is that
"salvation must be brought by acts."
Following the June, 1982 invasion of Lebanon, a booklet and map
printed by the Gush-run Old City Jerusalem Press was distributed by
the Military Rabbinate to soldiers at the front According to a report in
the daily Al-Hamishmar (July 25,1982), the document entitled "The
Inheritance of the Northern Tribes" showed most bf the place names
in Lebanon and Syria in their Hebrew form and advised the reader
that Lebanon was no more than "the land of the [biblical Hebrew]
tribe of Asher and its families." Additionally, an advertisement by
Gush appeared in the October 3, 1982 issue of the pro-government
daily Ma'ariv hailing the "Peace for Galilee Campaign" as a holy war
which had "brought back the property of the tribes of Asher and
Naftali into Israel's boundaries."
"F or the' time being, Judea, Samaria and Gaza are all we can
handle," says Hanan Porat, Gush member and a founder in 1979 of
the right-wing Tehiya (Renaissance) Party (whose representative in
the U.S. is physicist Edward Teller, "father of the H-bomb"). "But we
believe that one day the Jews will have the entire land, just as the
Temple will be rebuilt"
Towards this end, Gush, which forms the "hard core of the
government-backed settlers on the West Bank," often employs
intimidation and violence to drive out Arab residents. In those cases
where the guilty parties have been apprehended, punishment has, in
the main, been light or nonexistent Indeed, a report by Deputy
Attorney General Yehudit Karp, suppressed in part since May, 1982,
accuses the ruling Likud bloc - in the words of opposition MK
Shulamit Aloni - of knowingly abetting "law breaking and attacks on
lives and property, by creating, financing and arming independent
militias of settlers who are exempt from criticism."

"... Yedidya Segal, quoting extensively from

the torah, argues unabashedly for the virtual
enslavement of non-jews in Eretz Israel."
Horrendous examples of extremist thought surface in Nekuda
(The Point), the Gush-run newspaper of the settler community. In
issue No. 47 (September 3,1982) Yedidya Segal, quoting extensively
from the torah, argues unabashedly for the virtual enslavement of
non-jews in Eretz Israel. " ...
absolute submission. compulsory
acceptance of a strange [i.e. jewish] civilization, and an agreement to
a situation in which one willexist as a 'base and contemptible' person.
Those are the directing principles for an attitude which the jewish
people should adopt towards the nations whose cities it has
conquered." Segal goes on to clearly position talmudic fundamentalism in relation to other ethical constructs:
"There is nothing in common between the jewish religion and
modern atheistic humanism. A religion which commands that a
Austin, Texas

[conquered] nation be humiliated ... , a religion which decides

that in a holy war, men, women and children should be
exterminated, ... a religion which determines moral laws to be
in force only for relations between jews, a religion which
determines that commandments like love of the convert or the
prohibition of cheating a convert should be in force only in
relation to a convert to judaism who was circumcised and [for
women] baptized, a religion which hopes for a revenge in the
style of "happy shall he be who takes and dashes your babes on
the rock," such a religion is not humanistic. It is based on moral
fundamentals which are completely different from those which
. are accepted in the Western world."

Unlike rabbi Levinger, who is still largely unknown outside Israel,
Meir Kahane has been a media attraction in North America for at
least a decade. His vociferous, sometimes violent Jewish Defense
League (JDL). which he founded in 1968, has often been seen
confronting the Klan and Nazis with raised fists and chants of "Never
again!" - a reference to the jewish victims of German fascism.
Recently, past critic of Israel and Black aspirant to the U.S.
Presidency, Jesse Jackson, has come under attack from Kahane's
JDL-organized "Jews against Jackson" movement
In 1971 the New York rabbi emigrated to the occupied West Bank,
convinced that jewish dominance in the newly acquired territories
would expedite the "final redemption." Three years later he founded
Kach (Thusl), a militantly ultranationalist movement seeking the
expulsion of all Arabs from Eretz Israel.
Since then, the movement, which garnered a few thousand votes in
the June, 1981 elections, has been implicated in numerous acts of
violence against Arabs and muslim holy places, and the 50-year old
Kahane himself has been arrested more than 100 times for charges
ranging from sedition to conspiracy to commit murder. During his
unsuccessful 1981 election campaign, he seemed to draw inspiration
for the Kach platform from the 1935 Nuremberg Laws:
"With God's help, the very first bill that I willintroduce in the
Knesset will be one that calls for compulsory five-year prison
sentences for any non-Jew found guilty of sexual relations with
a Jew."
In fact, Kahane's racism is predicated on the 5th century
Babylonian talmud wherein non-Jaws are often regarded with
contempt, and which is the authoritative guide in biblical interpretation for orthodox jewry. "... when Orthodox Jews today (or
all Jews before about 1780*) read the Bible, they are reading a very
different book, with a totally different meaning from the Bible as read
by non-Jews or non-Orthodox Jews. This distinction applies even in
Israel, although both parties read the text in Hebrew," explains
Professor Israel Shahak. "Many Jews in Israel (and elsewhere), who
are not Orthodox and have little detailed knowledge of the Jewish
religion, have tried to shame Orthodox Israelis (or right-wingers who
are strongly influenced by religion) out of their inhuman attitude
*The beginning of the reform movement

June, 1984

Page 19

towards the Palestinians by quoting verses from the Bible in their

plain humane sense. It was always found, however, that such
do not have the slightest effect on those who follow
classical Judaism; they simply do not understand what is being said to
them, because to them the Biblical text means something different
than to everyone else."
It was members of Kach and Gush Emunim who offered the fiercest
resistance to Israeli withdrawal from Yamit, in the occupied Sinai, in
April, 1982. Said one. belligerent settler at that time, "The Law of the
Torah and Talmud is a higher moral and legal code than any Geneva
Convention or UN resolution."
Despite harassment by the authorities, Kahane's missionary labors
have not been seriously disrupted. He has a regular column (along
with, until recently, Menachem Begin) in New York's Orthodox
oriented weekly The Jewish Press (circulation 210,000), is heard
Wednesday evenings on radio station WNYM, and during one sixmonth prison term in Israel wrote They Must Go (1981), an
exhaustive presentation of his program for ridding the promised land
of the Arab "trespassers."
This was subsequently published by New
York's otherwise reputable Grosset & Dunlap. In its preface, Kahane
acknowledged the support he received from his warders who allowed
the unhindered delivery of all his personal papers:
" ... the average guard was overwhelmingly sympathetic to
me. It was clear to all that I was not an ordinary criminal and
that I had been imprisoned for my ideas - ideas that so many of
these guards, as well as Jews throughout the country, privately
At the time of this writing, Kahane has just completed another of his
frequent speaking tours of the U.S. Like those of the past few years, it
was arranged by the New York-based Institute for the Jewish Idea, an
organization "dedicated to spreading" Kahane's "teachings."
Contributions to the Institute are tax deductible.
"The Jewish people was chosen to create a holy and chosen society
in Eretz Israelthe Land of Israelthe chosen land of God that was
given in its entirety to His people," reads one of the Institute's
promotional brochures. "Therefore,"
it continues, "a Jewish state
can never make the Arab equal" and Israel must create "nuclear,
biological and chemical weapons of mass deterrent (sic)."
It is the rabbi's views on the so-called "Arab question" which excite
the greatest discomfit among Israel's liberal jewish supporters, hard
put to protray the jewish state as open, democratic,
and nondiscriminatory.
Kahane calls Israel's 1948 Proclamation
of Independence
- pledging the state to "uphold the full social and
political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of religion, race,
or sex" - a "schizophrenic
document." Zionism and democracy, he
avers, are a "contradiction
in terms." Democracy would allow "nonJews to become a majority and, thus, to turn Israel into a non-Jewish
state," he writes in a July 18, 1983 guest editorial in the New York
Times. The Arab birthrate is twice that of the jews. Time is running
out. A choice must be made, Kahane exhorts.

firing a submachine gun at a crowd of rock-throwing Arabs in Hebron.

According to the Jerusalem Post, the youth's lawyer argued that his
client had obtained his weapon from his yeshiva "apparently
permission of the authorities in the West Bank."
Israeli observers offer numerous explanations
to account for the
appeal which the extremist doctrines have for both religious and
secular jews. Of these, three seem particularly compelling.
First, the repudiation of liberalizing; secularist trends in judaism
parallels a similar upsurge in fundamentalism
in the muslim world - a
reflection of the disillusionment of religious elements in both societies
with the vacuous cultural influences (e.g., "hedonistic
permissiveness") of the Western "democracies."
A second view submits that the loss of "specific Jewish content" in
the lives of the majority of jews has led many - who, nevertheless,
still desire to indentify themselves as jews - to compensate
for this
loss by adopting the "primitive nationalism
and patriotism"
Finally, there is the opinion that Kach and Gush Emunim serve as
focal points for fascist tendencies diffused throughout large sectors of
the population,
among the economically
Sephardic* majority which must compete with the lower paid Arabs
and fears that any advances by them will ultimately be at their, the
expense. Then, too, there are those within this same
group who are apprehensive
lest the Arabs disappear.
As one
Sephardic supporter of Menachem Begin explained it, in Autumn,
1982, to Israeli writer Amos Oz in the daily Davar, "If they return the
territories, the Arabs will no longer turn up for work, and right away
you [the Ashkenazim] will make us once more the unskilled workers
we used to be. Even because of that, we won't let you return the
territories." Presumedly both parties would be satisfied by a program,
long contemplated
by extremists, to retain within Eretz Israel only
enough Arabs to perform those jobs prohibited by religious law (e.g.,
sabbath work) or otherwise completely repugnant to jews.
But whatever the complex of historical and cultural determinants,
it is clear that the extremist amalgamation
of messianic religious
zionism and secular jewish nationalism is, for the present Israeli
leadership, an invaluable asset in predisposing public opinion to its
discriminatory and expansionist designs.
*Jews from North Africa and the Middle East

"'Zionism and democracy,' (Kahane) avers, are

a 'contradiction in terms.' Democracy would
allow 'non-Jews to become a majority and',
thus, to turn Israel into a non-Jewish state.' "
In addition to armed settlers, both Kach and Gush Emunim attract
a large part of their following from among the male teenagers
attending the country's fourteen yeshivot hesder, orthodox religious
cqlleges where talmudic studies are combined with voluntary military
service. The "hesder enables the student, morally and psychologically, to salve both his religious and his national conscience by
sharing in the collective defense burden without cutting himself off
from the matrix of Torah," writes yeshiva teacher rabbi Aharon
Lichtenstein in the Fall 1981 issue of the orthodox journal Tradition.
Some 2,500 student-soldiers
of hesder served in the so- called
"Peace for Galilee Campaign," and have easy access to firearms. In
April, 1983, Kahane's 17-year old nephew was released on bond after
Page 20






The American


Joe David


he boy moved through the crowd, then flopped down on a

vacant bench. After he removed his jacket, he stretched out
comfortably in the warm, Spring air. The park was,filledwith activity.
From where the boy sat, he could see the jumping and giggling
children, clustered around the fountain, squirt each other with water.
Even the old man who had spent his Sunday mornings entertaining
the children with stories was out today, sitting on the grass,
surrounded by mesmerized little eyes.
The boy's gaze drifted past the children, beyond the thick
evergreen shrubbery, to the row of glass-and-steel skyscrapers in the
background. He suddenly wondered what his mother would say ifshe
knew he spent Sunday mornings in the park and not in church.
But he didn't linger on this thought for long. He dismissed it with
happier thoughts, and fixed his gaze on the many buildings of varying
sizes and shapes which faced the park. Once again he became
fascinated by their height, their ability to pierce the sky so deeply
without falling over or sinking into the ground.
He wondered how deep the builders dropped the skyscrapers into
the ground to support all the weight, and how the buildings were
erected: floor by floor, or by framing first the entire building. "One
day," he thought, "I must watch them build and find out."
He ran off the names of these buildings, identifying them by their
unique shape. The names which he uttered to himself were like a list
of Fortune 500 corporations. He became fascinated by the wealth, the
energy, the intelligence which was symbolized by these buildings.
He wondered if those great men who formed these wealthy
corporations spent their Sundays in church. Did they believe what
the preacher said about the wages of sin being eternal damnation?
Did they care and let it slow down the joy of creating - of daring to
defy nature with breakthroughs in thought and industry?
His attention returned to the children near him. One girl was
carefully trying to paint the scenery around her, struggling thoughtfullyto match the colors of what she saw with what she was painting.
Another boy was talking excitedly about the model rocket which he
was putting together. He was telling his friend about all the little parts
which made his task so difficult, including the many decals of varying
sizes which had to be placed carefully in just the right spot. Another
boy was reading a book, then pausing occasionally to absorb what he
just read. Then there were the others who stretched themselves with
exercises (physical and mental) in the warm, Spring sun. Everywhere
he looked there was activity (physical, sensual, intellectual) fillingthe
park with joy.
"Were all these children damned?" the boy thought.
The boy remembered the fury in the preachers eyes when he
delivered his fire and brimstone sermon to those who forgot the
importance of the sabbath and forgot what thewages of sin were. The
Austin, Texas

preacher was the only person that the boy had ever known who could
paint death so vividly and who could turn one's consciousness from
life to death with such brutal force that life lost all meaning and one's
entire focus became fixed on something no one could verify.
Remembering the preacher's sermons - his macabre preoccupation with hell and damnation - made the boy suddenly leap from
the bench in a sudden jolt of terror. Could god - ifhe existed - be so
cruel? Could life be so transitional that it has no meaning except as
preparation for death?
He didn't have time to ponder this. Fear had taken hold of him, fear
of punishment and eternal damnation. Images of people burning in a
huge furnace obscured reality, and all he could think about was being
subjected to a holocaust of burning flesh and cries of pain - eternally!
- because he now dared to seek pleasure!
He raced from the park, past the sleek skyscrapers which boldly
defied ignorance and headed for the gothic church covered with
medieval symbols. But he suddenly stopped when he reached a
construction site, his curiosity overtaking fear, and he stared through
a window in the wall around the site. "Is that only how deep the hole
has to be dug to secure a building?" he asked himself. He then
observed other details, which provided him with more clues to more
questions about how a lOS-story building was erected. Each answer,
each clue, brought more questions.
He didn't know how long he remained there studying what he saw
for answers, but as so often occurred at school, he was too deep in
thought to care.
"Johnny," a voice called to him. And he turned and saw his mother
standing nearby. There wasn't any anger in her expression. Instead,
she had that alert look which always suggested to him that she was
going to measure carefully what he said for the truth. "Weren't you in
church today?" she asked.
"1- Well, I was going." He lowered his gaze, overtaken again by
some nebulous fear of death and damnation. "But then I," he
stuttered. "Well, I wanted to check something and- "
"Check something?" she asked, somewhat surprised. "What were
you checking?"
"Well, 1- " He hesitated, not certain of how she might react,
nonetheless too smart to dare lie. "I wanted to know how skyscrapers
were built," he finally gushed out.
"And did you learn anything by looking through that window?" she
said with reserved respect.
And his voice filled with excitement, and it all came out with a rush.
When he spoke about what he discovered - what he was coming to
understand - he forgot completely about church, eternal damnation, the sabbath, and all the other morbid thoughts haunting him
earlier. As swiftly as he had metamorphosed several years ago from a
problem to an industrious student when his mother placed him in a
special school for the gifted, he again metamorphosed - now from a
boy a moment ago filled with guilt for a missing church to a boy who
was satisfying his intellectual curiosity about the exciting world in
which he lived.
His mother smiled, pleased. "I see you have learned a lot today,"
she said. "Come, let's have a soda and you can tell me more about
your discoveries." 00
Joe David's writings have appeared in a wide variety of
publications including the Chicago Tribune and L.A. HeraldExaminer newspapers, and in education, family and other
variety of magazines. He is the author of the controversial
novel about education entitled The Fire Within.

June, 1984

Page 21

Robert Ostrander


he human brain, yes, your brain, is the ultimate vehicle for

creating change. You can make phenomenal changes in your
environment, your society and in your personal experiences which
might seem like science fiction when viewed from your starting point.
Theists believe that all we observe and experience is the will of
some super power, the workings of gods and devils. Atheists are
aware that all of our experiences and observations are natural
phenomena, a starting point that is light years ahead of theistic
One of the big selling features of the churches has always been faith
healing and the ideaism of the power of prayer. The ideal word to
cover the resultant alleged healing is "idiopathy," meaning "spontaneous changing of the physical conditions of one's self."
Idiopathy has been practiced for many centuries and, as we have
learned more about the psychosomatic functions of the body,
placebos have come into prominent use in medical practice.
Religious cultists use symbols, harmless and inert substances,
fetishes, incense, saints and jewelry to trigger the brain to react in
suggested ways. Hypnosis, for example, is an induced state brought
on by suggestion.
Psychosomatic methods for relief from illness have been experienced by multitudes throughout the history of modern man. The
evidence and examples are undeniable, yet reason and logic would
indicate that such phenomena cannot occur. How in the universe can
prayer, suggestion and placebos bring about improved conditions?
The answers to these questions have been a long time coming, but
during the last two decades of extensive research, neuroscientists
have found long awaited evidence that these processes are indeed
natural idiopathic functions of our brain.
An article in Science News quotes Wyeth Laboratories researchers
Larry Stein and James D. Belluzzi as suggesting that feelings and
emotions are essential to our ability to remember and to learn;
indeed, that feelings and emotions are primary keys to good health.'
Psychopharmacologist Stein concurs with Adrian Dunn, Biochemist from the University of Florida, that feelings part of the
human memory and learning systems, and are serving an evolutionary purpose by performing such functions; that people reduced
to pure logic machines could not compete in their environments. Key
fuels for emotions and memory, he says, are enkephalins and
endorphins, two of the chemical substances naturally produced by
the brain cells and used to guide and direct cells throughout the
nervous system.s
The action starts with a tiny spark, an impulse coming down the
nerve fibre to make contact in the brain cell where it fires, producing
the neurochemical which is the contact substance closing the circuit
of the waiting neurotransmitter to signal the next appropriate center
and so on down the chain of nerve signals with the appropriate
function at the proper location.

Joel, "Memory

Research: An Era of 'Good Feeling,' " Science

25, 1978.

News, Vol. 114, No. 22, November


Page 22

Here are some of the substances we are discussing:




It appears that illness in many people is chemically caused and may be
chemically improved or eliminated via the neurochemical process
direction. The "natural opiate peptides seem to function in the
interface between pain and feeling," says Dr. Fredric K. Goodwin,
Chief of Chemical Psychobiology at the National Institute of Mental
Health. Dr. Goodwin continues, "How we feel emotionally has a lot to
do with how much we can tolerate physical pain." Also, "Depression
is an inability of the brain to produce a good feeling." How we feel is
closely related to our actual physical condition.!
The factors show a sort of "yo-yo" effect that can guide us upward
toward better health or downward to severe illness, typically

Joel, "The Brain: Holding the Secrets

25, 1978.

of Behavior,"


News, Vol. 114, No. 22, November

June, 1984

The American Atheist



Studies now show that in response to the proper signals the brain
cells are triggered to produce all the natural substances required to
produce "natural highs" resulting in maintaining good health,
overcoming illness, eliminating pain or to cause a person not to care
about it.
The discovery of the brain chemical, dopamine, lends credence to
the idea of "natural highs," for example, the religious experience, the
promise of some anticipated great pleasing event, or the promise of a
faith healing experience.
Endorphins are being tested extensively on persons suffering from
depression and schizophrenia as well as other complicated illnesses.
Indications seem to point to control or balance of the emotional states
as a result.


"The persuasive speaker can lead a crowd to

a tremendous pitch, ... One's own emotional
state is set into action by the strong stimulus,
influencing idiopathic response, starting the
chemical chain of events."
Researchers are concentrating on the role of emotions in brain
function. Emotion apparently is one of the major factors by which we
are guided in our patterns of health.
The American College Dictionary describes emotion as an
"affective state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, fear, hate and
the like is experienced."
"Joy, sorrow, fear and hate," these strong emotional states upset
or change the state of our entire system. If our trend on the scale of
health is downward, we need to balance this by the experiencing of an
event that develops in us the feelings of joy, love and humor emotional uppers. This triggers the brain to produce dopamine to
supply our former need.
Ifwe feel too much of a good thing, we produce an opiate peptide to
calm us down. Obviously then, with this knowledge we can begin to
control our health on command, knowing that all the elements are
there ifwe practice the correct idiopathic techniques. The clues as to
how we could accomplish this came in a behavior experiment.
When catecholamines (norepinephrine and dopamine) were used
as the neurotransmitters in reward systems, the subjects would
repeatedly perform tasks that would supply them with more of these
chemical rewards (or their chemical precursors). The indication is
that if there is a promise of excitement and joy or other emotional
reward, the subject could easily be persuaded to carry out
conditioned responses. Thus in the laboratory, under controlled
conditions, the process of persuasion can be duplicated.
The persuasive speaker can lead a crowd to a tremendous pitch,
like the pied piper of the fairy tale. The effect upon the individual is
often overwhelming since his belief is reinforced by those around him.
One's own emotional state is set into action by the strong stimulus,
influencing idiopathic response, starting the chemical chain of events.
Any result that is physically possible can occur through suggestion
and one's own imagination.
Stein and Belluzzi theorized that the brain contains a two-pronged
"good feeling machine" fueled on one level by catecholamines and the
other by opiate peptides." One-half of the machine seeks incentives, it
wants to be excited, stimulated and interested at a time when "things
are dull" and the desire is soon supplied with dopamine to produce
the "turn-on," a natural high. The machine's other half seeks
quiescence when the system is overstimulated. When subjected to
the pressures of pain, fear, exhaustion and other intensive stimuli,
you want release and relief. In this event, the natural "turn-off' is
en kephalin (or endorphin) which produces indifference to drives,
idiopathologically shutting you down.
A person's needs of the moment signal the healthy brain to furnish
just the right chemicals in action to supply the needs, desires, planned
programs, etc. It is hereby possible to image a condition desired, and
4Greenberg, Joel, "Memory Research," op. cit.

Austin, Texas

June, 1984 .

Page 23

when the input is sincere, determined and fullyexpected, this system

appears to respond accordingly.
There must be a balance between good feelings to be remembered
and those emotions to be rejected. Without sufficient memory we
would not form habits easily; we could not repeat simple skills, our
conclusions would be unpredictable; in short, the whole organism
could malfunction.
Our grapefruit-sized brain stores billions of bits of information in its
memory bank. One brain researcher, Michael Phillips of UCLA,
claims if we were to start writing all the bits that we have stored we
could write for several lifetimes to get to our starting point. 5
When we have a need to use these bits of information in .
combination to come up with a new concept, or to create a new
condition within our body or our environment, we image that altered
condition. We draw upon the stored bits of knowledge to reason the
potential of-the desired results.
Our needs and desires are first recognized, then evaluated. It is at
this point we make our choices. Is the imagined condition worthy of
our pursuit? Are we capable of going after the condition or thing
desired? Our attitude, right here, is likelyto determine the result. The
achiever willstart with confidence. The potential failure willhesitate,
postpone action, consider, reconsider and be filled with doubts.
Brain studies have shown that we can experience much of what we
desire. The keys to achievement are our attitudes, our desires, our
constant expectations. The steps to failure are anger, hate and selfdoubt. We have the option to accept or reject any of these elements.
Ifwe choose to fulfillour desires we inust accept only those positive
attitudes. As we have seen in the foregoing studies, the brain will
furnish our needs to aid us to achieve and overcome obstacles.
This means of control does not need to stop at the physical
boundaries of OUI: own bodies. We can have healthy personal
SPhillips,Dr. Michael, in Your Hidden Powers as quoted by Dr. Wayne W.
Dyer, Pulling Your Own Strings, Avon, New York, 1977.

relationships, a healthy environment and healthy pocketbooks, too!

In short, the means for the good life, liberty and the pursuit of
happiness is the potential power of the idiopathy of the human brain.

Robert Ostrander is a sculptor, painter, graphic artist, and
student of science. He received his college education at
Colorado State and in California. His interests centered on the
impact of science and technology on the American culture.
After serving in the U.S. military he conducted extensive
investigation of religious teachings in search of truth. He found
the answer in Atheism. His conclusion: "These (Atheists] are
the people who appreciate nature and the only life we shall
probably ever know - the here and now on this planet."
Cherry, Laurence, "The Power of the Empty Pill" Science Digest,
September 1981.
Dyer, Dr. Wayne W. Pulling Your Own Strings, Avon, New York,
Fried, John J., "Mind & Body: The Inseparable Link," Science Digest
Special, Spring 1980.
Guillemin, Roger, "Beta-Lipotropin and Endorphins: Implications of
Current Knowledge," Hospital Practice, November 1978.
Guillemin, Roger, M.D., Ph.D., "Peptides of the Brain," Resident &
Staff Physician, September 1979.
Hales, Dianne, "Psycho-Immunity," A Special Report, Science
Digest, November 1981.
Newsweek, February 7,1983, "How the Brain Works."
Oldendorf, William and William Zabielski, "The World Divided: Your
Brain's Split Universe," Science Digest, January 1982.
Science News, "The Brain" A Special Issue, Vol. 114, No. 22,
November 25, 1978.

'1Fhe [X1o~e.s+~inis+~"





Page 24

June, 1984

The American Atheist



Program #91; originally broadcast April 6th, 1970

When the first installment of a regularly scheduled, 15-minute, weekly American Atheist radio series on
KTBC radio (a station in Austin, Texas owned by then-president Lyndon Baines Johnson) hit the airwaves
on June 3, 1968, the nation was shocked. The programs had to be submitted weeks in advance and were
heavily censored. The series was concluded on October 18, 1975 when no further funding was available.

n one of my lastest speaking tours, I was stuck in a hotel room

with the television set for hours and hours, and watched with
some awe the showmanship of a "faith healer." As I continue to
survey the works of Dr. Andrew Dickson White, who has written this
lengthy and definitive work on the History of the Warfare of Science
with Theology, I find that he too was interested in "faith healing," and
the idea behind it which prevented medicine from developing in our
western culture for about 1500 years.
In the east (from which we derive christianity), from China, India,
and Assyria - and from the dim beginnings of man - came the idea
that those persons who were sick were afflicted or possessed by
demons. Religious people came finally to feel that the healing of
disease was by the casting out of these demons.
This is everywhere in the old testament: the leprosy of Miriam, the
boils of Job, the dysentery of Jehoram, the withered hand of
Jeroboam, the fatal illness of Asa, were attributed to the wrath of god
or the malice of the devil, satan. In the new testament we see the
rebuke of a fever, the casting out of the devil.
When christianity came into flower, the idea of disease and its cure
became twofold: first there was in christianity a new and strong
evolution of this old idea that physical disease is produced by the
wrath of god or the malice of satan, or by a combination of both:
Austin, Texas

secondly, there were evolved theories of miraculous methods of cure

based upon modes of appeasing the divine anger, or of thwarting
satanic malice .... and in 1970, in America, on television, one can
watch the vestiges of these ideas today, accepted, worshipped - and
one can only whisper to one's self: "incredible! fantastic!."
Part of this arose in respect to the recounting of the life of Jesus.
Part of it arose in the reasonings of theologians. This cannot be
attributed to conscious fraud, and it would be kinder in our evaluation
of human history if we could but do this. The saddest thing is to need
to admit that it was not a conscious fraud, that actually, it was
believed in whole, totally, and is believed today just as totally and as
But the founding fathers of the church, whose other words we
accept so willinglytoday, had much to say about miraculous cures. In
fact, saint Augustine asserted that the peacock is so favoured by the
"Almighty" that its flesh will not decay, that he has tested this and
knows it to be a fact. In allseriousness he says that sundry innkeepers
of his time put a drug into cheese which metamorphosed travellers
into domestic animals. For almost two thousand years the stories
have not been questioned. Augustine is today a powerful voice in the
church. Paul himself said that the gods of the heathens were devils.
Origen said, "It is demons which produce famine, unfruitfulness,
corruptions of the air, pestilences; they hover concealed in clouds in
the lower atmosphere, and are attracted by the blood and incense
which the heathen offer to them as gods." Augustine said, "All
diseases of christianity are to be ascribed to these demons; chiefly do
they torment fresh- baptized christians, yea, even the guiltless
newborn infants." Tertullian insisted that a malevolent angel is in
constant attendance upon every person. Ambrose gave examples to
show the sinfulness of resorting to medicine instead of trusting to the
intercession of saints. Bernard warned that to seek relief from disease
in medicine was in harmony neither with religion nor with the honour
and purity of his order. Canon law declared that the precepts of
medicine were contrary to divine knowledge. A vast system of
"pastoral medicine" so powerful that it is extant now in modern times
was developed.
Every cathedral, every great abbey, claimed possession of healing
relics. Enormous revenues flowed into various monasteries. The
shrine at Lourdes cannot accommodate the flow of persons seeking
miraculous cures there even today, in our own nuclear age of
advanced medicine; so powerful is the lure of these old faiths.
The diverse cathedrals have fought for the most powerful charms
and relics. In Cologne today in the cathedral there are the skulls of the
three kings, the "Wise Men of the East," who guided by the star of
Bethlehem brought gifts to the saviour. As early as 1056 legal fights

June, 1984

Page 2S

were going on for possession of some of these relics and in that year a
French ruler pledged securities to the amount of 10,000 solidi for the
production of the relics of saint Just and saint Pastor. He fought his
legal battle with the archbishop of Narbonne. The emperor of
Germany on one occasion demanded the arm of saint George as a
pledge for the establishment of a city market. The body of saint
Sebastian brought enormous wealth to the abbey of Soissons. Rome,
Canterbury, Treves, Marburg ventured very considerable sums in
the purchase of relics. It would have been expecting too much of
human nature to imagine that pontiffs who derived large revenues,
wealth, honor from cures wrought by shrines under their care would
have favoured the development of any science which undermined
their interests.
When the popes could sell for high fees small blobs of wax onto
which were stamped the figure of a lamb, the agnus dei, knowing that
one kiss of the wax preserved the person with the wax from falling
sickness, apoplexy and sudden death for seven days, why should they
stop their own income?
Medical science was immediately checked by christianity. It came
to an instant stop and remained there. Perhaps one of the largest
obstacles was the idea of the resurrection of the body. The human
body was the temple of the holy spirit. It was to be resurrected. The
body could not be mutilated for this would interfere with its final
resurrection on that last day. And, then, in the Middle Ages came the
final incredible claim, when in 1248, the Council of Le Mans forbade
surgery on the basis that the "church abhors the shedding of blood"
- and this from an institution which had caused the greatest spilling
of innocent blood in human history. Surgery and medicine were
crippled for two centuries from this one decree. For over 1,000 years
surgery was considered dishonourable. The greatest monarchs were
unable to secure an ordinary surgical operation. It was only in 1406
that emperor Wenzel of Germany ordered that dishonour should no
longer attach to the surgical profession.
In spite of every opposing force the surgeons and medical science
continued, and of all places, often in the various monasteries,

"In the 12th century the Council of Rheims

interdicted the study of law and physic and a
multitude of other councils enforced the decree. Pope Alexander III forbade monks to
study or practice medicine. . . . By 1243 the
dominicanorder forbade all practice of ... the
art of medicine."
especially those of the Benedictine Fathers. But, it was wretchedly
poor - both in practice and in theory. The parrot-like repetition of
the writings of Hippocrates, Aristotle, and Galen was all of medicine.
Individual thought and experimentation was totally taboo. Outside
the church only two bodies proceeded. They were the jews and the
mohammedans. The jews had many sanitary and hygienic ideas
which had been evolved by the Egyptians, and they became devoted
to medicine, building up the School of Salerno which finallyflourished
by the tenth century. Later came the School of Montpellier.
Brave men stepped forward, like emperor Charlemagne who made
provisions for the establishment of a botanic garden in which herbs
with healing virtues were cultivated. Emperor Frederick II in his
journeys brought back Greek and Arabic manuscripts on the subject
- only to come under the ban of the pope because of this.
In the twelfth century the Council of Rheims interdicted (forbade)
the study of law and physic and a multitude of other councils enforced
the decree. Pope Alexander III forbade monks to study or practice
medicine. The FOUTth Council of the Lateran forbade surgical
operations 'to be practiced by priests, deacons, and subdeacons.
Pope Honorius III reiterated and extended this decree. By 1243 the
Dominican order forbade all practice of science and the art of
Page 26

June, 1984

Behind all this was the idea that since supernatural means of
healing are everywhere so abundant, it was irreligious to seek a cure
by natural means. Bernard declared that monks who took medicine
were guilty of conduct unbecoming to religion. The School of Salerno
was held in aversion by multitudes because it prescribed rules for diet.
Pope Innocent decreed that no physician, under pain of exclusion
from the church, could undertake medical treatment without calling
in ecclesiastical advice. Two hundred and fifty years later, pope Pius
V was renewing and enforcing this with penalties. Not only did Pius
order that all physicians before administering treatment should call in
a "physician of the soul" on the ground that "bodily infirmity
frequently arises from sin," but he ordered that if at the end of three
days the patient had not made confession to a priest, the medical man
should cease his treatment, under pain of being deprived of his right
to practice, and of expulsion from the faculty if he were a professor.
This brings us to 1963, in America, for it was in that year that the
American Medical Association, meeting in Atlantic City, New Jersey,
decided that religion would help to cure disease and that they should
start to explore the possibility of union between physicians and god.
On January 6, 1964, reporting on the progress of this in their
magazine, The A.M.A. News, that society stated that there were then
forty-two state medical associations which had approved formation of
Committees on Medicine and Religion. I have been watching with
interest the development of this since, and noted that in 1965 the
movement had come to the point that doctors were having ministers
accompany them on the daily rounds in hospitals in many cities; and I
project that very soon we will have reached the time of pope Pius
again when no doctor will dare to be present without a physician of
the soul, as he treats his illpatient.
Because we do not know history we are doomed to painfully refight
all of the battles again.
Because of the animosity of religion to medicine at one time, the
medical men were the foes of religion; but now in our times we find the
medical men courting the religious foe who held back their science for
1,500 years. The Bullarium Romanum of Naples, 1882, issued by
Pius V, said simply "Ubi sunt tres medici ibi sunt duo athei,' which
translated from the Latin means "Where there are three physicians,
there are two Atheists," and the pope classed scientific men with
sorcerers and magic-mongers. Medicine was full of anatomy and
physiology with doctrines that the increase and decrease of the brain
is with phases of the moon; the ebb and flow of human vitality with the
tides of the ocean, the use of the lungs was to fan the heart, the
function of the liver was to be the seat of love and the function of the
spleen was to be the center of wit.
Closely allied with this was the religious doctrine of signatures. The
almighty had set his sign upon the various means of curing disease,
which he had provided. Hence bloodroot, on account of its red juice,
is good for the blood. Liverwort, having a leaf like the-liver, cures
diseases of the liver. Eyebright, being marked with a spot like the eye,
cures diseases of the eyes. Celandine, having a yellow juice, cures
jaundice. Bugloss, resembling a snake's head, cures snake bite.
Bear's grease, being taken from an animal thickly covered with hair, is
for persons who are bald.
Another theory was that if the demon in the body could be
disgusted it would leave. So the patient was made to swallow or apply
to himself the most odious of remedies: livers of toads, blood of frogs
or rats, fibers of the hangman's rope, ointment made from the body of
gibbeted criminals. The ingredients were prepared while nine masses
were sung, or they were mixed over an altar, boiled in sheep's grease,
laced with holy salt, and applied with the sign of the cross. The blood
of a donkey could expel poison; the touch of the hangman could cure
sprains. Water in which the single hair of a saint had been dipped was
used as a purgative. St. Valentine cured epilepsy. St. Christopher
cured throat diseases. St. Eutropius cured dropsy. St. Ovid cured
deafness. St. Gervase cured rheumatism. St. Apollonia cured
toothaches. As late as 1784 one bitten by a mad dog was to repair to a
shrine and pray to saint Hubert. ~

The American Atheist

REPORT FROM INDIA / Margaret Bhatty

e live in momentous times indeed! This morning, November

30th, a brand new goddess rode past our front gate, mounted
on a plywood float decorated with garlands. She sat astride a lion and
was on her way, 1095 kilometers south, to Kanyakumari, or Cape
Comorin, the southernmost tip of peninsula India. Accompanying her
was another float on which was placed a large brass urn carrying 400
litres of sacred Ganges water. In the procession were jeeps and cars
fullof the faithful and an escort of motorcycle loonies waving saffron
flags, wearing saffron kerchiefs and shouting slogans. The entire
circus was scheduled to complete its dash to the Cape by the
auspicious date of December 16th.
For a country which throws up godmen and godwomen, producing
a full-fledgedgoddess poses no problem. Her name is Bharat Mata, or
Mother India. There are no legends around her yet, but they will
evolve with time, securing her a place in the hindu pantheon of a few
milliondeities. As a national symbol she willundoubtedly play the role
of mother goddess.
Sita is said to have sprung from a furrow in the Earth, Athena
sprang from the head of Zeus, Venus was born from the waves.
Bharat Mata has no such fanciful notions around her origins. She has
been born from politicalexpediency. Her creators are taking a long
view to the next general election within two years, and her job willbe
to rally the hindu backlash for the rightist parties confronting Mrs.
Gandhi's Congress.
But what should the mother goddess be doing traipsing round the
countryside at top speed in recent weeks? The one which went past
here started from the pilgrim city of Hardwar in the Himalayan
foothills. But even as one idol of the mother goddess travelled from
north to south, another was crossing from east to west, and a third
making its way to Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu. These processions
are called yatras.
The entire garish parade is a campaign to draw all the hindus in this
country into one national fold. The organisers claim that only hindus
can be truly Indian. This is in keeping with orthodox belief that India
ought to be declared a hindu state and all non-hindus be given
second-class status without voting rights.
However, national integration even in terms of a common religious
tradition still appears elusive. It was therefore necessary to perform
the rite of unity or integration - the ekatmata yagna. Behind it are
eighty five hindu sects consisting of fifty five crore hindus (A crore
equals 10 million).
Searching for common bonds, the organisers decided that two
symbols would be easily understood by all hindus throughout the
Austin, Texas

country. The first was the concept of a motherland personified by the

mother goddess and the second, sacred Ganges water which every
hindu reverences.
The fact that the mother goddess is such a late-comer is because of
a defective history. The truth is that even in the ancient heyday of
hinduism, peninsula India was never a homogenous nation. The only
time it appeared united was under British domination. A few hundred
English troops in the eighteenth century were easily able to subjugate
the country because of warring sub-nationalities. Today these subnationalities, despite their hindu roots, still transcend national
loyalties, and regional politics trives on narrow parochialism which
wants to exclude people coming from other regions with a different
language and culture. These attitudes are reinforced by a subtle kind
of racism, like the northern contempt of the south in the historical
tradition of the ancient superior and fair Aryans looking down on the
dark-skinned Dravidians.

"The organisers claim that only hindus can be

truly Indian. This is in keeping with orthodox
belief that India ought to be declared a hindu
state and all non-hindus be given second-class
status without voting rights."
Whether the mother goddess can cement all together with the help
of Ganges water is a moot point. One doubts if the heaviest
symbolism will unite a religion so fragmented by caste barriers,
untouchability, ritual purity, mutual prejudice and abhorrence. In
fact, of the four reigning shankaracharyas, or high pontiffs of the faith,
two have refused to give their blessings to the campaign and declare
that they support untouchability and all the most retrograde aspects
of the religion.
The three yatras of processions were launched on an auspicious
day, 16th November. There were also 89 sub-yatras covering smaller
areas. The yatra heading for Rameshwaram was flagged off from
Khatmandu by the king and queen of Nepal for the glory of hinduism.
A second set out from Gangasagar in coastal West Bengal and is
heading for the Somnath temple in Gujarat on the west coast. The
third went through here from Hardwar to Cape Comorin. All the
yatras expect to log more than 50,000 miles, stopping at hundreds
and thousands of villages en route for hindus to worship the mother
goddess and the urns carrying the sacred water. In addition, the

June, 1984

Page 27

organisers are selling small plastic bottles (50 cc) of Ganges water for
ten rupees (one dollar).
Because of Nagpur's strategic importance, we were able to witness
the arrival and departure of the three main yatras which crossed each
other here at the end of November. Nagpur is also the nerve centre of
the organisation called the Rasthriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS)
which was behind the assassination of Gandhi and whose political
philosophy is described by many as distinctly fascist. The RSS has set
up the Hindu Vishva Parishad, World Hindu Council, for rousing the
hindu conscience. Needless to say, wherever the VHP has succeeded
in doing so, there have been bloody communal riots between hindus
on one side and christians, muslims and untouchables on the other.
The whole circus on wheels has therefore been watched with some
nervousness by minority communities along the routes. Passing
through minority areas as far apart as Assam and Kashmir, hindu
chauvinists travelling with the yatras have indulged in muslim and
christian baiting in their speeches.
For the poor who cannot afford to pay ten rupees for the sacred
water, other water is doled out from a tanker which is replenished by
vessels drawn from sacred rivers in each region. So each tanker will
end up with a potent mix of Ganges water and every other river in the
Nobody knows why the Ganges is given such importance in hindu
belief. The first Aryan settlers revered the Indus more. But today all
hindus worship the Ganges. As Ganga Mata (Mother Ganges) she
washes away all sin. Even to take her name from a long way off atones
for one's sins up to three previous existences. To have one's ashes
strewn on her broad bosom after death takes one straight to heaven.
Great merit is accumulated ifone carries away the water for future
consumption and worship. Some devout hindus will drink no other
water but that drawn from the Ganges. Indian "scientists" testify fo its
remarkable shelf life of a year. A professor from McGill University is
quoted as having said "A peculiar fact which has never been
satisfactorily explained is the quick death, in three or fivehours, of the
cholera vibrio in the waters of the Ganges. When one remembers
sewage by numerous corpses of natives, often cholera casualties, and
by the bathing of thousands of natives, it seems remarkable that the
belief of hindus, that the water of this river is pure and cannot be .

defiled and that they can safely drink it and bathe in it, should be
confirmed by means of modern bacteriological research."
This claim is pure myth. What bacteriological research has
established is that the Ganges is the most heavily polluted river we
have. Industrial effluents, raw sewage, dead cattle, half-cremated
corpses and disease and pestilence germs are responsible. A team of
scientists travelled down the river and tested samples along the way.
Their report was horrendous, but it didn't change a thing for the
The belief persists that so miraculous are the properties of this
water that the bones of the dead thrown into the stream dissolve in
three days. Cholera is not carried by the river because it travels
upstream each year, clearly proving that pilgrims and not the water
spread the disease!
However, for the current exercise in hydropathy being staged by
the hindus through the ekatmata yatras, the plastic bottles of water
have been drawn from the very source of the Ganges for the added
magic. The river rises in the Himalayas at 12,770 feet from a cave at
the foot of the Gangotri Glacier. The cave is called Gomukh or Cow's
It is estimated that the three main yatras and countless smaller
ones will cost the organisers Rs 60 lakhs (a lakh is one hundred
thousand). But this six million rupees willbe recovered from the sale
of sacred water and bright-coloured prints of Bharat Mata. In all, the
campaign will net them 2.5 crores (25 million).
But whether it willfetch as many votes for the hindu parties remains
to be seen. The entire circus proves once more that the current
upsurge in communalism in this country is not a religious but a
political phenomenon. ~

In 1978 your editors, assisted by Joseph Edamaruku,

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

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Page 28

June, 1984

The American Atheist



n late February of this year, I received a phone call at the

American Atheist Center from someone from whom I had not
heard in over four years. It was from Idaho, from a cousin of mine,
with whom I share many deep and fond childhood memories. One of
those memories was his introduction of Atheism to me when I was at
the tender age of 11, and he was 2Y2months younger even than I
(which, of course, he still is)! That he figured it out on his own out in
the sticks at that young age has always impressed me, but anyway it
didn't really solidly take with me until several years afterward. (Poor
guy had to bear with me all that time while I was a silly christian!)
About four years ago he left our home state of Idaho to work as a
communications specialist for the U.S. Army. Soon thereafter I came
down to Texas to work at the American Atheist Center, and we lost
track of each other's whereabouts. Even before Qe had left Idaho,
any mail which I sent to him which had Atheist literature in it never
reached him, for he had a religious (mormon) wife. Then once I tried
to write to him through his parents. I never received a reply. He never
received my letter. When he returned from Germany, he tried to find
out where I was, but no one at home acted like they had the slightest
idea where I was. Finally, he happened to see my name listed in the
Writer's Digest as part of the staff for American Atheist magazine,
and he called me up. We were both quite excited about renewing our
contact, and I immediately sent him some of our fine Atheist
literature. This time there was no problem with the mail, he being
single at the present time.
He wrote me a letter to follow up the phone call, and it was so good
that I thought I would share it with you. What follows is that letter
from my cousin, Eugene Spencer Smith:

will see just how much support I will be able to draw. On April 9th, I
may have to get out of town fast, so look around and see if you have
any ideas as' to possible employment.

"Sometimes it is best to fight the battle you

know you can't win, in order to effect change
on those who will."
I read with great interest your article on the "Right Stuff." I thought
it was great! I have to agree with what I perceived as an unmentioned
statement you made, when referring to the way the flyboys smirked at
the question about church. To that end, I have pause to wonder if
indeed they are as pious as we have been led to believe. I have known
a great many military men and women who thought the idea of
religion was less than worthless, but the mere mention of the fact of
holding atheistic or even agnostic thought was at one time enough to
totally destroy a carrier. These men were probably more patriotic
than their mindless counterparts, and they knew better than anyone
else about the term "discrimination." They weren't communists,
fascists, or any of the other cute little buzz-terms our bible-beating
"friends" tag on to those who wish to follow their minds and rights.
They were ready to defend a country that would give a fool the right to
expound upon his foolishness, while suppressing other forms of
sanity. To my knowledge, I am the first to really press the issue of
freedom from religion to the point of having dog tags made with the
term, "Athiest," (Note, they didn't even know how to spell the term!)

* * * * *
Dear Rich,
Thanks a lot for the information package, I have already put much
of the material to good use! (Living one block south of Northwest
Nazarene College, it isn't hard to do.) I have been wondering what
had become of you for some time. No one seemed to know where you
were, or even ifyou were stillalive!You can imagine the great surprise
and relief I felt, when I saw your name in the Writer s Digest!
I got out of the Army on Sept. 27, 1982, and went right to work for a
solar research, development and manufacturing group in the area.
That job lasted until about a year ago, when the owner left town with
all the cash he could beg, borrow, or steal. I then went into the
legislature for a few weeks, while we attempted to get my mother to
resign from it. It was really sad, but she couldn't function anymore.
(Since that time she has been diagnosed as having Alzheime~'s
Disease.) As I couldn't find any other form of work, Iwent to work as a
talk show host, which lasted until the station changed its format to
all-Spanish-Ianguage programming. The one saving chip I had at that
time was my membership in the Reserves.
As I mentioned to you over the phone, I have written a couple of
books. When you have nothing but time on your hands, and the drivel
on TV starts to get to you, you have to do something. None of them
have been published as yet, but at least they are as good, ifnot better,
than what you see on the tube or pick up at the local bus station.
I have been thinking lately about running for the House. I know it
willtake a lot of money, and I'll have every church group in the area
against me, but it is something that I really want to do. Sometimes it is
best to fight the battle you know you can't win, in order to effect
change on those who will.At any rate, between now and April 8th, we
Austin, Texas


pressed upon them rather than "No Preference." (There have been
two other people to push this issue: Alan Marsa of New Jersey, in
1980; and Michael Hagen, in 1977. On the latter, see American
Atheist, January 1978, p. 10 - ed.) What is funny about all of this is
that a military chaplain assisted men in having the tags made in that
way! I guess he must have felt that it was giving equal time, or it may
have been the way in which I attacked his dogma, in a clear-headed,
friendly, and satirical way.
I just turned on the TV: I make it a point never to miss Jimmy
Swaggart, the funniest man on the tube. If you ever need a good
laugh, all you have to do is turn this guyon, and listen to the guilt trip
he attempts to lay on you. The sad thing is, however, the people who
are paying for the three hundred dollar suits,the coast-to-coast
television time, and the vacations in the best places in the world, are
(by and large) poor little old women who are forced to wear rags, eat
cat food, and live like animals, all for the promise of eternal life,health,
and happiness (with the catch, they have to die firstl). Well, like I say,

June, 1984

Page 29

he is worth a good laugh, so I guess that there is some good coming

out of the situation, however slight.
I also loved the piece written by Jeff Frankel dealing with
"Groucho." It was one of the funniest bits of satire I have read in a long
time! It all started me tothinking: perhaps what we need is to develop
a series of comical anthologies along that same line, submit them for
publishing, and give the world a little smile. I am not talking about one
book, but several, appealing to both the Atheist and the infadel (one
who wishes to worship Baptists, Bast-s, Bullsh-, and Bunk) alike!
One could edit it in such a way as to appeal to everyone, while not
really offending anyone. In doing so, one can start people to thinking,
start laughing, and best of all question. One sidelight of this kind of
sugar-coating would be to show the theists for what they are humorless. Of course, the devout bible-beater would condemn the
book, which would make it sell like hotcakes!
It is a funny thing about our world, communication is best served
through a good laugh. I guess that one of the prime factors for this is
that there are so many things that strike us hard and deep, that a
laugh is the best way to break through the wallwe emplace around the
world around us. One need only look at some of the best praised men
of all time, Groucho, Will, and Mark, to see how well that type of
attack works! The pieces I have written are much too serious to
appeal to everyone, but a good joke appeals well.
Feeding the multitude on four fishes and a basket of bread. What
they failed to mention was that the fish were at least a week old, and
the bread was mouldy.
Turning the water into wine. I know a bartender who has been
doing that trick for years, in reverse!
What would you call a man who
1. never has sex with a woman
2. roams the countryside in search of other men
3. picks up other men, and kisses them repeatedly
4. loves to fondle children
5. waters down the booze
6. eats old raw dead fish and mouldy bread
7. loves to chase other men, beating them with whips
8. washes his hair with vinegar and oil
9. attempts to drown people at any opportunity
10. has no visible means of support
11. has a foot-washing fetish
12. tells weird and fanciful stories, with no basis of truth or thought
13. crashes parties, in order to get a free meal

14. is a total failure, yet feels he has the right to tell everyone else
how to live
15. has a very obvious sheep fetish
16. runs around putting his hands on everybody (especially those
too sick to say or do anything about it!)
17. wishes to be beaten, humiliated and nailed to a cross
18. insists on being called "Master"
19. has delusions of grandeur
20. advises people to give the government all their money
21. tells children to hate their parents, yet professes love
22. loves to be around dead bodies
23. is obsessed with the idea of death giving p1easure
24. seemingly never has to go to the bathroom?
Why, the son of god, what else?
For those of you who wish to find some connection between this
and the "devil," allow me to point it out: Twenty-four lines which can
be divided by two numbers, 8 and 6. Eight goes into twenty-four three
times, and if you take the number 3, and place it under the other
number 6, and multiply you will arrive at 18 - or 6, 6, 6. (Eat your
heart out, Falwell, I beat you to it!)
If god created everything, why does he want my money, why
doesn't he simply throw together a printing press and make his own?
If god stands for peace, why would he need a "Salvation Army"?
Build a world? He can't even use a hammer
If they are the chosen ones, why do they need an army?
God is love; sooner or later the believer gets f-d.
If god is light, why did it take an Atheist to invent the bulb?
If jesuchrist is truth, why didn't he take the stand?
Well, so much for a few laughs. I think that I had better get busy.
The end of the month is at hand, and I haven't had a single short story
accepted this month. IfI don't hurry up and get some trash in the mail,
I think that I'll be living in the desert pretty soon! ~

Mr. Smith escaped, with a scholarship to Harvard at the age

of 17, the depressing environment of a fundamentalist
christian family. However, that escape could only last for four
years (when he graduated with a B.A. in biology), and when
the negativity of the christian environment returned to haunt
him, at the same time that politicians were injecting religion
into American politics to an unprecedented degree, he joined
American Atheists in 1977. He has been a production staff
member at the American Atheist Center since 1981, and
began writing articles for this magazine in October, 1981.




"DO NOT \rJ\T\-\\-\OLD




Page 30

June, 1984

The American Atheist

I Pledge Allegiance. I have been pledging allegiance to the same flag and the same country with unremitting fervor for seventy years, but the
words have become different and the rhythm has consequently become flawed.
the simple beauty of the original:
I pledge allegiance to the flag
And to the republic for which it stands
One nation, indivisible
With liberty and justice for all.
That was lovely in its simplicity and served well during the 1910s and 1920s, the two decades when I first attended school. But then came the
doubters and the zealots.
"What flag?" inquired the doubters, wondering whether the millions of pledgees in these United States were pledging allegiance to the flag of
Transylvania, even though the flags in the fronts of all the classrooms and auditoriums where the pledges were given were obviously the stars
and stripes.
The zealots were even more strident in their criticism. By adding "under god" they could promote allegiance to their deity. A person who
refused to make the pledge would obviously be a traitor. Here was a method of coercion that would force the doubter to proclaim belief to avoid
a charge of treason - or stand out exposed to ridicule for eccentricity of belief, a cardinal sin.
So a compliant congress - what congressman, looking to election day, would defy god or country when held up in the glare of a record vote
- passed bills changing the pledge:
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America
And to the republic for which it stands
One nation, under god, indivisible
With liberty and justice for all.
Well,not pure liberty or complete justice for the Atheist, the humanist, the agnostic, the buddhist who doesn't believe in god and many more;
these lose some liberty and some justice by the very element of coercion slipped into the pledge by those who changed it.
In fact, in the light of this diminution of the ideal through thought control, the destruction of the once lordly rhythm seems a lesser
Harry Winton

Piety. The religion dogmateer who fashions for himself the notion of an oversized omnipotent god who has forged and flung out into the
universe this planet earth, is the same sanctimonious earthworm who solicits comfort from the bond he synthesizes between himself and some
imagined creator.
The earth he sees is a rotund undifferentiated mass, accidentally discarded into space: inversely proportionate in significance to its distance
from that "producer."
This earthworm is vilely cursing his own planet when he nurtures the delusion of a supreme discus thrower.
To accredit anyone with the creation of earth is to raise the notion of "god" to sculptor, and to reduce the notion of earth to
Barber Marion Sinclair

'Taint Da Trut 'Na Whole Trut. Let us suppose an acquaintance was telling you about an event, and during the telling they periodically
interrupted the story with a remark such as, "That's the truth," or "You may not believe this," or "So help me, it's just like I'm telling you." It
wouldn't be long before you'd begin to doubt the veracity of ALL the details, right? Let's go further and imagine that you checked out a few
points that had sounded funny and found them to be exaggerated - once or twice they were outright falsehoods. Would you believe his next
story was not a fabrication, at least parts of it? If parts of a story are untrue - which parts can be truth?
Each one of us has been in a similar situation and to say the least, it is uncomfortable. That individual is then classified as a iiar of some
proportion: a slight exaggerator, a moderate liar, or an impulsive prevaricator. Does that sound reasonable?
Now that you've agreed, let's pose another question. When one is reading an article in a newspaper, magazine, a book of ANY kind, would
not the same" good judgment" prevail as to the believableness? How many times have you tossed a story to one side because it was getting to
be ridiculous? Any other tale by that same author would automatically be questioned, true also?
A most unfathomable situation exists in our midst. Slowly (VERY SLOWLY) it is being elucidated. As education improves, the general
public is becoming more 'hep,' as the younger generation might say. A larger segment of the population is NOT attending church services
where superstition, magical formulas, fear, dogmas of every kind prevail. As prayer is found to be wishful anticipation, healing is proven a farce,
and predictions are proving unreliable, people are turning away.
These remarks are referring to the bible's many discrepancies, naturally. Which bible, one must ask? There are so many, you know:
Confucianism, King James, koran, krishna, judaism, the old testament and the new testament - bibles galore. Hardly any wonder there is
. confusion, as Confucius would say.
To sum it up: IF, when the bible is read, EVERY part would be digested - contradictions, absurdities, atrocities, immoralities, indecencies,
obscenities - THEN and ONL Y THEN willone's eyes be opened as to how ridiculous sham has and IS being perpetrated on the public. E.B.
"Mr. C" Cummings
Austin, Texas

June, 1984

Page 31

NATURE'S WAY / Gerald Tholen



ome of the responses writers receive regarding their words are

quite interesting. Whether an individual reader agrees or disagrees with a particular written work is not necessarily of significant
importance. What is important is the manner in which people address
one another on a particular topic - so long as both parties state
individual positions based on the sincerity of their opinions.
Logic is not always the vehicle used by people in the quest for
"answers" and emotional side roads are often taken in order to arrive
at a desired "intellectual" position, or to combat the opinions of
others. And so "philosophy" becomes the "gallant steed" on which
some folks ride, charging into the opinionated minds of those with
whom they disagree. Now, quite frankly, I don't like horseback riding
- gallant steed or not! If I really want to know the answer to a
particular question, I do not simply want an opinion fashioned by
someone else - no matter how interesting their discourse may be.
What I really want is fact!
With this setting in mind I would like to demonstrate my point. On
page 22 of the March, '84 issue of American Atheist was a
combination ad flyer/press publication release (written by me)
concerning a book we recently reprinted here at the Center. (The
book title was The Life Story of Auguste Comte; With a Digest
Review of Ancient, Religious and "Modern" Philosophy.). In the
content of the ad I stated, "philosophy, per se, is stuff and nonsense."
(For those of you who may be interested in the text of the ad, it is
reprinted in its entirety at the end of this article.)
Shortly after distribution of that issue of the magazine I received
this short and somewhat caustic letter from a reader:
"Dear Mr. Tholen,
"I am curious about how you Texas folks construe 'philosophy' that makes it so nasty, 'stuff and nonsense' and all. Please
send me the advertised book so I can see.
"Meanwhile, I call your attention to the multi-volume Encyclopedia of Philosophy edited by Paul Edwards (an atheist, also a
philosopher) which contains many articles, quite a few of them
intellectually first-rate. In particular, the article entitled 'Atheism' is in my opinion quite good. I want to know what you think
about this article, and what your impression is of the entire
Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
"Would you not agree that there is lots of very worthwhile
'analytic' (as opposed to speculative and apologetic) philosophy. Indeed, there is a whole field - the philosophy of science
- which, I suspect, ifyou were more familiar with it, would lead
you to stop trying to give advice to professional physicists such
as John Wheeler and the others you say you contacted in your
May, 1983 article in the magazine.
"I applaud your atheist (sic) pursuits and your contributions
to a worthy cause. But, as I'd guess you're aware, the dangers
of all this feeding into some kind of inflated ego-trip are all too
L.A.B. (Oregon)
Page 32

June, 1984

In response to this correspondence I thought it might be interesting

to answer via the magazine in order that others might better
understand some of the pitfalls of "philosophy" as an approach to the
acquisition of knowledge.
In his opening sentence Mr. B seems to imply that "Texas folks"
generally are intellectually different than those of other geographic
locales. In a sense, his opening statement is thereby spun from the
same yarn as is the more classical racism. It was probably intended to
throw me into a defensive posture and to dishevel any intended reply.
However, being neither embarrassed nor disappointed at having
been born in Texas, I willsimply continue.
Paragraph 2 is where the significant "meat" of the subject surfaces
- i.e., "the MULTI-VOLUME (emphasis added) Encyclopedia of
Philosophy edited by Paul Edwards (an atheist, also a philosopher)
which contains .... " Note Mr. B's description, multi-volume. I now
refer to two sentences mentioned in the text of the book ad in
question - i.e., "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
millions of philosophy buffs before you."
Moving right along then, Mr. B challenges, "I want to know what
you think about the article (Atheism), and what your impression is of
the entire Encyclopedia of Philosophy." Forgive me if I appear to be
"stuck" in my original position concerning philosophy as a legitimate
The American Atheist

vehicle in which to pursue logical Atheism. My reply remains "stuff

and nonsense"! May I repeat the observations of my lifetime - i.e.,
philosophical discourses, pro and con, concerning religion and/or
godism (supernaturalism) have abounded for centuries! Yet the
"controversy" remains extant - no answer to the original question
- no discussion resolved! Why? Because it is not the business of
philosophy to decide issues in matters of absolute resolve - that is
the business of Science! At best, philosophy only entices inquiry,
promotes interest and perhaps adds to the general knowledge of a
particular topic. Mr. B has therefore proven the point I tried to relate
in the book ad. Life is simply too short to afford a wasted effort trying
to "prove" a point philosophically! If you want to gain insight into a
particular field of interest, study it scientifically. The answer to a
mathematical problem, as I have stated on numerous occasions,
cannot be found in a philosophical session reflecting various "opinions." It can only be determined through deliberate mathematical
(scientific) deduction. Likewise, the answer to any question concerning the possibility of the existence of a particular entity ("god," in
the case of religion) can be found in the natural sciences. In order to
do that, however, one must first familiarize oneself (again as I have
stated on numerous occasions) with the proper definition of the word
"exist". For the sake of clarity, Iwillrestate it here: "to exist; 1. to have
actual being; 2. to have life or animation; 3. to continue to be alive; 4.
to have being in a specified place or under certain conditions; be
found; occur." In short, something must demonstrate either dynamic
or physical presence - a state of being - or be in some way
physically/energetically discernible. Following that, and with subsequent fundamental knowledge of Physics, one can know (not guess or
assume) that "something cannot exist then "not exist" at will,nor can
"something" manifest itself from "nothingness" as is presumed in
supernaturalism. To exist is to be natural!

"... philosophical discourses, pro and con,

concerning religion and/or godism . . . have
abounded for centuries! ... (un)resolved ....
Because it is not the business of philosophy to
decide matters of absolute resolve - that is
the business of Science!"
In his continuing attack on my "credibility," Mr. B then states
"there is a whole field - the philosophy of science - which, I suspect,
ifyou were more familiar with it, would lead you to stop trying to give
advice to professional physicists such as John Wheeler and the
others you say you contacted in your May, 1983 article in the
magazine." I can only respond that Mr. B does not seem to really
understand his own word usage. Science is NOT a philosophy (any
more than Science, or Atheism, is a religion). It is an evidencesupported study of particular areas of knowledge. Had Thomas
Edison allowed himself to become mired in vague philosophical
abstractions, it is likely that he would have found little time to work at
Science! Any "philosophy of science" could only be demonstrated as
a system of expanded hypothetical causations which might possibly
relate to the occurrence/existence of natural phenomena! As for
John Wheeler, I have no desire to "advise" him of anything, and it is
likely that he would not be interested in "advising" me either. As I
stated in the article you referred to, he impressed me as being a
"religious" person and therefore we would have little in common.
However, ifyou feel that individual surety of position can only display
"some kind of an inflated ego-trip," so be it. In that case, how do you
know that you are an Atheist? Certainly, many "worthy religious
philosophers" in history have demonstrated how you "must be
wrong"! Is it possible that you, too, might be egotistical?
To get back to the original intention of my article, "While Freedom
Burns," has it occurred to you, Mr. B, that while the "great agnostic"
philosopher, Robert Ingersoll, lived, religion was cutting into the
guaranteed individual freedoms of millions of U.S. citizens; insane
Austin, Texas

"blasphemy" laws were being enforced; observances of religious

rituals and "morals" by our government were gaining momentum;
religion, in general, was receiving preferential treatment by the
politicians of this nation. What did the "philosophers" do to prevent
.the culmination of religious intrusions that we face today in our
congresses and courts? What have the "John Wheelers" (no offense
intended) of science done to abate the nuclear madness now
psychologically stripping the world of its ability to be safe from the fear
of destruction. How many court cases have your "lots of very
worthwhile analytic philosophers" won, or even initiated, in an
attempt to stem the flow of religious insanity in our government? Was
Clarence Darrow a "philosopher''? Perhaps. But first and more
importantly he was an activist who did more than just "make pretty
speeches." He fought diligently to preserve the individual rights of the
"people" mentioned in our Constitution!

"Science is NOT a philosophy (any more than

Science, or Atheism, is a religion). It is an
evidence-supported study of particular areas of
In the meantime, Mr. B, what shall we do? Read dump-truck loads
of philosophy books and watch the youth of America suffer the same
insane conformity requirements that were forced upon you and me.
The truth is that all the philosophers in history, both religious and
nonreligious, have been total failures. The question of god or no-god
is yet unresolved in the collective "wisdom" of humanity. Hasn't
enough time and precious human energy been wasted philosophically
arguing with mentally deficient religionists. I am concerned that, piece
by piece, fundamentalist fanatics are dismantling my country and
replacing it with a simulated "kingdom of god"! "Humanists,"
"Rationalists," "Secularists," "Ethical Culturists" seem only to want
to "talk about it" philosophically! If you think that is the correct
approach - have at it! Personally I gave that crap up years ago! (And,
please, readers, allow me the use of that one "obscenity" that
properly describes what has been going on in this world for
centuries!) Philosophy, the procrastinator's pompous oratorical
chariot, allows half-hearted advocacy of an "unpopular" position
while the religious "ants" of society cart off the groceries we call
How often I am reminded by "professional philosophers" that the
"un professionals like me" of society can never hope to contribute to
the collective intelligence of humanity. That is the special reserve
territory of the "Dr. Johns" of any given era. What lowly "average
person" dare change the contemporary circumstances of a given
society. How dare an Atheist to offend "philosophy" by suggesting
that philosophical clap-trap between religion and nonreligion is a
juvenile practice that should be abandoned at maturity. Who among
us" commoners" could have the gall to say what human dignities and
liberties should be, when all around us judges and politicians say that
in certain instances these liberties and dignities may be curtailed for
reasons known only to themselves!
Philosophical pedants may not realize it, but in essence they are still
religious. They still revere the teachings of our cultural training. They
still pay awesome tribute to "authority." They do not seem to
understand that real intelligence is "home grown." It does not matter
to them that all of the Dr. Johns collectively could not fillthe inventive
shoes of the few individual "gentlemen of science" who were not
"doctors" - the men or women who discovered the principles of the
wheel and the lever or of the controlled use of fire! Were such
primitive individuals scientists! Were they "egotistical" simply
because they attempted to demonstrate new ideas of which society,
including its "learned priests," was not yet aware?
Are the pedants telling me that there is, in fact, no hope for
advancement in the human community unless some superintelligent
academic "savior" shall "reveal" himself to us. In the meantime we
Atheists should, I suppose, involve ourselves in senseless prattle with
the nitwit advocates of godism and suffer the consequences of

June, 1984

Page 33

misdirected effort. Perhaps some "wizard" will someday present

certain people among us with "badges of courage" so that we may
then attempt courageous things. Or, in absence of a brain perhaps
some university will present us with a diploma so that we might
become able to think. Or maybe the "good witch of the north" might
provide us with "magic slippers" so that we might reach our desired
Some might choose these methods. I say that time has long since
passed that responsibly minded people should actively support those
who are trying to design new methods. Get involved (if you dare).
Support the real approach to problem solving - active American
Atheism. Perhaps, in time, all previously uninvolved contemporary
Atheist "wizards," (known more familiarly by their own names) might
find within each of themselves a non-Oz-like heart and do just that!

Text for the LIFE-STORY



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 very purpose of
authoritarian systems, dating back to the ancient witch-doctor
priests, was to generate and regenerate ignorance in the still ape-like
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 its 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
Page 34

June, 1984

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"!

The "common sense" man of Atheism, Mr. Tholen is the

product of the Gulf Coast marshes of Texas. When he's not
slavinq over the American Atheist as its Assistant Editor, he's
writing poetry for an Atheist movement to be proud of.


Of Au~~~1~u,~OMTE \
With A Digest ~e~te": "
A net,"ent"RebgtoUS,
and "Modern" Pht\osoP Y


Madalyn Murray O'Hail


The American Atheist

END OF THE TUNNEL / Michael Bettencourt



hen I was in college, during my freshman year, in fact, I

discovered Henry David Thoreau, the patron saint of
simplicity, simplicity, simplicity. He was an emotional purgative for
my triumverate of poisons: loneliness, drift, and adolescence.
(Perhaps that is all one poison, after all.) His cabin by the pond
became my philosophical mecca. During my sophomore year I
experimented; I owned nothing (beyond my books, a desk, and a
chair) that I could not carryon my back. I slept in a sleeping bag on a
bare floor. I did a wash every other day (yes, I used the machines - no
pond was nearby with an available rock). I tried to cut off my liaison
with material possessions so that my character would not be bartered
for them. I wanted to see how I would change under the onslaught of
I lived like that for a year. At first I suffered from what could only be
called the consumerist equivalent of hunger pangs. I found myself
wanting to buy a poster, one tiny poster, to adorn the bare walls of my
room. I wanted my stereo back, and I wanted to buy records to put on
it. Worst of all, perhaps, was food, for I had vowed to eat as simply and
as infrequently as my stomach would let me. This meant no jnbetween meal snack, no late-night pizzas, none of those prandial
amenities that make eating a luxury, that allow the delight of satisifed
But that was soon changed, and quickly, more quickly than I had
thought possible because, to my mind, the poisons of consumerist
appetites went all the way back to the cradle. I soon found an
interesting peace residing in my veins, peace like a silence after great
static. I found it easier to concentrate on my work, easier to judge
what was of value to think about, above all simply easier to live. I
wasn't fettered with a constant uneasiness. about the worth of my life
since I had decided to judge my life not by how many cravings I
satisfied but by how much progress I made in the direction of my
ideas. The only metaphor I had at the time to describe myself was one
from Walden: the pond's ice breaking up in the spring with great
whoops of release as the rotten ice melted under the zephyred assault
Austin, Texas

of spring. I ended my experiment with well-tempered mettle, and

refurnished my room and all my cravings.
I went into teaching partly to continue the results of that
experiment. I wanted to be of some service to people, in this case
adolescents in need of ideas and guidance, and share the peace I'd
found in clear thinking and direct action. I had also chosen teaching
because I never would be tempted to get rich at it and would always
do it, if I always did it, for the delight and necessity of the work. It
seemed the perfect mix of profession and ideal, one that would please
the curmudgeon of Concord.
And yet, ... The other day my wife and I went to a stereo liquidation
sale, the sort of sale that seems to be just one step above buying out of
the backs of vans late at night. I hadn't intended to buy anything
except cassette tapes, yet I ended up paying out $600 for a stereo
system worth over $1,000.1 didn't need the stereo since I already had
one, but I wanted it and saw no reason not to give in to the impulse.
Yet even while my wife wrote out the check, and I marvelled at the
new gadgets, a voice like a flute edging out over a late-evening pond
sounded deep within me. Had I changed, it said; had I become one of
those consumerists that Thoreau had fought against in his life?Had I
become nothing other than what everyone else was, a captive of
advertising, a hapless consumer? Even now as I listen to the
wonderfully full music coming out of the machine, the voice still
nettles me.
This, then, is my apologia to Thoreau. Henry, you railed, and rightly
so, against the creeping and corrosive entrepreneurism of your
society because you saw how it atrophied the higher instincts,
reduced everything to a cash nexus. Your formulation of worth is just
as valid today as then: the cost of anything is the amount of lifeit took
to get it. Yet you always talked about the price of life; because you
never owned much you could not understand the enjoyment of
owning. Yes, you were right to condemn the farmers mortgaged up to
their ears, because their ownership could only bring them sorrow and
frustration. You were right to excoriate the money-lenders in the
temple because their commercialism did not enlighten life but
weighed it down.
And yet, ... Listen to the continent music that comes rolling from
these speakers. Go to the delightful concerts to which my car takes
me. Peruse in envy the hoards of books my civilization makes
available to me. Look at the poetry I can create from dance, even
though I must earn endless amounts of money to take endless classes
to do it. Am I, then, one of the whited sepulchres, one of those young
men pushing his farm and possessions down the road while the birds
fly in freedom? WillI not get through the eye of your needle? Or is it
different for me, Henry? Can you listen to this Beethoven, something
you never heard in your life, and tell me my money is ill-spent, that I
wasted my life to get this? I don't think so.
My consumerism is not what you condemned because it's the
continuation by other means of the search that began in scintillating
naivete that sophomore year. I buy books and music and the means
to store and use them because I, too, am looking for that simplicity
that is synonymous with reality in all its fullness.
Thankfully, though, the voice is still there, a counter-blast to the
Vanity Fair of my life, still forcing me to correct my course and justify
my ways to myself. Because of him I'llalways be living out of my back
pack, trying to keep to what is useful and meticulously real.



Mr. Bettencourt, a Harvard graduate and teacher at a private

college preparatory school, joined the writing staff of
American Atheist in October, 1983.

June, 1984

Page 35



"Down with all sinners,"
The preacher likes to shout.
The moralist willget you
If you don't watch out!
"The christian is the only one
To drive the devils out,"
The moralist willget you
If you don't watch out!

A living thing that could have had a mind,

Programmed to be mentally blind,
A cripple when it comes to thinking for himself,
Might as well be placed upon a shelf,
For his mentality is little more
Than a blinking semaphore
That goes through life repeating,
Beep! Beep! Beep!
Instead of thinking,
Think! Think! Think!


"Live by the word of Jesus,"

The preacher likes to spout,
The moralist willget you
If you don't watch out!
But I'm a happy Atheist;
I throw the preachers out,
The moralist willget you
IF .. , YOU, .. DON'T ... WATCH. , , OUT!
William E. Hammons


Jorjanna I. Meeks

The christian party line states:
No THOMAS (he who suffers doubt) may be saint.
No cause which requires consideration may be truth.
What sacrifice is worthy which may not sacrifice its youth?
tommy toledo

"Those who eat,

or copulate
merely for pleasure
are guilty of sin,"
said pope Innocent XI
in the 17th century.

When man was a babe
His urges were tidal
To get what he wanted
He worshipped idols.

Tomorrow evening's agenda:

Make love to Susie,
(Her husband is out of town.)
have a sumptuous seafood dinner
at Neptune's Palace
with 2 pitchers
of beer.

When man was a child

He respected the rod
In the hand of his father
And worshipped a god.
When man was a man
Doing what should be done
And loving his life
He worshipped no one.

You think
want to go
to hell?
Irv Barat
Page 36

To take a child while still a child,

Program him to your belief,
Is to be yourself a thief To steal from him his right to think,
, Condition him that question is a sin,
Turns him into a little more
Than a repetitious semaphore
That goes through life repeating,
Beep! Beep! Beep!
Instead of thinking,
Think! Think! Think!

June, 1984

Jim Austin
The American Atheist

(continued from p. 16)
perversion of the intent of the Constitution's authors."
But Senator Lowell Weicker (R-Ct.) immediately laid out the issue.
The nation did not need the amendment, "Let's make it very clear - a
child can pray right now. He can pray at lunch hour; he can pray when
he gets up to bat; he can pray during a math class." He characterized
the proposed amendment as "... the greatest threat we've ever had
presented to the government. If freedom of religion goes, the rest of
the First Amendment (protecting freedom of press, speech and
assembly) willgo too."
Baker rejoined, "The issue here is ... the free exercise of religion
and speech which Americans in every generation have struggled to
secure .... The time has long since come to set this matter right. The
question is not whether religion is better practiced in the home and in
places of worship than in the school. The question is whether
government can prohibit the free exercise of religion anywhere. The
Constitution plainly says it cannot, yet the court decisions have had
precisely this prohibitive effect in the public schools of America."
Weicker wanted to make it clear that the proreligious proponents
had had a year or more to plan their strategy and that the general
public had had no idea of the maneuvering. He proposed that a
healthy debate would bring the issue home to the ordinary voter and
notified that he would insist on a vigorous and thorough dispute, no
matter how long it would take.
Tip O'Neill (D-Mass.), the House Speaker, caustically commented
about Reagan, "There's a man that (sic) doesn't go to church and he
talks about prayer." Senator George McGovern (D-S.D.), then still in
the Democratic presidential race, bitingly added to'O'Neill's remark
with, "I would feel a little more impressed about it if he'd turn up in
church once in a while." As for Reagan's call to "get God and
discipline back in our schools," McGovern added, "God does not
need a loudspeaker to hear the prayer of a child, nor does he need
Ronald Reagan to be admitted to the classroom." He added, "He
(Reagan) has politically and cynically exploited religious sentiments of
the American people for his own personal gain."
The White House press office then confirmed that Reagan had last
attended Sunday church services in June, 1983. Other than that his
"church attendance," if it could be called that, included one service
when he visited U.S. troops in South Korea in November, 1983,
another when he participated in a video taping of a christmas gospel
show at a Black Georgetown church in D.C. (in the same month)
which consisted of a service commemorating the 20th anniversary of
the assassination of President Kennedy, and a third when he went to a
memorial service at the Washington Cathedral in September, 1983
for victims of the downed Korean Air Lines jet, "Flight 007." All of the
appearances were, in fact, politically expedient showings of concern.
As far back as could be reached, the only other appearances in a
church were for the funeral services at a catholic cathedral for
newscaster Frank Reynolds in July, 1983. The last church which
Reagan attended regularly was a presbyterian church in California. A
caustic remark of House Speaker O'Neill ended the references to
Reagan's own religion. Citing the sermon on the mount and its
blessing for "peacekeepers," O'Neill said, "When you mention the
peacekeeper, the president thinks it's a missile. That's not what the
Lord meant."
Reagan's own personal retort was "I represent too much of a threat
to too many other people for me to be able to go to church." One
reporter actually felt the need to explain that the remark referred to
Hinckley's assassination attempt on Reagan.
By March 6th Senator Baker was predicting that the prayer forces
were very close to the needed votes, and he saw that the measure
would pass, although much publicity was given to a possible filibuster
(a term later changed by the media to "a talkathon") by Weicker.
Weicker was making it known that he simply wanted to continue the
debate long enough for the American people to catch on to what was
plotted by the pro-prayer group.
To add levity, Sen. Weicker showed a special telegram which he
had received from Elmhurst, Illinois: "Senator Weicker, You are
doing a great job. Keep up the good work. Have room for you and
yours. Your pal. Satan."


Austin, Texas







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On March 7th, the supporters of rival versions of the proposed

school prayer amendment to the Constitution were promising a quick
victory. But later they came up with a compromise which would
permit either silent or vocal prayer, prohibit federal or state governments from composing or specifying the words thereof and guarantee
"equal access" to volunteer religious groups - all in the public
schools. When Weicker was presented with this modification, his
terse comment was, "There are no deals on the U.S. Constitution."
But he went on to point out that the efforts to change the proposed
amendment appeared to be a search for an unobjectionable, watereddown, innocuous prayer addressed "to whom it may concern." something that no one who cared about their religious faith would
really want.
On the same day, Ronald Reagan in Columbus, Ohio, addressing
the National Association of Evangelicals, which claims 38,000
member churches, urged the christian ministers to pray. that the
Kremlin leaders might learn "the liberating nature of faith in God."
The N.A.E. alleges 4 million members, which include pentecostals,
mennonites and other fundamentalist denominations. It was in this
speech that Reagan announced formally to the world that he was
taking credit for the nation's "return to god." But while Reagan was
seeing himself as a messiah while asking for prayers in his "call for
dialogue with the Soviet Union," he billed the taxpayers for the trip to
Ohio as "an official" rather than a political trip. In his 30-minute
speech, he made reference to god 40 times, an all-time record for any
president; furthermore, he did not sound as if he were talking/or all
Americans, as he talked of the "liberal attitudes" which had "undermined" traditional American values: "I am convinced that passage of
this (school prayer) amendment would do more than any other action
to reassert the faith and values that made America great .... Together
we can show the world America is still one nation under God ....
Today Americans from Maine to California are seeking His face. And
I do believe that He has begun to heal our blessed land."
One White House official said that the speech, with the many
references to god, had been considerably toned down from an
original draft to make it less offensive to other groups - some of them
- religious - that oppose many of the things that Reagan and the
evangelicals advocate, including prayer in schools. *

*It needs to be remembered that in Reagan's State of the Union

address to Congress in January, 1984 there were 14 references to
"God" or "faith."

June, 1984

Page 37

One reporter attempted to dig for messianic ideas of the president

and came up with several. Apparently Reagan told the late cardinal
Terence Cooke of New York shortly after the assassination attempt
on him that " ... whatever time He's left for me is His." Later, mother
Theresa, he reported, had told him, "You have suffered the passion of
the Cross. Surely, God must have plans for you."
Meanwhile, Reagan - who in the ultimate analysis IS simply a
movie star - was fascinated by the film Chariots of Fire, so he lifted a .
line from it which pleased both himself and the religious crowd, and he
used it often: "God made me for a purpose, and! will run for His
pleasure." The thought sends chills up the spine of a normal person.
Furthermore, Reagan told the Washington Times that he "couldn't
help" emerging from the shooting thinking that "whatever time I've
got, ! owe someone." When an aide was finally asked point blank if
Reagan thought god wanted him to run for reelection, the aide shied
away from the question but felt it was necessary still to say that
"Where God comes into the picture as far as the presidency is
concerned is that he relies on Him and turns to Him, so it's a great
part of what sustains him."


By the end of the day, Sen. Baker was backing away from his "quick
test." He conceded that he lacked the 2/3rds vote necessary and that
he was considering a compromise which would require school
officials who choose to set aside time for spoken prayers to provide a
place students could go if they do not wish to participate in the
prayers. What was under consideration was "praying" and "nonpraying" sections in classrooms. Almost everyone was giving a pencil
to the writing of compromise bills and situations.
On March 8, approximately 250 students from Jerry Falwell's
4,000-student Liberty Baptist College paraded from the Capitol to the
Supreme Court, carrying signs reading "Kids Need to Pray." When
photographers arrived, they were willing to dump their signs, hold
hands, screw up their faces, clinch their eyes shut, and pray. While
UP! identified the students properly in its photo release, AP merely
captioned the picture as "students from around the country." Other
pictures taken from another angle were captioned, "students representing the 50 states." U.S.A. Today characterized the single slim line
as "prayer chain." Often the pictures were full of faces to imply a
crowd, but a head count showed that there were no more than 15 to
25; the picture was just "tight" on the faces to give an impression of
By then Gary Hart, campaigning in Alabama, answered questions
posed by reporters and stated that the president was using the school
prayer amendment to divert attention from his failures in the White
House: "This administration is going to do its dead-level best from
now on to raise divisive social issues like school prayer, abortion,
and a lot of things like that." He said the issues would be raised"
order to distract the people of this country from addressing the $200
billion Reagan deficits, a destructive imbalance in our trade, declining
factories and manufacturing capabilities, and more people out of
work than there were when Ronald Reagan took office."
Meanwhile there was singular activity as senators argued as to
what constituted "prayer," and the Judiciary Committee issued a
report quoting from several books of the bible and from roman
catholic church fathers dating back to Augustine and Gregory of
Nazianzus to resolve the issue. The Committee also commissioned a
Page 38

June, 1984

Library of Congress study on prayer practices in the hindu, buddhist,

islam and shinto religions.
On the same day Senate Republican leaders agreed on a compromise version which would change the amendment to permit individuals and groups to pray silently, as well as vocally. Also they
attempted to strengthen a provision to bar local authorities from
writing an official prayer and to permit religious groups to use public
buildings. (More on this "free access" in a later issue.) A White House
aide meanwhile noted that the prayer selected and read by the
teacher should reflect the "consensus" within the community. And,
that "consensus" could mean "the view of the majority": "If the
minority didn't want to participate, the school would have to provide
arrangements for that minority outside the classroom."
One person in California submitted a prayer of her own:
"Our Father/Mother who art in heaven:
"Oh Lord, hear my prayer. Preserveth me from those who
are in power at this time. Preserveth me from fanatic loonies
who inflict their stupidities on others and shove their religious
opinions down thy servants' throats and the throats of our
children, misusing Thy name all the while. With Thy staff and
Thy rod smiteth those who divert our educational institutions
from the true worth of their true purpose, which is not prayer
but education, which purpose they are not fulfilling too well
"Oh Lord, striketh down these holy bores before they do
more damage to our children and our educational system.
It could well have been a "consensus" view of the "majority."
Reagan apparently continued to hold the position that there was
not a significant stigma for a child to listen to a prayer of another
religion or to be removed from the classroom so others could pray.
The compromise was worked out by Sens. Baker, Thurmond, Hatch
and Jesse Helms (R-NC), then read and approved by Reagan. This
somewhat more vague and confused measure would forbid government authorities not only to compose a prayer but to designate the
words to be recited, or even to compel schools to set aside a prayer
time. It also would allow volunteer religious groups to use school
buildings. Sen. Baker, who plans to retire this year at the end of his
term, insisted that everyone knew that Reagan had made school
prayer "a major issue" on his election-year agenda, that it was not
rhetoric. Baker, who plans to runfor the presidency in 1988, will make
it a central issue in his. It should be mentioned that Baker married the
daughter of Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.),a reactionary terror in the Senate
earlier in this century.
The Washington Post was aghast at the idea of Hatch's Senate
floor use of the idea of" ... the consensus of values - religious values
- that has always been at the foundation of this nation ... " It replied
in an editorial, "But that's the heart of the matter. The consensus is a
myth. That's precisely why most Americans have generally thought it
wiser to keep politics out of religion and religion out of the public

Weicker was against anything, noting that even this new language
would continue to permit government sanctions for religious observances in the public schools.
The American Atheist

By March 9th, the media was making a "Hatch-Weicker" debate of

the issue, describing Hatch with accolades as a cool, collected and
calm expositor of the willof the people and Weicker as a wild-eyed,
ranting- and-raving giant of a man, who waved his arms while he
shouted and paced excitedly on the Senate floor. The Washington
Post put it this way: "Weicker stalks the chamber like an angry bull,
waving his arms, shouting questions, booming out his speeches in a
voice no one can ignore. Hatch stands slender as a bean, calm as a
prayer, and polite as a pastor, ramrod- straight at his desk, shuffling
his papers and responding to each new Weicker onslaught in soft,
unhurried tones."
There was a long side issue over whether or not to place a
"disclaimer" in the proposed amendment by adding that "religious
speech" does not constitute "an establishment of religion.?" Weicker
came down hard again. He felt that it was a key lesson for the public
that "Any child in any school is free now to say a silent prayer. What
this amendment would do is have the government directing the
prayers. And when people realize that 'school prayer' really means
'government prayer,' they're going to tell their senators that they
don't want it"
The States News Service in New Jersey was reporting on the 11th
of March that one New Jersey senator had received 2,500 letters in
the period February 10th to March 10th and 2,625 telephone calls in
March alone. Much in the avalanche predicted that foes of the prayer
measure would "burn in hell" for their opposition. Senator John
Tower (RTex.) was reporting 1,000 telephone calls a day before the
debate even got going. Senator John Glenn (DOhio) logged 350 calls
on March Ist. Sen. Danforth (RMo.) logged 158 calls in his St. Louis
office alone. Sen. Pete Wilson (RCalif.) reported he had received
5,000 pro- amendment letters before the senate debate even opened.
Capitol sources - refusing to be identified for fear of harassment said that the pro- prayer telephone campaigning was one of the most
massive efforts in the recollection of workers there. All the reporting
senators, up to this time, said that the calls were massively proprayer. One minister, coordinating the ACLU's opposition to the
effort, confirming the reports, called the pro-prayer campaign "one of
the nastiest, mean-spirited, and misleading efforts to pass a piece of
legislation that I have ever seen."
At a press conference representatives of more than a dozen jewish
groups and christian denominations gave bitter statements on
"election-year religiosity." One lutheran minister warned against "the
manipulation of biblical theology to support political aims."
But on the other end of the spectrum, leaders of 21 jewish.
protestant and ecumenical organizations held a press conference and
released a letter stating that "Spiritual nurturing is the job of family
and religious institutions, not the public schools." Among those
signing a letter to be transmitted to the congressmen were
Washington- area leaders of the baptist, church-of-the-brethren,
church-of-christ, episcopal, evangelical- lutheran, society-of-friends,
As a sign of the times, meanwhile, the Russell Sage Foundation
reported that in a national sample survey which it had done, the
question was put as to whether a community should allow its civic
auditorium to be used by protestants who want to hold a revival
meeting: 69% of the public, 72%of the community leaders, 74%of the
legal elite, and 71% of the police officials said "fine."
However, when asked whether a community should allow its civic
auditorium to be used by Atheists who want "to preach against
religion and against god": 18% of the public, 41% of the community
leaders, 66% of the legal elite, 17% of police officials saw that as a
constitutional guarantee. Of course, the question was loaded. It is not
the function of American Atheists "to preach against religion and
against god." Even so, the percentages are encouraging. Just ten
years ago not even 1%of the public, community leaders, legal elite, or
police officials would have said "yes" to the Atheists.
More ominous was the report that in this study the more deeply
people identified with their own religious beliefs, the more intolerant
they were across the entire array of civilliberties, from free speech to
gay rights.
Austin, Texas

lutheran, presbyterian, progressive- baptist, seventh-day-adventist,

united- methodist, and unitarian- universalist denominations.
Although the roman catholic church kept a low profile, one priest
who founded "Citizens for Public Prayer" in Massachusetts in 1963
was reporting activity of that organization in 15 states. Claiming that
"religious practice should be part of the public life of the people in a
nation under God ... ," he has stalked the states of the union thumping
for "public reverence." When asked what protected the rights of
those who did not desire to pray and asked if they would not be
pressured or ridiculed into prayer, he rejoined, "This is an opportunity for us all to exercise tolerance," as the non- praying children were
led from the prayerful room.
It was also interesting that a New Jersey episcopal church rector
made his feelings known: "I have a great deal of difficulty understanding the objections to a moment of silence. Most people who
articulate this position come from the Maureen O'Hara school of
thinking," he said, referring to a proponent of Atheism (Madalyn
Murray O'Hair).
That was not the most outlandish, for in Cleveland, Ohio, where a
Northeastern. Ohio (religious) Roundtable, with 300 participating
ministers, was held, came the words of wisdom of their leader: "The
reason christians pray out loud is so that you can feel it inside by
hearing it through your ears. Knowledge and inspiration comes from
hearing words, not just thinking them. That's a basic teaching that
underlies most of the judeo-christian values. It's a calming influence.
It's a group involvement, like cheering at a football game. People
aren't afraid to express their support for a common goal. But (school
prayer) was taken away by a minority representation. The atheistic
community segment (Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the famous Atheist, of
course) got it taken away as a right Now a majority is saying we'd like
it back."
By March 12th another presidential candidate was making his
views known - civil rights activist Jesse Jackson then said: "Reagan
talks about all this prayer in schools. He's not even a regular
churchgoer. He hasn't even been to church in so long he's forgotten
the structure of prayer." He was a little late on that issue; the dog was
already dead.
Reagan, attacked by the third man down on the totem pole of
presidential Democratic presidential candidates, made another personal rejoinder about his church attendance and speaking of the
Democratic criticism, he said, "I haven't bothered to check on their
attendance, but I think they must be well aware of why I have not been
attending, and, frankly, I miss it very much. But I represent too much
of a threat to too many other people for me to be able to go to
On the same date Sen. Dale Bumpers (DArk.) asked if the
provision to open "public institutions" for prayer meant that the rev.
Sun Myung Moon could gain access to the Senate floor to open it with
a prayer, or to public classrooms in his home town of Charlestown,
Arkansas. Hatch rejoined that Senate rules or local school board
rules would keep Moon out This only further confirmed that the
proposed amendment was a farce meant to protect only the majority
religions and to make it easier for the most aggressive of these to gain
access to the children.
On March 14th a vote was had on an amendment (sponsored by
Alan J. Dixon, Dvlll.) to allow periods for silent prayers in schools and
permit students to hold religious meetings after class. This was tabled
81 to 15. Only the names of the 15 persons voting against silent
prayers were printed in newspapers on that date, to immediately be
found on the TV screens of the evangelists.
On this issue a confrontation between Weicker and Dixon was
widely reported. Citing the Congressional Record:
Weicker: "I wonder if the senator from Illinois is able to cite
one court decision, one law - state or federal- or one portion
of the Constitution, that prohibits anyone, child or adult, from
praying as an individual in school today?"
Dixon: "As separate and apart from the organized silent
prayer or silent reflections?"

June, 1984


Page 39

Weicker: "That is right."

Dixon: "I cannot."
And, at this point, in a moment of despair, Sen. Warren Rudman
(R-N.H.) said: "Why we seek to transfer the problems of differences
on the backs of 7- and 8-year old children in public schools is quite
frankly beyond me."
The answer was that the pressure to support the amendment was
heaviest on those moderate senators facing close reelection contests.
Charles Percy (R-Ill.) buckled under the pressure. Faced with a
primary on March 20th he announced on March 16th that he had
been converted to the Reagan amendment. After weeks of criticism in
his primary campaign, he said that he would support Reagan because
his amendment "permits everyone, but does not require anyone, to
pray in public institutions." Percy's principles disappeared when
faced with an expedient road to reelection. He was not alone. The
effect had been quite apparent when Sen. Thad Cochran (RMississippi) told the Atlanta Constitution much earlier (February
28th), "If I voted against prayer in the school, I would not want to run
for reelection anywhere in the South."
Percy just missed by one day the onus which came to bear on
March 17th, when Pat Robertson listed seven "undecided senators"
on the television screen of his 700 Club religious broadcasting, urging
his viewers from coast to coast to pound the senators with telephone
calls, telegrams and letters. Yet, five of the seven held fast to vote
against the amendment.
On the weekend prior to a scheduled vote, Reagan began to call
"doubtful" senators and on March 16th he had one gr.oup at the White
House where he, together with Secretary of Education Terence H.
Bell, put on the heat. One, a jew, told Reagan he had been "very
uncomfortable" as the only jew in the class when he attended public
school as a child. But the president said that as a child growing up in
Illinois, he "did not find any problem going to school and listening to
different kinds of prayers." He expressed the view that "there is value
in having broad exposure in school to other people's religions and
what other people think."
However, Reagan's memory was faulty. Although he fondly
recalled that as a child in Illinois he had no problems listening to a
variety of prayers in school, the New York Times of June 29th, 1910
reported that the Supreme Court of Illinois issued a decision on that
date banning mandatory school prayer in that state. The decision
came eight months before Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois. The
decision said that "religion is taught and should be taught in
churches." It said imposing school prayer in which a student felt he
could not take part "subjects him to a religious stigma and places him
at a disadvantage in the school, which the law never contemplated."
When the White House was contacted about the error, a deputy
press secretary said there were still special occasions when a public
school class in Illinois prayed as a group, as for soldiers wounded in
the Great War, though the prayers were not mandatory. Imagine the
stigma on a child who, out of religious or nonreligious scruples, would
not join in a group prayer for soldiers wounded in a war in which our
nation was engaged!
On March 19th the White House public liaison office brought to
Capitol Hill a group of children from adjacent Maryland. The
executive assistant 6f"United Families of America," which helped the
White House to coordinate the appearance by the children, had
sought out students who had been active in a try to intrude religion
into the public schools of Maryland. With White House blessings they
asked for divine intervention in the drive for the amendment. At a
press conference the White House liaison began with the statement:
"May god be with each senator ... and burden his heart with what a
'no 'vote will mean ifhe votes against this constitutional amendment."
(emphasis added)
The kids had with them Morton C. Blackwell, a former special
assistant to Reagan and alleged coauthor of Reagan's amendment.
His remarks were incredible: "Militant Marxist groups are militantly
atheist, and they are allowed to exist freely in schools, ... but not a
group of students who want to meet in prayer voluntarily." He
asserted that high school students are subjected to "all kinds of peer
pressure, from taking drugs to wearing certain kinds of clothes, ...
Page 40

June, 1984

What's wrong with a little peer pressure for prayer?"

The other author of Reagan's amendment was reported to be
Ronald Godwin, executive vice president of Moral Majority, Inc.
Meanwhile, Reagan continued to make remarkable statements:
"I've been told that since the beginning of civilization, millions and
millions of laws have been written. I've even heard someone suggest it
was as many as several billion. And yet, taken all together, all those
millions and millions of laws have not improved on the Ten
Commandments one bit."
One reporter opined that the struggle was really between George
Gallup and Edmund Burke, for, surprise!, just before the debate
began, Gallup, the born-again pollster for religion, had issued a
statement .that over 80% of Americans favor "in some cases"
(whatever that means) voluntary school prayer. Of course, the
Reagan proposal was anything but voluntary. The opponents, this
reporter felt, were following Burke, an 18th-century British antirevolutionary writer who argued that a legislator should exert
independent judgment regardless of the popular mood. Of such
nonsense were news stories made.
Prayer backers, at this late point in time, were claiming to be only
short of the needed votes by perhaps a count of one or two. And, on
the eve of the vote, Reagan was calling from Camp David to pressure
reluctant senators to the vote.
Meantime, Weicker was at it again, "...
the best way for
government to deal with prayer is the way the Constitution says it
should be now: government should just keep out."
However, Weicker's strategy began to show some wins. The issue
was emerging as far more complex than it was portrayed by Reagan
and his fundamentalist supporters. It also became more and more
clear that the fight was between the pious and the pious, not the godly
and the ungodly. An aide to Weicker disclosed: "At first, there was
great public sentiment for the school prayer amendment, but as the
debate went along, that changed. Our mail was 75%for prayer before
the debate, but it's running 75% against it now."
An aide to Sen. Hatch offered this: "There (has been) a marked
increase in mail coming from opponents."
Meanwhile editorials in newspapers were overwhelmingly in opposition to the prayer amendment; almost every columnist in the land
was castigating it; letters to the editors appeared to barely tip the
scales against the prayer amendment, indicating that Gallup's 82%
favoring it was a phony figure; local polls found close divisions; and
published newspaper debates and "op-ed" columns added to the
vigorous debate. The rabidly anti-Atheist Dallas Morning-News
asked Madalyn Murray O'Hair to write a one-quarter page column for
its March 18th issue, even paying her for the essay. Strangely, most
school polls found that both the students and the teachers, by a wide
majority, did not favor the amendment.
March 20th brought the highly publicized vote. The entire Senate
was in attendance. The galleries were jammed with prayer backers.
Both Sen. Percy and presidential hopeful Gary Hart left their primary
campaign fights to flyinto D.C. to vote on the amendment, Percy for it
and Hart against it. Then Reagan was seriously defeated in a 56 to 44
vote, failing to obtain passage by 11 votes. The media immediately
pointed out that the winning side was made up of 26 Democrats "for
the most part from everywhere but Dixie" and 18 "moderate"
Republicans. The losers included 19 Democrats and 37 Republicans.
Reagan immediately expressed his determination to fight on: "This
has been an important debate, revealing the extent to which the
freedom of religious speech has been abridged in our nation's public
schools. The issue of free religious speech is not dead as a result of
this vote. We have suffered a setback, but we have not been defeated.
Our struggle willgo on ... " And almost immediately the White House
released the news that the rev. Billy Graham would soon be
scheduled to be an overnight guest of the president's at the White
House. A "bah-humbug" reply came from many columnists, one of
whom noted, "Now comes Reagan with the same old demagoguery,
figuring Americans are the same old suckers they were ... years ago.
.. I have no doubt that a lot.of people will buy his ploy."
Of course, one of the chief champions of it all, Sen. Jesse Helms,
The American Atheist

stated, "We have just begun to fight." Both sides predicted that the
vote would be used as ammunition in the presidential and congressional campaigns this year. Moral Majority, Inc. called for
retribution at the polls against those senators who helped defeat the
proposals. Richard Viguerie, publisher of the Conservative Digest,
warned, "The school prayer vote willbe remembered. Conservatives
will not give up the fight on the issue of school prayer." More
moderate representatives of religion, however, praised the Senate for
rejecting the amendment. And, cynical political analysts reiterated
that Reagan and Baker had only wanted November smear tactic
ammunition against Democrats who "voted against prayer."
The National Council of Churches came in with "(the) council is
grateful the Senate has upheld and protected the free exercise of
religion through its vote." And, the ACLU expressed "hope (that) this
also puts an end to the wave of fervor of those who wish to impose
their values on everybody else." The American Jewish Committee
was gratified by the vote which would "give the American people time
to think more deeply about the dangers of changing the First
Amendment protection of religious liberty." One rabbi in Detroit
could hardly be civil, "It seems all the Senate debate focused on was
that we are a christian nation. Why should one separate belief be
pushed down the throats of everyone else? Prayer is too important. I
don't want christians to have to take christ out of their prayer, nor do I
want to take what's jewish out of my prayers." The Lutheran Council
issued a statement that the Senate vote sent "a clear and powerful
signal to all those in and out of government who would confuse
politics and prayer. Obviously there is a time and place for both," and
that the "rightful distinction had been made."
But, the International Christian Education Association was furious:
"T 0 deny us the opportunity to pray is making us a more atheistic and
pagan country."
Lowell Weicker was the single giant to stand out as the champion of
civil libertarian rights in the nation. Almost single-handedly he has
fought, lobbied, campaigned and filibustered to stop proposed
constitutional amendments on school busing, on abortion, and on
school prayer. He first came to prominence in 1973 when he was a
junior member of the special Senate committee investigating Watergate. He was the senator who refused to work with a resolution
commending Reagan for the invasion of Grenada: "It may be one
thing to look the other way when a president violates the law," he
shouted on the Senate floor. "But I'm not going to commend him for
it." Weicker, a man from a family of great wealth, whose great-uncle
was the archbishop of Canterbury, a faithful episcopalian himself, has
nothing to feat. The next day, after a televised in-the-heat-of-the-fight
debate with Pat Boone, he characterized Boone as a "garbage
collector." Boone's entire argument was billed "Don't let the atheists
rob us of our rights." The only thing he had to say was, "In the early
'60s, atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair badgered some Supreme Court
justices into 'protecting' the rights of a tiny splinter group, while
depriving the vast majority of Americans of their rights. Nobody was
forcing her atheist children and friends to pray, but she was
determined that no one would pray publicly, and she had her way."
He concluded that, "The good people of America have been robbed
and straitjacketed long enough by atheists, humanists, and modernists. Polls say 80% of citizens agree with me. Let's pray fervently
that God will instruct our elected representatives to do our will and
his, or show us how we can elect representatives who will."
Confronted with the Gallup poll that alleged that 82%of the people
wanted prayer in public schools, Weicker simply roared, "If80%of the
American people want that, then 80% of the American people are
wrong! And it's our job to tell them that. We're not supposed to be a
big finger to the wind around here. We're supposed to stand up for the
On March 20th Rita Warren, a fanatical roman catholic - who
almost drove the entire Massachusetts legislature crazy with her
demands for prayer in that state - appeared on the steps of the U.S.
Congress with a mannequin of jesuchrist taller by a foot than she is.
And perched on his shoulder was the "snow white dove" of
contention and strife about prayer in schools.
Austin, Texas

As an almost immediate follow-up on April 2nd, the U.S. Supreme

Court reaffirmed the 1963 case of Murray v. Curlett, supra that
prayer in public schools is unconstitutional, but it agreed to consider
whether a period of silent prayer, or meditation, in the classroom
might be permissible. The case at issue was that of Ishmael Jafree.
The Reagan administration in a Department of Justice amicus curiae
(friend-of-the-court) brief supported the requests by prayer advocates for a Supreme Court review of the silent prayer issue. The court
action virtually guaranteed that school prayer will remain in the
forefront of national attention through the presidential election,
although the Court cannot possibly hold a hearing on the Alabama
case until next falland perhaps give a decision in late winter or early in
1985. The U.S. Supreme Court, as a willinginstrument of the Reagan
administration and the Falwellians, has thus intruded itself significantly in the debate on school prayer which Reagan has stirred as a
controversy around which he can build his bid for reelection to the


On the same day Framingham, Massachusetts voters nixed a
non-binding referendum which would have endorsed a prayer based
on the Declaration of Independence. It read:
"We acknowledge the existence of the laws of nature and of
nature's God. We further acknowledge that allmen are created
equal ... with a firm reliance on the protection of your divine
Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our
fortunes, and our sacred honor, so help us God."
Of course, no one reminded the voters that this was an antichristian
document and that it had been framed by deists, among whom were
the first six presidents of the United States and such people as
Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin and Col. Ethan Allen, the hero of
the Ticonderoga. The city had been in difficulty before when six
parents had sued the School Committee in 1980 after it enforced a
state law permitting a period of school prayer led by a student
volunteer. That suit reached the state Supreme Judicial Court, which
declared that law unconstitutional in March, 1980.

Jurie, 1984

Page 41

Altogether 23 states have enacted laws authorizing or requiring

daily moments of silence in the public schools, according to a survey
in December by the Department of Justice. Harvard Law Review
(Summer, 1983) counts 21 states with an authorized "moment of
meditation." But in most of them bitter legal battles have continued in
both state and federal courts.
But more ominous was a media survey which showed that many
schools are defying the original U.S. Supreme Court edict outlawing
organized, government-superintended prayer in the public schools.
The prayers continued in schools in Birmingham, Alabama, in North
Carolina (39 of the state's 100 counties continue with prayer), in
Greenville, Mississippi, in New Orleans (where a recording of Kate
Smith singing the lord's prayer was played over the intercom every
morning until a recent objection stopped it), in Gortner, Maryland. It

became apparent in the survey that religious teachers or principals

insist on intruding religion into the schools and that they willcontinue
to do so until forcibly prevented.
This particular battle has been won, but the war has not been
concluded. The religious willbe back as many times as they need to
come back in order to force their opinions and their prayers on all. A
few determined people can hold the fort. This is the lesson implicit in
what happened in the U.S. Congress during the month of March. The
religious had plotted their course for several years for this single test.
Those who opposed them were put in a defensive position and the
entire job was one of holding the line where the Murray-O'Hairs had
won it back in June, 1963.
All the lessons are obvious.

The vote on the prayer amendment:

98th Congress, 2nd Session

Defeated, March 20, 1984
Yeas (56)
James Abdnor, S.Dak.
William Armstrong, Colo.
Howard Baker, Tenn.
Thad Cochran, Miss.
Alfonse D'Amato, N.Y.
Jeremiah Denton, Ala.
Robert Dole, Kan.
Pete Domenici, N.M.
John East, N.Car.
Jake Garn, Utah
Charles Grassley, Iowa
Orrin Hatch, Utah
Paula Hawkins, Fla.
Chic Hecht, Nev.
Jesse Helms, N.Car.
Gordon Humphrey, N.Hamp.
Roger Jepsen, Iowa
Robert Kasten, Wis.
Paul Laxalt, Nev.
Richard Lugar, Ind.
Mack Mattingly, Ga.
James McClure: Ida.
Frank Murkowski, Ak.
Donald Nickles, Okla.
Charles Percy, Ill.
Larry Pressler, S.Dak.
Dan Quayle, Ind.
William Roth, Del.
Alan Simpson, Wyo.
Ted Stevens, Ak.
Steven Symms, Ida.
Strom Thurmond, Ida.
John Tower, Tex.
Paul Trible, Va.
Malcolm Wallop, Wyo.
John Warner, Va.
Pete Wilson, Cal.

Page 42

Lloyd Bentsen, Tex.
David Boren, Okla.
Robert C. Byrd, W.Va.
Chiles Lawton, Fla.
James Exon, Neb.
Wendell Ford, Ky.
Howell Heflin, Ala.
Ernest Hollings, S.Car.
Walter Huddleston, Ky.
Bennett Johnston, La.
Russell Long, La.
John Melcher, Mont.
Sam Nunn, Ga.
William Proxmire, Wis.
David Pryor, Ark.
Jennings Randolph, W.Va.
Jim Sasser, Tenn.
John Stennis, Miss.
Ed Zorinsky, Neb.

Nays (44)
Mark Andrews, N.Dak.
Rudy Boschwitz, Minn.
John Chafee, R.I.
William Cohen, Me.
John Danforth, Mo.
David Durenberger, Minn.
Dan Evans, Wash.
Barry Goldwater, Ariz.
Slade Gorton, Wash.
Mark Hatfield, Ore.

June, 1984

John Heinz, Penn.

Nancy Kassebaum, Kan.
Charles Mathias, Md.
Bob Packwood, Ore.
Warren Rudman, N.Hamp.
Arlen Specter, Penn.
Robert Stafford, Vt.
Lowell Weicker, Conn.
Spark Matsunaga, Haw.
Howard Metzenbaum, Ohio
George Mitchell, Me.
Daniel Moynihan, N. Y.
Claiborne Pell, R.I.
Donald Riegle, Mich.
Paul Sarbanes, Md.
Paul Tsongas, Mass.
Max Baucus, Mont.
Joseph Biden, Del.
Jeff Bingaman, N.M.
BiII Bradley, N.J.
Dale Bumpers, Ark.
Quentin Burdick, N.Dak.
Alan Cranston, Cal.
Dennis DeConcini, Ariz.
Alan Dixon; III.
Christopher Dodd, Conn.
Thomas Eagleton, Mo.
John Glenn, Ohio
Gary Hart, Colo.
Daniel Inouye, Haw.
Edward Kennedy, Mass.
Frank Lautenberg, N.J.
Patrick Leahy, Vt.
Carl Levin, Mich.

The American Atheist


Iwas quite surprised - no, even shocked
- to find in the December American
Atheist the use of "a. d." (anno domini, "in
the year of our lord") and "b.c." (before
The accepted secular terms are "c.e."
(common era) and "b.c.e." (before common
era). They are widely used in the multi.religioned Middle East wherever English is
used, and Americans of all beliefs would be
wise to adopt them as well.
Josh Karpf
New York
All our reference works define "common
era" as "christian era," so we don't see how
"c.e." and "b.c.e." would be better than
"a.d." and "b.c." In fact, those terms might
be worse since they Imply that acceptance
of the jesuchrist's existence and signifi
cance is common and worldwide.
We don't like "b.c." and "a.d." any more
than you do. See the letters to the editor
section of the April issue of American
Atheist for more on this subject.

The purpose of this letter willbe to inform
you that there are members of the religious
community in this country who support you
in your efforts to separate the church from
the state. Iam just such a person! Iam a
born- again christian, and I praise god for
you, but curse the devil for Jerry Falwell!!!I
saw you make an appearance on the
"Cherington" talk show recently, in which
you made some very good points. The men
who supposedly were representing the
christians were the poorest excuse for a
debating team Ihave ever seen! When Isee
Austin, Texas

men like them and Falwell, I don't have to

wonder for long why there are Atheists. I
can assure you that these people are not
spreading the true message of christ.
The first topic I would like to address is
that of the school prayer amendment, Res.
73. I am 100% opposed to the passage of this
perversion of the Constitution and god. I am
opposed to it on both religious and civil
The holy bible teaches that prayer is to be
done in its proper place. This means that we
should not pray for the purpose of being
seen. To do so is a perversion of the sacred
practice. Prayer is to be a time of private
communication between a person and their
god. To make a show of this is not a christian
ideal as Falwell would like to believe.
The bible also teaches that we should do
unto others as we would have them do unto
ourselves. I would not want a teacher of the
islamic faith encouraging my children to face
Mecca, "voluntary" as it might be!
Iam opposed to it on civil grounds in that
the amendment takes away rights that the
children of this already have. They may pray
on their own at the present time. However, a
teacher or administrator may not lead them
or encourage the prayer. This is the way it
should be! Res. 73 would only prohibit the
United States or a state government from
controlling the prayer to be said. This does
not prevent a teacher, administrator, school
board, or local government from doing so.
This is a kangaroo law!!! There is also one
way that the federal and state governments
could have control. Any school district that
does not have prayer as a matter of policy
could find that their money is suddenly cut
The amendment states that the prayers
would be voluntary. This is a joke!!! Peer
pressure willnot go away simply because we
forbid it in an amendment. If this were
possible, then we would no longer have
racial, sexual, and religious discrimination in
this country because of the Civil Rights Act.
As you know, these are still very common.
Friendships willbe destroyed, girls willbe
kicked off the cheerleading squad, and boys
will lose the starting quarterback spot
because of this amendment. A student who
does not wish to pray could also find that
his/her grades are starting to fall. A teacher
willknow who is praying and who isn't. Allof
this is "voluntary'?
Another topic that I see as being of great
importance is the practice of cities using tax
money to construct nativity scenes on
public property. As Iam sure you know, the
Supreme "Reagan" Court decided this
week that this is not a violation of the First
Amendment. This is wrong!!! I would not
want my tax money going to build a statue to
Mohammed! The court said that the reason
June, 1984

why the practice is all right is because it has

no religious meaning. They said that in effect
the birth of christ is not a sacred event and
therefore the nativity scene has no more
meaning than the lights and other cornmercial trash. This should by no means be
considered a victory by anyone who believes in the virgin birth. I am shocked that
the "Moral Majority" and other groups can
say that this is what they want! A private
individual or church has any right to
construct such a structure.
I thank you and your organization for
protecting the rights of all Americans.

The cover of American Atheist, Nov.
1983 pointed up important motives for
maintaining an active membership in this
organization. I am a human being and I
accept the responsibilities that implies. The
statement by Madalyn Murray O'Hair about
what an Atheist is, and a human being
should be, printed on the reverse side of the
cover, sums it up very well.
But in the letter and editorial "Reply to a
Small Town Atheist" overriding issues were
neglected. Noting that today in Lebanon,
Iran, Ireland, Central America - yes and in
Afghanistan - people are killing each other
over religious issues, how could you possibly omit the dangers inherent in emotions
aroused by ancient and modern superstitions? Even a casual look at history
reveals that conflicts, tyranny, torture and
suppression of knowledge are inevitable
when religious leaders gain power.
More, however, should be said about
Reason versus Emotion. It is not inconceivable that an Atheist could become
bigoted and emotional to the extent that he
becomes as dangerous as an ayatollah
Khomeini. How else can we explain Soviet
belligerence? On the other hand human
emotions have positive values too. Without
them we would not have Beethoven symphonies, Van Gogh sunflowers, New York
skyscrapers or the precious love of a
mother for her baby. It is a balance between
Reason and Emotion that we must strive for
in our personal lives. But in dealing with the
heavily charged subject of religion, or
Atheism, the dispassionate intellect must
Harry R. Le Grand

Page 43


I often hand out Atheist brochures in New
York City and thought I might share that
experience with our readers (in the hope
that other Atheists willfollow suit).
When meeting the public directly one
finds that the only problem encountered is
convincing the typically suspicious pedestrian that you are handing out quality
literature he would really like to read. Many
pedestrians have been conditioned (by
numerous encounters with the religious, I
suspect) to think that pamphlets offered to
him on religion will contain the same
christian propaganda he has heard at least a
hundred times before. I find if you spend
several hours on the same corner word gets
around that "An Atheist is offering literature," and people become less hesitant and
enthusiastically take the literature.
Initially I was afraid of the inevitable
encounter with your standard religious
fanatic (who believes it is his duty to be rid of
me). Meeting such religious fanatics is the
best encounter you can possibly have.
Because our literature is taken as a direct
assault on his beliefs, he proceeds to scream
and rave on the "horror" of our position.
Instead of scaring people away he does you
a much welcomed favor. Pedestrians who
tended to take you casually and avoided a
pamphlet now rush to you in groups to read
the "devilish" literature that instigated the
Such has been my experience.
Arttie Gomez
New York

The style of writing in your magazine is
repetive (sic). An editor with a sharp eye and
a ready pair of sissors (sic) would be able to
reduce the whole thing by at least two
pages. It is also boring and trite. Compaired
(sic) to the majority of articles Bunyons (sic)
"A Pilgrams (sic) Progres (sic) is simulating
(sic). The only thing that could could (sic)
keep anyones (sic) interest is your Groucho
interview. Thirdly, it is insulting to' the
intellegence (sic). You proclaim "freedom of
Choise (sic)" and yet you blast everyone
who does not agree with you. The vatican
decree on nonbelievers was literete (sic),
tolerent (sic), and understanding - not
desiring to "eliminate" nonbelievers but to
understand them. You sound like a Hitler
who desires to destroy all believers, and
Page 44

while I know this is not so, it sounds so.

Can't you find an athiest (sic) who can write
a sound sentence without dragging it down
to drivil (sic)?
Kim M. Lord

I just received my second issue of American Atheist, although I officially have been
an Atheist since about 1966, when I severed
al\ ties with the russian' orthodox church
outside of Russia (while I was still a junior in
high school). In the March issue the key
sentence that caught my attention appeared
in Jeff Frankel's article on page 28: "Atheists, generally speaking, do not attempt to
convert others to Atheism." I agree with
Jeff, and would like to share with other
Atheists the hurdles faced by me when I
enter into a discussion about religion with
my friends.
I'm not talking about communicating with
a 90-year old grandmother who is "set in her
ways," but communicating with people who
psychological\y are most receptive to me by
virtue of their trust in me and our friendships. Religious topics suddenly turn my
peers in age (I am 35), and more important
my friends, into defensive, antagonistic
cornered animals. I, like Jeff, am very open
about Atheism and my mental awareness of
reality. The reason I get involved in religious
discussions with my peers is my alarm and
concern over the fact that they are now
subjecting their own children to involuntary
indoctrination, as was practiced on us by
our parents.
I always am confronted with the same
arguments: "Oh, you are so narrow-minded
that you can't accept our point of view." I tr~
to tell them that I have been in their shoes,
that I evaluated the religion of my parents
from a psychological and anthropological
perspective, that I. have disassociated myself from my culture to take a look at it as an
outsider, and I can't find any validity or
virtue in christianity or any other gods or
belief systems. I have even tried to convey to
iny friends in the most simplistic correlation
of what Atheism is: that Atheism is a state of
awareness and mental sophistication where
one becomes aware of the reality that
supreme beings are pure fabrication, sort of
like a child reaching that level of maturity
where he realizes that Santa Claus doesn't
exist. I am always confronted with the same
blank stare.
Their other argument is that they "have
read everything there is to read about other
June, 1984

religions" and they have become convinced

that their given religion is the "right way,"
and furthermore that their parents (regardless how they rebel\ed against them) were
right and meant wel\, and that is why they
are exposing their kids to the religion of their
ancestors. Further conversations
these friends reveals that their primary
source material on other religions has been
"stuff" authored and edited by that given
religion. It's a crueljoke: What good is it to
read about other religions by a catholic
press (as one isolated example)? Of course,
you will come away believing that catholicism is best! Instead, I ask them to go to the
library and take out shelves of books by
anthropologists and psychologists - they
never do. And, it's important for me to share
with al\ of you that these "friends" backed
away from reading these two first issues that
I have received from American Atheists.
You have to wonder, who is being narrowminded? Instead, at least, two people expressed their amusement about my "eccentricity": "Oh, Tanya, you always find the
most off-beat literature."
AI\ of this is amusing and yet you al\ will
also agree that it is very disturbing. How do
you convey to people that you are not trying
to convert them, that you have evaluated al\
the alternatives and that Atheism is the only
link with reality and rational thought? I hope
that this letter will inspire other Atheists to
share their own experiences about religious
discussions with others. Atheism is so misunderstood and is a target of defamation
and slander, and it is vital for us to pool our
mental resources to figure out a way of
communicating and conveying to the world
of religious indoctrinees what Atheism is all
about - not for the purpose of conversion,
but for the sheer desire to relate to others
what we are all about and what we stand for.
Tanya Mamantov
New York

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The American Atheist


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\ Gabriel Longo
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"Not one man in a thousand has the

strength of mind or the goodness of heart
to be an Atheist."
Samuel Coleridge (1772-1834)
English poet, critic, philosopher
(From a letter to Thomas Allsop, c. 1820)