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American Atheist

Spnng 1997


AJournal of Atheist News and Thought

I Love Lucy Apologetic Defenses


Bones & Boners at the Vatican

Piety & Sobriety Promise Keepers

And other items of interest to Atheists

, ..,.




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American Atheist

Spring 1997

A Journal of Atheist News and Thought

American Atheist

Edi tor's Desk

Frank R. Zindler
I Love Lucy!
Carole G~ay


A forgotten heroine of
Freethought is restored to
history and reveals an
unknown side of Lincoln.

(1) Lucy Colman, (2) Lucy speaking, (3) D.

M. Bennett, (4) Susan B. Anthony, (5) Lucy
and Sojourner visit Abe Lincoln, (6) Lucy
in bloomers with Charles Remond, (7) Amy
Post, (8) Sojourner Truth.

Coverdesign by
Carole Gray

An Epistle of
Brother Josiah
Josh Karpf

Piety Gets You Sobriety? 30

Ron Larsen


Underground atthe Vatican,

Catholics are venerating the
bones of chickens, pigs, and a
mouse, not St. Peter!

Hail Mary
Fran M. DeVenuto
When virginity is lost.

Apologetic Defenses
C. Dennis McKinsey




Thomas T. Wheeler

A Glimpse of the Invention

of Christianity
Christopher M. Drew

Austin, Texas

If there never was a Christ, how

did Christianity begin?
Spring 1997


A dangerous "paracult" is
threatening our secular society.
Will "Joel's Army" be called
up for duty?

Trying to Make a Case

for Faith Healing
Kevin Courcey

A Fable

Volume 35, No.2

More humor.

God's Mighty Men:

The Promise Keepers
Rise Up
Promise Keepers and the
Dominionist Mandate
"GodlyMen"with a
Dominionist Agenda
Conrad F. Goeringer

When missionaries come

calling, what are you going
to do? Call the Bible-Buster.

ab sekwe as

Alcoholics Anonymous is exposed

and secular alternatives are

Another Epistle of Brother

Josh Karpf


Of Bones and Boners:

St. Peter at the Vatican
Frank R. Zindler



An RN shows that a "proof' of

the efficacy of faith healing
actually proves the opposite.

Me Too


Talking Back


Letter to the Editor

Page 1

Membership Application For

American Atheists, Inc.

American Atheist
Volume 35 Number 2
Frank R. Zindler
Ann E. Zindler
Conrad F. Goeringer
Spike Tyson
Ellen Johnson
The American Atheist is published by
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Spring 1997

American Atheist

Editor's Desk

For the Sake of Sanity

Frank R. Zindler
Austin, Texas

eligious behavior is a sign of

failure. This is
one of the reasons religion is so
dangerous and constitutes so great a
threat to the survival of the human species. If we do not have an accurate perception of the problems facing us, how
can we expect to solve them? I forget who
it was that defined theology as 'systematized insanity'; and insanity it certainly
is when the pope, that guardian of what
in religion passes for thought, declares
that every sperm is sacred, that every
zygote is a person (but yet that acorns
are not oak trees), and that there is no
over-population problem in the world.
Purveyors of illusion surround us
and act untiringly to sever whatever
lines we tie to the world of reality. How
many more churches there are than public schools! How many more Sundayschool classes than science classes! Religiously disordered thinking clogs the
air waves, and both radio and television
are vast malarial swamps where dwell
the greatest thinkers of the seventh century alive today. Our supposedly secular Ship of State is deeply riddled with
the worms of religiosity and threatens
to capsize - even if the Evangelist-inChief who pilots it has enough lucid
moments to allow him to sail it past the
biggest rocks that threaten our passage.
On every side, magic is preferred to science, and childish fantasies and the
weeds of credulity threaten to pun up
the roots of reason.
On every shore that marks the
boundary between the sands of ignorance and the advancing sea of science,
there we find the priests and prelates
enthroned in solemn state - a multitude of petty Can utes of the hour, each
one commanding the advancing tide of
truth to stay and advance no further. Not
since the Christian Dark Ages has there
been more desperate need for sane and
sensible thinkers - and doers.
However feeble our efforts may seem
compared to the magnitude of the social
psychosis that confronts us, American
Atheist is dedicated to resist insanity and
those who promote it. It is dedicated to
Spring 1997

the task of speaking out for sanity. It is

not going to succumb to encephalitis
religiosus without one helluva fight.
In this issue, Carole Gray will tell
you about Lucy Colman, a nineteenthcentury Freethinker who fought against
the "divine institution of slavery," for the
liberation of women, and for the freedom
of the human mind. She did what we
must do today. You will catch an unflattering glimpse ofthe real Abraham Lincoln - an abolitionist not by design but
by necessity.
Conrad Goeringer will fill you in on
the Promise Keepers - a "paracultic"
group that plans to stage its own version of the "Million-Man March" this
October in Washington, D.C. At the bidding of its Dominionist and Christian
Reconstructionist masters, "J oe1'sArmy"
will be bivouacking on the Mall - and
American Atheists will be on the scene
to sound the alarm.
Dennis McKinsey's "Apologetic Defenses" will give you useful information
on how the defenders of the faiths go
about their argumentation,
what their
major strategies are, and what you can
do to disarm them. Some may even be
capable of rehabilitation
when shown
the errors in their thinking. Christopher
Drew will give you some idea of how this
enervating pestilence may have begun.
My own research on the supposed relics
of St. Peter in the Vatican basement will
show you one more example of how religion deceives people as a means to legitimate itself and hold on to power.
Ron Larsen's expose of Alcoholics
Anonymous should be of great value not
only to readers who have alcohol or drug
problems, but to all Americans who wish
to preserve the wall of separation between state and church. Kevin Courcey's
demolition of a piece of research alleged
to show the healing power of faith may
serve as a model for persons wishing to
fight back against the recent willingness
to accept superstitions of all sorts into
the healing professions.
I think v. L!
much of value in the pages t.r.~'.1 lie before you. Enjoy. Then act.


Page 3


Carole Gray is an Atheist freelance writer who lives in Columbus, Ohio. She is the author of a
magisterial book, yet unpublished, on the history of Atheism,
Nineteenth Century American
Women of Free Thought. She also
is the author of a number of
Atheist-Freethought calendars.
This article is an excerpt from
her book.

Carole Gray
Page 4

From 1824 to 1830, a revival of

admit it: I'm a Lucy fan! Whether
~!: feeding
a starving
Calvinistic religion swept over New
comforting a wounded soldier in England, with its doctrine of predesthe hospital, arguing for the right of tination which included believing that
women to be equal citizens with men,
some men and women were "saved"
or using their own book to defeat reli- from birth while others were congionists who wished to keep Africandemned. Lucy was puzzled to underAmericans in slavery and women as stand the benefit of such a revival if
property, Lucy consistently revealed
human beings were "elected" to be
her great empathy with the downtrodsaved from birth; for how could a
den of every age, sex, and race.
person's repentance matter if it was
The Lucy I am writing about is predetermined that they were to burn
Lucy Colman - one of the great heroin hell?
ines ofthe nineteenth century, who has
Lucy observed the religious bodbeen all but forgotten in our time. This
ies of her community for a clue as to
must be remedied, as Lucy was one of their divine calling, but found that the
the most forward-looking women of Presbyterians
hated the Unitarians,
that age in her views on civil rights.
Methodists hated the Episcopalians,
One hundred years passed from the
and all hated the Universalists.
time Lucy began advocating school inThe Universalists,
she learned,
tegration before it became law; seventy
taught that with Jesus' death, all the
years passed before women were con- debts of sin were paid and all people
sidered citizens, and some of Lucy's
would go to heaven upon death. For
causes have yet to be realized as pub- this, the other religious organizations
lic opinion slowly advances to her level called them Infidels, for what was reof social consciousness.
ligion without a burning hell and a
Lucy Danforth
was born in devil? Lucy, being in her teens at the
Sturbridge, Massachusetts on 26 July,
time, was so happy to find a religion
1817. Even in her youth, Lucy questhat did not send the majority of people
tioned the religion she was taught,
to a fate of fire that she enthusiastiasking her mother why, if god was
cally joined the Universalists.f
good, he caused little children to be
In 1835, at eighteen, Lucy married
born into slavery. The only thing she another Universalist,
John Davis.f
could imagine worse than slavery was and moved to Boston, Massachusetts.
burning forever in a pit of fire in hell.
Lucy finally had the opportunity to
She was told to read her bible for clariexpand her intellect in the new enviIt was not long, however,
fication, but only found confusion. She ronment.
turned to her aunt, who by this time
before her husband contracted conhad taken over the role of parent after
sumption and, after four years with
the death of Lucy's mother, and asked
the disease, he died in 1841, leaving
why it was that the god of the bible her a widow at the age of twenty-four.
In 1843 she married again, becom"used such filthy words, and what was
the good of such laws, and why woman
ing Lucy Colman, and her only child,
was required to do things that were
Gertrude, was born in 1845. Lucy did
wrong in the nature of things."! Her
not realize the full extent of woman's
aunt told her, "I don't know; put away
legal slavery to men, for her husband,
the bible till you are older; read the in his kindness to her, did not enforce
Psalms and the New Testament."
his lawful rights with her. As she beSpring 1997

American Atheist

gan to study and learn the laws involving wives' slavery to husbands, she
could not help but compare their constricted rights with those of the slave.
She puzzled over what she personally could do to help both women and
slaves, for she knew that society was
taught by the churches that women
were not to speak in public, but to go
to their husbands with any questions
they might have, and so she felt that
society would not allow her to speak
against slavery by sex and race. Still,
she was determined, and in 1846 she
began her career of work for the emancipation of slavery in all its forms.
In 1852, when Lucy was 35, her
husband, an employee of the railroad
company, was killed in an accident. Of
the funeral, Lucy reported, "I was at
that time a Spiritualist. I had given
up the Church, more because of its
complicity with slavery than from a
full understanding of the foolishness
of its creed. The Universalist and the
Unitarian churches were offered for
the funeral, but I did not accept their
use. I was no longer in sympathy with
After Lucy was turned away from
employment at the railroad company,
the post office, and a printing company
- simply because she was a woman she turned to teaching to earn a living
for herself and her young daughter.
She received $350 a year for the same
position in which a man received $800
a year. When she was offered the "colored school" in Rochester, New York,
she accepted the position, with a private agenda of closing down the school.
Lucy was a fighter for the emancipation of the slave, and hated discrimination of any kind. The thought
that innocent children were being discriminated against through segregation was repugnant to her. She encouraged the parents to remove their children from her school and enroll them
in their own district schools. Within
one year she had succeeded in her
goals and the school ceased to exist.
The school suffered a quiet death, with
no newspaper reports recording its demise - which was perhaps fortunate.
This prevented a social outcry against
her efforts. Unfortunately, she had deAustin, Texas

stroyed her own

job in the meantime-although to
one of Lucy's mental commitment
to equality, this
was the price that
she had no choice
but to pay.
While teaching at the colored
school, Susan B.
Anthony (who at
the time
as a
than full-time for
women's rights)
. had obtained permission
for a
woman to present
an essay at the
State Convention
of Teachers
New York. She
asked Lucy to prepare the paper to
Lucy had caused a
stir in her local teacher's meetings by
opposing corporal punishment and
urging the cessation of use of the whip
on children. Although afraid of speaking in public, Lucy read her paper, and
it caused a huge sensation.
In the paper, Lucy urged the abolition of corporal punishment in the
schools, and influenced many to discuss the subject. One teacher, a minister, asked, "What will you do with
the words of the wisest man, Solomon,
'spare the rod and spoil the child'?"5
She told him that the civilization of
the nineteenth century had outgrown
Solomon. She was met with complete,
stunned silence. Then the hisses came,
and the shouts of "She is an Infidel!"
A member of the audience accused her
of trying to take away the bible, to
which Lucy replied, "If your Bible is a
bundle of rods, or a license for adultery, the loss of it will be a blessing."6
Although Lucy had been nervous
at the thought of public speaking, she
was so angered at the comments ofthe
audience that she forgot her fears.
When the audience insisted on quesSpring 1997

tioning her views of the bible, Lucy
asked if it would not be better to discuss the theme of her paper rather
than the author's religious beliefs. So
intense was the discussion that the
meeting continued until 11 o'clock that
Lucy's "punishment"
for her
speech was to be placed in the most
difficult school in Rochester, consisting of a class of all nationalities in a
small classroom. Included were two
assistants, each with a whip in hand
to correct the students. The first thing
Lucy did was to take the whips away
from the assistants, with the explanation that as senior teacher, she would
do any whipping that needed to be
done. Of course she did not use the
whip, and had no trouble in managing the children, but the whip was not
abolished in the other classrooms.
Despite Lucy's success in controlling her students without the use of
the whip, she remained the only outspoken champion for the abolition of
corporal punishment in the New York
sate public schools until the Rev.
Page 5

Samuel J. May, a liberal, became

chairman of the Syracuse Board of
Education and abolished the use of the
whip in that district. Mr. May, a Unitarian, believed in equal rights for the
sexes and races.
Lucy found the wide difference in
salary between what she received and
what male teachers received intolerable, and she determined
to leave
Rochester. This was not a difficult decision, as, because of her efforts and
reputation, she was not popular with

to her amusement,
that the "holy
people" who were told to "love thy
neighbor," began raising such shouts
against her dress, and her activity of
walking with a black man, that it was
"as though the 'fabled pandemonium'
had broken 100se."7
She and her good friend Amy Post
attended the annual convention ofthe
Western Anti-Slavery Society in Michigan, staying with an African-American family who were, at that time, also
entertaining three escaped slaves.

own salary through passing the hat at

She did so well that the
American Anti-Slavery Society, headquartered in Boston, asked her to work
for them, and paid her a small salary,
as well as her expenses. Lucy traveled to places no other speaker would
go and, when the collection plate was
low, went without eating or heat.
Lucy went on to lecture in various
towns in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania,
and New York. Speeches by abolition-

"Areligion that has a personal God, outside of humanity, to

worship and to please.js quite apt to get appointed an
official to regulate the people, and particularly to execute
punishment adequate to the offense committed against an
Infinite Ruler of the universe."
the other teachers and administrators.
Her efforts and experiences made
Lucy all the more determined to work
for the emancipation of the slave, and
after the closing of the colored school
she decided to devote herselffull-time
to work in the cause of the abolition of
slavery. To facilitate this new career,
she asked her father and aunt to live
with her, knowing that her aunt would
watch Gertrude while Lucy worked.
Her first lecture was delivered in
a Presbyterian church near Rochester,
and was pronounced a success. At this
time, Lucy was a member of the Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society, and
was sent by them to Boston with their
contribution for the annual fair to be
held to raise money for their cause.
Lucy, a rebel in many ways, was, at
this time, wearing the bloomer fashion, that is, a dress falling a little below the knee with pantalets made of
the same material. After dropping off
her goods at the Boston Fair, Lucy was
returning to her place of temporary
residence escorted by Mr. Charles
Remond, a famous African-American
orator and abolitionist. Passing the
Old North Church just as the parishioners were exiting, Lucy found, much
Page 6

Although Lucy and Amy were both

Spiritualists as this time, they were
dismayed at the convention to find
that the talk kept returning to spirits,
and how the spirits would soon emancipate the slaves. Lucy and Amy found
this too much like the Christian sects
that promised god would emancipate
the slaves, and refused to make a human effort in that direction. Luckily,
however, Lucy and Amy became acquainted with the Infidel Henry De
Garmo, who introduced them to the
Boston Investigator and The Liberator,
much to their delight. They also met
Marius Robinson, the editor of the
Antislavery Bugle who had been set
upon by a mob, tarred and feathered,
and left to die for speaking on abolition in Ohio. This little group returned
to the convention determined to return
its focus to abolition rather than Spiritualism, and thus Lucy found another
source of enemies in her growing list
of those opposing her viewpoints - the
As a result of her efforts during
the convention, however, Lucy was
appointed an accredited agent by the
Western Anti-Slavery Society, but had
to pay her own expenses and make her
Spring 1997

ists at this time were frequently rowdy

occasions, and Lucy endured the malicious misrepresentation
of her statements in the press, as well as the heckling of the crowds to deliver her message of the equality of all people.
Lucy reported that everywhere
she traveled, it seemed that the ringleaders of the groups who attacked the
abolitionists were ministers.f
Lucy proudly declared that she had
"seen a number of mobs, [and] have
been honored by being mobbed for the
slaves' sake three separate times." She
wrote, "A religion that has a personal
God, outside of humanity, to worship
and to please, is quite apt to get appointed an official to regulate the
people, and particularly
to execute
punishment adequate to the offense
committed against an Infinite Ruler
of the universe. Humanity so likes
authority, it seems sometimes as if it
gloated upon the sufferings of its fellows."?
Lucy faced the double ignominy of
not only being an abolitionist, but a
woman. At one time, to discredit her,
a minister spread the rumor that she
had been seen with single man under
a bedcloth twice. Lucy forced the man
American Atheist

to appear with her before an audience

her only child, Lucy fell into a depresalthough Lucy noted that previous to
to explain that she and the single man
sion in which she simply wanted to die. the Civil War it had avoided any menhad been in a wagon on their way to a A friend told her about a position in tion of the sins of slavery. Its members
opposed Lucy's involvement in the Vilspeech at the time, and the bedcloth,
Washington, D.C., as matron in the
a quilt belonging to the family where
National Colored Orphan Asylum,
lage because of her reputation as an
Lucy was staying, had been over their
thinking that once Lucy learned of the Infidel; but Captain Carse, who felt
legs as a means of keeping off the chill conditions there, she would put aside
Lucy was a good influence on the
air. The minister was properly cha- her personal grief in indignation to newly freed slaves, was able to circumgrined and tried to explain he had
help the young residents contained
vent their efforts to keep her out, and
meant his accusation only as a joke.
At another time, a minister rose
Lucy went to Washington
after one of Lucy's speeches to say that
found that the poor little homeless
Lucy must have weak morals, for she children were under the rule of a
ignored the commands of the bible by woman teacher who deliberately
uncovering her head and speaking in starved and abused them, and Lucy
public. Lucy asked her attacker if he resolved to end the woman's reign at
considered himself a good Christian,
the Asylum. This teacher was so poputo which he indignantly replied "Of lar with the directors of the Asylum
course I do. I am a Christian, and I do that any complaint
by a matron
not wish to be insulted by such a quesagainst her had resulted in the distion." Lucy replied, "No insult was in- missal of the matron.
tended, sir. I knew you were a very
Lucy found that of the eighty chilignorant man, but I did suppose you dren housed in the Asylum, ninety
knew something of the Bible laws in percent were ill, and all were infested
reference to your own sex, as you were
with lice. She told the teacher that also familiar with the laws by which I though she might control the children
should be governed. You come into a in the classroom, Lucy would rule outmeeting of mine, and insult me with
side of it. When the teacher forbade
your charges, with your face as smooth
the children to eat from the fruit trees
as a woman's; and your Bible says,
outside the Asylum walls, Lucy told
'Thou shalt not mar the corners of thy them to eat any fruit which had fallen
beard' - you have cut yours all off." to the ground.
When the man vehemently denied any
Enlisting the help of a friendly
such passage being in the bible, Lucy army surgeon, Lucy worked to restore
opened the book and read the comment
the children's health. Harriet Tubman
to the audience, and thus another
also helped rid the Asylum offilth; but
heckler was silenced.
sickness, starvation and parasites took
Lucy later wrote, "Once engage in many of the children's lives before all
the dirty work of injuring one who does the changes could be made. Lucy finot believe in your creed, and the work nally convinced the directors of the
grows apace; and worse than all else, home to discharge the teacher responshe worked with the residents, teachsuch persons come to think they are
sible for the condition of the children.
them health care. In addition to
really doing God a service for which
Lucy next became a teacher in
working in the Orphan Asylum and
they shall merit and obtain a high seat
another "colored school" in GeorgeFreedman's Village, Lucy also worked
in heaven."lO
town, and went on to become Super. In 1862, her daughter, Gertrude,
intendent of all the schools in the dis- extensively in the hospitals, soothing
the soldiers.
now seventeen, entered the New En- trict. In this role, she conscientiously
At this time, Sojourner Truth, that
gland Woman's Medical College.
visited each school every week, preachfamous black freedom-fighter, was a
Within three weeks she was dead of ing cleanliness in place of the verbal
resident of the Village. Her one great
one of the many ailments which at the
pleadings and prayers which would
wish was to meet the Abolition presitime made life so precarious. The fu- avail them nothing.
dent, Abraham Lincoln. She supposed
neral services were performed by
Lucy became very involved in the
Frederick Douglass and, although
Freedman's Village in Washington, of that she could simply walk into the
Lucy did not want a minister included,
which her friend, Captain Carse, was White House and make his acquaintance, but found it was not that easy.
a friend of the family who was a Uni- Superintendent. The American Tract
So she asked Lucy for help in securversalist minister, did say a few words.
Society, a group distributing religious
ing an interview. Lucy knew Mrs.
Having lost two husbands and now tracts, was prominent at the Village,


Mr. Lincoln was not

himself with this colored woman; he had
no funny story for
her, he called her
aunty, as he would
his washerwoman,
and when she complimented him as the
first Antislavery President, he said, 'I'm
not an Abolitionist; I
wouldn't free the
slaves if I could save
the Union in any
other way
obliged to do it."

Austin, Texas

Spring 1997

Page 7

Lincoln's dressmaker, who was black,

and was able to obtain an appointment
for eight o'clock one Saturday morning. The two women arrived promptly
at eight o'clock, only to wait until 11:30
before their names were called to see
the president. While they were waiting, another black woman had entered
the waiting room, and asked if she
might accompany Sojourner and Lucy
to see Lincoln, as she a had very pressing reason to speak to him.
Even after being admitted
Lincoln's office, however, the women
had to wait while he. told one of his
funny stories to a group of business
men there to request the release of one
of their kind charged with trading with
the rebels. Once they left, Lucy introduced Sojourner to the President, but
"Mr. Lincoln was not himself with this
colored woman; he had no funny story
for her, he called her aunty, as he
would his washerwoman,
and when
she complimented
him as the first
Antislavery President, he said, 'I'm not
an Abolitionist; I wouldn't free the
slaves if! could save the Union in any
other way - I'm obliged to do it'."ll
Lucy, insulted for Sojourner, told the
women they should take their leave,
but the President called her, and her
alone, back and asked her to take a
Lucy commenced reading the letter the woman she had met in the
waiting room had given her, concerning her husband, who was a soldier
fighting for the union. Although he
had served at the front for eleven
months, he had not yet received any
pay (and to Lucy's chagrin she found
that as a black soldier, he was paid the
measly sum of seven dollars a month),
and the family was destitute.
woman was pleading for help. According to Lucy, Lincoln said, " 'Tis a hard
case, but what can I do? I have no
more money than she has. Can't you
take her off my hands?"
"Mr. President," Lucy replied, "if
you will put upon this envelope the
words you have just repeated to me, 'I
think this a hard case, but what can I
do? I have no more money than she
has,' signing your name as the President of the United States, I will gladly
Page 8

relieve you of this woman." Lincoln

at once saw his inconsistency
wrote on the envelope, "I think this is
a worthy object. - Abe Lincoln."
It was evident to Lucy during her
interview with Mr. Lincoln that at this
time he was not happy that circumstances had made him the emancipator of the slave and that he believed
in the white race as being superior.
When Lincoln was assassinated
and Andrew Johnson became President, Sojourner returned to Lucy to
obtain her influence in meeting the
President. What a different reception
they had with President Johnson!
Johnson called Sojourner Mrs. Truth,
asked her to be seated, and refused to
sit down himself while she was standing. Throughout their interview, President Johnson accorded Sojourner, as
well as Lucy, every courtesy.
Through study and experience,
Lucy realized that Spiritualism was as
false as any of the more orthodox
creeds, and abandoned it, becoming a
"complete Agnostic."12 Lucy was a
consistent attendant of Freethought
conventions, being interested not only
in sexual and racial slavery, but to
mental slavery. She supported any reform that might help advance humanity.13 She wrote for the Boston Investigator and the Truth Seeker, as well
as for other freethought
Her efforts for freedom for women
included many daring acts, including
"making it my business" to walk the
streets alone at night after the Chief
of Police had forbidden the act to
women only. She complained when she
was not arrested, reporting that "as
men make the laws, I should not complain if they make them of such character as shall confine them to the
house in all hours necessary for their
good behavior. "15
Lucy was elected chairperson
three times of the Radical Club, comprised mainly of working class Freethinkers and organized by H.L. Green.
After serving in that position for two
years, she contracted smallpox and
was confined to the house for several
months in 1875. Without her leadership, the Club disintegrated.
Spring 1997

In 1878 she, along with her sister,

Dr. Raymond, began a freethought
group, calling it the "J. Stuart Mill
League of Syracuse," with twenty-two
Shortly thereafter,
Raymond, the last of Lucy's four sisters, died.
After losing the last member of her
family, Lucy thought ofD.M. Bennett,
editor of the Truth Seeker, and his
family as her own. In 1878, Bennett,
W.S. Bell, and Josephine Tilton were
arrested for selling "obscene literature," which at the time was anything
human reproduction.
Josephine's crime was that she had
brought and sold six hundred copies
of the controversial
book, Cupid's
Yokes, to a meeting of the New York
Josephine's mother, Lucy M. Tilton,
was a friend to Lucy and a fellow abolitionist. When she was offered bail,
Josephine at first refused, but finally
accepted it from Lucy. Lucy wrote of
the ordeal, "My life has been a busy
one, and I am tired through and
through. I hoped my public work was
done, but ...these arrests, one of them
of my own sex, have so stirred the dying embers into life that by the force
of their heat I am impelled again into
the field in opposition to tyranny in
this new form ..."16 Bennett and Bell
were also bailed out of jail, and although the three were brought to court
in 1878, the case was postponed and
never brought to trial.I?
When Bennett was arrested and
later imprisoned in 1879 after being
entrapped by the infamous fighter
against freedom, Anthony Comstock,
for selling so-called "pornographic"
materials, Lucy did all in her power
to help him. She wrote letters for publication encouraging donations to his
Defense Fund. Calling him "a man
who wields a mighty influence for freedom and justice, and against superstition and tyranny," who has "declared
for freethought, free speech, and free
mails,"18 she compared him to William
Lloyd Garrison, the famous abolitionist whom she had seen flee to the Boston jail to hide from a mob determined
to kill him for speaking against slavery. Like Garrison
and Abner
American Atheist

Kneeland, another victim of the blasphemy laws, she reported

Bennett's imprisonment
made her
blood kindle.Jf
This did not interfere with her
woman's rights activities. In 1878,
Lucy was on the executive committee
of the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), and was appointed
to the Committee on Resolutions when
the group met for it's annual convention. When two of the resolutions were
challenged by her old friend and colleague Frederick Douglass, Lucy did
not allow friendship to stand in the
way of principle. The resolutions read:
Ninth - Resolved, That as the
duty of every individual is self-development, the lessons of self-sacrifice
and obedience taught women by the
Christian church have been fatal not
only to her own highest interests, but
through her have also dwarfed and degraded the race.
Tenth - Resolved, That the fundamental principle of the Protestant
reformation, the right of individual
conscience and judgment in the interpretation of scripture, heretofore conceded to and exercised by man alone,
should now be claimed by woman, and
that in her most vital interests she
should not longer trust authority, but
be guided by her own reason.
Resolved, That it is through the
perversion ofthe religious element in
woman, cultivating the emotions at
the expense of her reason, playing
upon her hopes and fears of the future, holding this life with all its high
duties forever in abeyance to that
which is to come, that she, and the
children she has trained, have been
so completely subjugated by priestcraft and superstition.

Frederick Douglass, then U.S.

Marshall for the District of Columbia,
argued that self-sacrifice was a positive lesson for women to be taught. He
commented that as "the doctrine of
self-sacrifice was the soul of Christianity, and the soul of everything good,
he "Wouldbe in favor of amending this
clause [to remove the word "self-sacrifice"] in the resolution discussed."
Lucy stood and announced that
she wished to preach a short sermon,
and her text would be "Frederick
Austin, Texas

Douglass on Self-Sacrifice." She asked

why, if self-sacrifice was so wonderful,
Douglass had not sacrificed himselffor
the American Union?
Douglass replied that he had two
sons in the Union army and would
have been there himself but they
would not have him. Lucy replied that
she was not talking about the war, but
rather his slavery. If self-sacrifice - the
putting aside of one's own needs and
desires - was so wonderful, why did he
not practice this kind of humility by
remaining a slave? Douglass did not
respond. The resolution was adopted
without amendment.e?

The Christian church,
with its religion,
seems to me a blot
upon civilization."
Lucy continued her activities with
Freethought, serving as a vice president of the American Secular Union
(at least in 1890).21 In 1889, she was
asked by The Truth Seeker which she
found more dangerous, the Roman
Catholic Church or the National Reform Association, a group composed of
Protestants who were trying to rewrite
the Constitution to include references
to God and Jesus Christ and were promoting many other intrusions of religion into government as well. Lucy
answered "I do not know which is the
more dangerous to liberty - Romanism
or Protestantism.
Either is fatal if it
predominates. Parochial schools are a
menace, and the Bible in schools is an
insult. Our Sunday-schools are very
Which is most to be
feared I cannot tell. We need to use
great diligence as Freethinkers lest we
find ourselves imprisoned or even executed for expression of opinion." To
the question, "What is your opinion of
the Christian religion and the Christian church?" Lucy replied, "I wish to
bejust to all, but the Christian church,
with its religion, seems to me a blot
upon civilization."22
Spring 1997

Later, she elaborated

on her
thoughts, writing "... the Protestant
religion, in all its different creeds, is a
mild mixture compared to what it was
seventy years ago. And perhaps for the
reason that its hideousness is so nicely
covered, there is more need that Liberals be on the alert. Christianity is
the more dangerous when it gives its
attention to this life. Christianity demands entire subordination
to its
edicts, no matter that it keeps out of
sight the damnation of infants in another world, if it subjugates all children to its decrees by teaching them,
not only in Sunday-schools but in public schools supported by the public at
large, the doctrines taught in the
Bible. Until the majority ofthe people
are emancipated from authority over
their minds, we are not safe."23
Charles C. Moore, editor of The
Blue Grass Blade, wrote of her, "For
years hers was a familiar face and figure at each ofthe Freethought conventions, no matter where held, or the
distance that had to be traveled. Like
a Queen she came, proud of her position and happy in her thought, contented in her association with kindred
hearts and minds. Liberty was her one
watch-word, whether of body or mind,
and her only prayer was the spring of
human love ... In the course of time, by
actual experience, aided by reading
and study, Mrs. Colman became a radical Freethinker.
She was a faithful
and constant attendant at each and all
Freethought conventions, whereat the
writer of this sketch first met her and
became acquainted with her. She became equally opposed to white slavery
as to black slavery, and above all to
mental slavery. She became interested
in every living movement for progress,
reform and human advancement. She
became an ardent advocate of the
rights of both men and women. She
has mingled with the world, ever and
always presenting a character as spotless and as stainless as the polar
snows. She met and mingled with the
greatest men and women of the Nation, and took part in each and every
movement for reform."24
In 1891, at the age of 74, Lucy
wrote her Reminiscences, the fascinatPage 9

ing record of her life.

After a life filled with great
heights and great depths, and devoted
to the cause of obtaining equal rights
for all, regardless of race, sex, or age,
this great lady, Lucy Colman, went to
her rest at her home in Syracuse, New
York, on January 18, 1906, at the age
of 88.25 May her memory live on as
an inspiration to us all!

1Reminiscences, Lucy N. Colman, H.L. Green,

Pub., Buffalo, N.Y., 1891, p. 6.
2A Woman of the Century, 1470 Biographical
Sketches Accompanied by Portraits of Leading
American Women in All Walks of Life, Frances
E. Willard and Mary A. Livermore, Charles
Wells Moulton Pub., 1893, republished by Gale
Research Company, Book 'lbwer, Detroit, 1967,
~. 196.
400 Years of Freethought,
Samuel Porter
Putnam, The Truth Seeker Company, N. Y.,
1894, pp. 709-710.
4Reminiscences, p. 13.
5Reminiscences, p. 17
6Reminiscences, p. 18.
7"An Anti-Slavery
Colman, Lucifer, the Light-Bearer, Third Series,
Vol. v., No. 33, Whole No. 880, 8/3111901, p.
8400 Years of Freeth ought, pp. 709-710.
9Reminiscences, p. 54.
p. 22.
11Reminiscences, p. 67
12A Rationalist Encyclopedia, Joseph McCabe,
London, Watts & Co., 1950, p. 107.
13The Blue Grass Blade, April 10, 1909.
14A Biographical Dictionary of Freethinkers of
All Ages and Nations, J.M. Wheeler, Progressive Pub. Co., 1889, p. 84.
15"A Veteran Once More in the Field - A Letter from Lucy Colman," The Truth Seeker, October 12, 1878.
16"A Veteran Once More in the Field - A Letter from Lucy Colman,"
17Fifty Years of Freeth ought, Volume I, George
E. Macdonald, The Truth Seeker Company,
New York, 1929, pp. 228-229.
Free Love and Anarchism: The Biography of
Ezra Heywood, Martin Henry Blatt, University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago,
1989, pp. 67, 118.
18The Truth Seeker, June 21,1879.
19"A Veteran Once More in the Field - A Letter from Lucy Colman,"
20The National Citizen and Ballot Box, Vol. 3,
No. 5,August, 1878, p.l.
21The Ironclad Age, Vol. 35, No. 26, 9/6/1890.
22The Truth Seeker Annual and Freethinkers"
Almanac, New York, Truth Seeker Office, 1889.
23Reminiscences, p. 7.
24The Blue Grass Blade, April 10, 1909.
25Fifty Years of Freethought, Vol. II, George E.
Macdonald, The Truth Seeker Company, New

Page 10

An Epistle of Brother Josiah

By Josh Karpf

April 16, 1988

Preston R Tisch
General Postmaster
475 Lenfant Plaza Sw
(Washington DC Our
Capital !)
Dear General Postmaster,
Today I got a new kind off stamps.
I had to buy them but I
didnt want to. This is why.
your new stamps have a pretty pictur of a earth round like a
ball. I am a taxpayer and a Christian and I object.
Any dummy
knows that the earth is flat like a pancake. What else could it
be? Go outside your offise and look around and you will see that
the earth is flat like a pancake.
The bildings make it hard to
see but pretend they are strawberies and you will see what you
will see!! !!!
Saying the idea of a round earth is a very very big thret to
our nashion and its defense! Nucler missle fire UP. now if the
earth is round like a ball and the Russkies are on the other side
of the ball and they fire missles UP theyll fly off into
Heaven wher they will become a Mote in God's eye (Matthew 7:3)
and He will smite them down for being the Communist Atheist Scum
that they are as he did with Sodom and Gomorah. (Genesis 29:2425) Now sinse the earth is flat firing missles must fly SIDEWAYS
to Russia like airplanes. Not up. Or it will not work!!!!
Refuzal to reconize this has hurt badly our nashional security.
All U.S. missles point UP insted of sideways.
See now the danger of
seclar humanism in our schools. It makes postage stampps like yours
be made!
I am not a censer.
I beleeve in the First Amendement for all
Americans even if theyre being un American.
But I demand a stamp to
be made showing the real flat earth with corners like in the Holy
I will bet if President Reagan knew what you did he would be mad.
Some day he will mail a leter and youll be in it deep.
A Christian American!
Brother Josiah

American Atheists
presence in cyberspace
A catalog of American Atheist
Press publications can be accessed
at our WWW address and orders
can be placed on-line.
Spring 1997

American Atheist

The Probing Mind

Of Bones And Boners:

Saint Peter At The Vatican
Down in the Vatican
cellar, Catholics are
"veneratinq" the bones
of chickens, piqs, and
a mouse - in the belief
that they are the relics
of St. Peter. How this
fraudulent situation
came to be is a tangled
tale going back to
problems encountered
by Pope Pius XII
when he tried to find
a place to stash his

Pope Pius XII said in his Christmas radio message on Dec. 23, 1950:
"The essential question is as follows - has the tomb of St. Peter really
been found? The final conclusion of the work and studies answers
that question with a most clear yes. The tomb of the Prince of the
Apostles has been found. A second question, subordinate to the first,
concerns the relics of the saint: have they been found?" .. New investigations, most patient and accurate, were subsequently carried
out with the results that we, comforted by the judgment of qualified,
prudent, and competent people, believe are positive. The relics of Saint
Peter have been identified in a way we believe convincing ...
[W]ebelieve it our duty, in the present state of archaeological and
scientific conclusions, to give you and the church this happy announcement, bound as we are to honor sacred relics, backed by a reliable
proof of their authenticity...
[I]n the present case, we must be all the
more eager and exultant when we are right in believing that the few
but sacred mortal remains have been traced of the Prince of the
Apostles, of Simon son of Jonah, of the fisherman named Peter by
Christ, of he [sic] who was chosen by the Lord to found His church
and to whom He entrusted the keys of His kingdom ... until His final
glorious return.
Pope Paul VI, June 26, 19681

Formerly a professor of biology

and geology, Frank R. Zindler is
now a science writer. He is a
member of the American Association for the Advancement of
Science, the New York Academy
of Science, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the American
Schools of Oriental Research.
He is the Editor of American


Frank R. Zindler
Austin, Texas

own in the basement of the

Vatican, less than twenty feet
beneath the high altar of St.
Peter's Basilica, there is an ugly, graffiti-covered brick-and-plaster
Inside the wall there is a rectangular
cavity containing
nineteen clear
Plexiglass boxes filled with old bones,
some of which are claimed to be the
mortal remains ofSt. Peter himself. A
small breach in the wall allows two of
the boxes and their bony contents to
be seen through the open bronze work
of a gate set some distance in front of
the wall. Ten of the bones thus carefully preserved at this most holy focal
point in all of Christendom, however,
are "the remains of domestic animals
- goats, sheep, cows, swine, and a
ch.icken.f Scripture
tells us [Mk
14:30,72] that Peter denied his master thrice before the cock could crow
twice. Could this chicken be the remains of Peter's fabled cock?
Spring 1997

The presence of pigs at the most

sacred focus of a church such as St.
Peter's is startling, to say the least.
When we reflect that Simon Peter was
supposed to have been Jewish before
converting to Catholicism, the mixing
of his alleged remains with those of
swine cries out for an explanation.
None of the popes, however, has ever
even mentioned that pigs were being
venerated in their cellar - let alone
offered an explanation for this astounding fact. t3

tLuigi Cardini, who identified the numerous pig bones taken from the alleged grave
of Peter, noted that the combination of species was typical of "those which one normally finds in any rural area close to farm
houses and barns," adding that one "is induced to think that this locality was especially devoted to the rearing of hogs." The
perfect place to build the most famous
church in Christendom!
Page 11

One box contains the skeleton of

a mouse. Perhaps it is being kept as
the universal standard church mouse.
The rest ofthe boxes, stowed away to
await the Second Coming, contain
what arguably may be considered to
be the fragmentary remains of a man
who was over the age of sixty at the
time of his death.
The bones have been certified to
be the veritable remains of the Prince
of Apostles himself, St. Peter. That
these are the actual remains of St.
Peter we cannot doubt: a successor of
St. Peter, Pope Paul VI, confirmed the
fact - although he never made it clear
how the mouse bones and barnyard
cattle parts functioned in Peter when
he was alive. t4 Most precious among
the relics remaining of Peter's skeleton
in the Vatican are 29 fragments of one
of his skulls. (St. Peter's other skull,
equally precious, is preserved in a reliquary at the Cathedral of St. John
The skeleton and skulls now venerated as the remains of St. Peter are
not the only relics of the Prince of
Apostles to have been discovered by
the Roman Church, however. In 1949,5
Vatican archaeologists discovered a
different skeleton of the bony saint,
several yards away from the wall in
which the bones presently worshipped
reside. The bones were reported to
have been found in a ''hypogeum'' apparently a rough cavity hollowed out
at the base of a wall coated with red
plaster (the so-called Muro Rosso or
"Red Wall" against which the graffiticovered wall abuts, see Fig. 1). They
were reported to have been found in
"a sepulchral urn of plain terra cotta."
tIn 1968, Paul VI described this set of
bones as "once living members of Christ,
temples of the Holy Spirit, destined to glorious resurrection."
ttBack in 1910, a German scholar by the
name ofArthur Drews in a book titled Die
Petruslegende argued that St. Peter was a
mythical character, partly evolved from the
Roman god Janus - famous for his twofaced nature. Perhaps Drews was too conservative, having Peter be two-faced instead of two-headed! (My annotated English version of this book is being brought
out by American Atheist Press under the
title The Legend Of Saint Peter.)
Page 12

The bones were kept for fourteen

years by Pope Pius XII himself, in his
private apartment. Although he later
hedged somewhat concerning the authenticity of the bones, it is obvious
that privately he felt they were genuine. After all, his personal physician
Dr. Galeazzi-Lisi and several medical
experts had studied the bones minutely chez le Pape and had stated that
the bones were those of a man, powerfully built, who had been perhaps
sixty-five or seventy years old at
death." If that wasn't St. Peter, who
else could it have been?
A rather surprising answer to this
question was given by Venerando
Correnti," an anthropologist hired by
the Vatican in 1956 to study the pope's
prized bones - the ones found in what
Pius had certified to be the genuine
tomb of St. Peter. Correnti first suspected that something was amiss
when he pulled a third fibula from the
pile of bones the pontiff had been
hoarding for so long. Normal humans,
of course, have only two fibulas - one
in each leg. Then he discovered five
tibias to supplement the three fibulas.

This meant that he was dealing with

five to eight legs! Although Peter was
noted for his aquatic exploits - both
as a fisherman and a water-walkerhe was never mistaken for an octopus.
And so, Correnti quickly must have
realized the pope had been guarding
the remains of more than one person:
two men and an old woman, he finally
decided. The men were adjudged to
have been in their fifties when they
died, the woman in her seventies.
In addition to the human remains,
Correnti's collaborator Luigi Cardini
identified bones that once galumphed
around as hogs, sheep, and goats and some that scratched around as
Perhaps a fourth of the
bones extracted from the alleged authentic grave of Peter - fifty or sixty
fragments altogether'' - came from a
Roman barnyard instead of from the
shore ofthe Sea of Galilee. Unlike the
bones said to have been found inside
the graffiti-covered wall, the bones
actually taken from the "true tomb of
the Prince of Apostles" are not venerated. Quietly, they have been stashed
away in some secret location.






' meters

. Figure 1. Plan of the Red-Wall complex known as the Aedicula and alleged to be the Tropaion for Peter mentioned by a churchman named Gaius
around the year CE 200. Broken line indicates a small cavity (Uhypogeum")
below the plane of the drawing claimed by Pius XII to be the grave of St.
Peter. Dotted line indicates the cavity inside the graffiti wall (g) supposed to
have contained the bones of Peter. Dashed-and-dotted rectangle shows the
position of the present high altar twenty feet above the plane of the drawing.
Spring 1997

American Atheist

The mixing of sows and saints certainly creates a problem for Catholic
apologists. The presence of animal
bones mixed in with human bones can
easily be explained by a variety of believable hypotheses if St. Peter never
existed as a historical figure or if the
bones have nothing to do with an actual St. Peter; it is very difficult to
explain if any of the human bones discovered really are those of a historical
Prince of Apostles and first pope.
There are other problems too.
Why, for example, should the remains
ofthe most famous person in Catholic
history be stashed away in a grubby
hollow wall instead of being placed in
a magnificent
something looking like a tomb? (According to the sixth-century Liber
Pontificalis, the emperor Constantine
built the basilica at the site of the
"Temple of Apollo" and enclosed St.
Peter's body in a five-foot-high, cubical bronze structure,") Why is there no
carefully chiseled Latin inscription
Here Ues Saint Peter
Put Penance Pence in Pot
Amusingly, when Pope Paul VI
pronounced the relics authentic back
in 1968 he un wittingly highlighted
this fundamental deficiency by quoting the fourth century church historian Eusebius to the effect that the
tomb should have borne a label:
It is said that Paul was beheaded
by him (Nero) and Peter crucified at
Rome and the monuments inscribed
with the names of Peter and Paul still
testify to this and are still visited in
the cemeteries of the city of Rome.l?

Austin, Texas

We may note further

Eusebius speaks of cemeteries, not basilicas, as housing the "monuments"
of the apostles. Since Eusebius - so
intimate with the emperor - must
have known of the newly-built St.
Peter's Basilica in Rome but didn't say
anything about one of the monuments
being recently enclosed in it, the natural inference is that it was located elsewhere - ruling out the Vatican digs.
Moreover, when Eusebius wrote his
Theophania in CE 333 (well after the
completion ofthe basilica), he said that
the Romans had honored Peter "with
a splendid sepulcher overlooking the
city - a sepulcher to which come
crowds from all over the Roman Empire as though drawn to a great sanctuary and temple of God"" Again, no
hint that the tomb was inside a church.
And if it was, why did the modem excavators find a miserable unmarked
grave instead of "a splendid sepulcher"?
Despite the underwhelming appearance of the miserable structure
uncovered by the Vatican excavators,
Paul VI declared it to be not only the
"tomb" of St. Peter but the fabled
"Tropaion of Gaius" as well.
In his Ecclesiastical History [II xxv
6-7], Eusebius tells of an ecclesiastic
named Gaius who, around the year CE
200, was quarreling over who had the
best holy sites with a certain Proclus.
"Gaius," Eusebius writes, "in a written dialog with Proclus, the leader of
the Phrygians, says the following
about the places where the sacred relics of the apostles mentioned [Peter
and Paul] are deposited: 'But I can
point out the tropaia of the apostles;
for if you go to the Vatican or the
Ostian way, you will find the tropaia
of those who founded this church.'''
Even Catholic apologists agree
that Gaius was wrong about who
founded the Church of Rome, but they
still grasp at his allusion to the tropaia
of Peter and Paul. But what are
tropaia? Monuments? Graves? Tombs?
Memorials? Relics? Despite the arguments of Catholic apologists, from the
context of Gaius' argument
Proclus it is clear that tombs or graves
can be ruled out as meanings of
Spring 1997

tropaia, The Red Wall structure cannot be a Tropaion of Gaius.

Suspicious History Of
The Discoveries
On Monday, 22 August 1949, the
front page of The New York Times carried an article headlined "Bones of
Saint Peter Found Under Altar,
Vatican Believes." The subtitle stated
that the relics were "Reported to Be
in Urn Guarded by Pontiff." Written
by Camille M. Cianfarra, the article
announced that ''The bones of Saint
Peter, 'Prince of the Apostles,' who,
according to Christian tradition, was
crucified in Rome during the second
half of the first century AD., are understood to have been found less than
twenty feet below the pavement of St.
Peter's Basilica." Without noting any
contrast to honest, scientific, archaeological procedures, the article continued:
Vatican archaeologists
who directed the excavations have taken an
oath of secrecy and are therefore forbidden to confirm or deny the discovery. However, statements made over
a period of months by various persons in the Vatican are said to have
supplied enough circumstantial evidence that the remains of Saint Peter have been recovered in the hypogeum, or subterranean cell, where
tradition said he was buried.
This crypt was unearthed two
years ago in the course of secret excavations in the Vatican Grottoes.
The bones are being preserved in an
urn closely guarded by Pope Pius XII
himself, in the private chapel next
to his study, Vatican circles said.

the all-important
question of just where the holy bones
had been found, Cianfarra wrote that
"In the middle of the hypogeum Vatican archaeologists were understood to
have found a sepulchral urn of plain
terra cotta. In it there were bones. The
Pope ... was informed immediately and
visited the crypt, in complete secrecy,
after the doors of the Basilica had been
closed to the public."
Actually, the excavations had been
going on in secret for more than a decade when this story went to press.
Page 13

Several days after Eugenio Pacelli had

been elected PiU:s XII, in March of
1939, he ordered Msgr. Ludwig Kaas,
the "Secretary and Administrator for
the Fabric of Saint Peter's" - a sort
of glorified head janitor - to find a
suitable place in the cellar to bury his
predecessor, Pius XI.
Why the secrecy? Cianfarra explained:
Accordingto officialsthe reason for
keeping the discovery secret is that
the Pontiff, before making the announcement which, they said, will
certainly be of tremendous interest
for both Roman Catholics and nonCatholics, wants his archaeological
experts to gather proofs so incontrovertible that no one will be able to
challenge their authenticity. Accordingly, tests were said to have been
made, the nature of which was not
Of course, this was an admission
that discovery of truth was not the
guiding principle in the decade-long
The experts were "to
gather proofs" for predetermined conclusions, not go where the evidence
might lead. They had to make sure the
data were "cooked" properly - so that
"no one will be able to challenge their
authenticity." The Vatican proceedings
were no different than the "research"
done by creationists who sign an oath
declaring what they shall find if ever
they should carry out an investigation.
The pope was to wait until the end
of his jubilee year, 1950, before saying
more on the subject.
Strangely, when he did talk about the
bones he backed off from the position
everyone expected him to advance.
Reporting on the pope's Christmas
message broadcast on 23 December
1950, The New York Times quoted the
pope the next day:
The excavations ... at least inasmuch as they concern the tomb ofthe
Apostle (explorations which have
been the object of our thoughtful attention from the first months of our
pontificate), and their scientific examination have been brought to a
happy conclusion... Has the tomb of
Saint Peter really been found? 1b that
Page 14

question the answer is beyond all

doubt: Yes. The tomb of the Prince of
the Apostles has been found. Such is
the final conclusion after all the labor and study of these years ....
A second question, subordinate to
the first, refers to the relics of Saint
Peter. Have they been found? At the
side of the tomb remains of human
bones have been found. However, it is
impossible to prove with certainty
that they belong to the body of the
It was not until the following year,
however, that the Vatican published
the official account of its underground
activities. Printed in two great folio
volumes, the report was entitled Ex-

plorations Carried Out Under The

Confession Of Saint Peter In The
VaticanDuring The Years 1940-1949.12
the impressive appearance of this treatise, it can hardly
be considered a scientific report of the
excavations. It would not allow reconstruction of the discoveries as they
occurred. Despite the interesting photographs contained in these volumes,
it is an admitted fact that photographic "control" during the excavations was completely lacking. Since
some structures were destroyed in the
course of work, it is now impossible to
reconstruct the scenes confronting the
excavators as they worked.
Perhaps the biggest shock one gets
from these two tomes comes from the
almost complete lack therein of information on the bones or the circumstances of their discovery: no information on which ofthe four investigators
had found them, how many there
were, nor what they looked like. And
no mention of any terra cotta ossuary
urn. There are two diagrams which
show a spot labeled
0 for ossa
("bones"), roughly below the Muro
Rosso. In the text there is the off-hand
comment that "At the bottom of this
[niche at the base ofthe Red Wall] scattered and intermingled on the ground
were found some human bones which
were collected with care."13
In a personal memoir by one ofthe
the Jesuit Engelbert
Kirschbaum, we are told that "A heap
of human bones was found, as if exSpring 1997

pressly concealed in the earth, beneath

the Red Wall, at the spot where its
show the triangular
break. They lay in a heap, and to a
depth roughly, of 30 centimeters."14 A
footnote, however, tells us that "The
sketches in Esplorazioni. .. do not bring this out and require emendation." No corrected diagram is presented, leaving us with
nothing that even claims to show the
true discovery site and situation ofthe
Red-Wall bones.
Concerning the space in the graffiti wall- the cavity which today contains the Plexiglass-boxed relics from
Old MacPeter's Farm - the official
report notes only that "In this little box
we found remains of organic material
and of bones, intermingled with dirt,
a strip of lead, two strands of silver
thread, and a coin from the Viscounty
of Limoges, datable between the 10th
and 12th centuries."15
There is only one photograph of
these bones of contention in the Explorations report. Reprinted in nearly
every book written on the subject of
St. Peter's bones, it shows several human bones lying on the dirt inside a
crevice under the Muro
Rosso. Readers of the report can only
suppose that this is what the excavators saw when they first reached this
spot. But the photograph was faked.
A footnote in Kirschbaum's
reveals that "They [the Red-Wall
bones] had to be removed temporarily
from this spot before they could be
photographed. "16
What kind of archaeology is this?
Not only is there no minutely detailed
account of the layout and disposition
of the bones when they were discovered, there is instead a completely
false picture ofthe discovery! Instead
of being shown a picture of bones piled
up about a foot deep - thus indicating that this was not an original burial
- we see two or three bones lying on
the ground in what conceivably could
be an original burial. Just why is it
that the bones had to be removed before they could be photographed? Why
was this admitted so long after the
fact? Only nefarious reasons come to
mind as possible answers.
American Atheist

Although the official report gives

no useful information on the circumstances surrounding the discovery of
the bones under the Red Wall,
Kirschbaum, as we have seen, does
mention the subject several times in
his memoir The Tombs Of St Peter &
St Pau[17 and tries to account for the
fact that the bones were found piled
up, not scattered on the ground as
implied by the Explorations report and
the faked photograph. "It might be
surmised," he writes, "that scattered
remains had at one time been collected
and placed beneath the Red Wall. In
that case, anatomical investigation
would have showed that they belonged
to different skeletons. Medical examination, however, gave the contrary
verdict, i.e., that all these bones belonged to one and the same person.
That person was further described as
an elderly and vigorous man. The skull
is missing."
A dead ringer for St. Peter! Especially since it was believed that Peter's
skull was in a reliquary in the Cathedral of St. John Lateran. tIS But alas,
poor Engelbert! As we have seen,
Correnti's anthropological study of the
Red-Wall bones subsequently showed
that they were the remains of at least
three individuals (one of them a very
old woman) and included 29 skull fragments and some livestock parts. Moreover, Kirschbaum's comment that the
bones had been found in a small heap
- implying that they had been piled
up by someone - is at variance with
the original report, of which he was a
co-author. It had claimed that the
bones were found "scattered and intermingled on the ground." Both accounts contradict the report in The
New York Times indicating that the
bones had been in a terra cotta urn in

the middle of a hypogeum. Worse yet,

all three seem to contradict the pope's
comment that the original set of bones
was found "at the side of the tomb"!
What difference does it make
whether the bones were scattered or
piled up when found, exposed or enclosed in an urn or wall? A great deal,
as it turns out.
When Constantine built the old St.
Peter's Basilica over the surface of a
magnificent pagan cemetery ca. 320325 CE, numerous tombs and burials
were violated in the process. As the
supreme pontiff of the Roman religion,
Constantine could grant official pardon for this violatio sepuZchri. Even so,
care was taken to minimize the degree
of outrage committed. When his builders could not avoid disturbing a burial,
the bones were carefully stacked
within sarcophagi. But this respectful
procedure for dealing with the remains
of disturbed burials existed long before the time of Constantine, and was
clearly practiced at the time the socalled graffiti wall was built beside the
Red-Wall shrine alleged to mark the
site of St. Peter's burial. On the north
face ofthe so-called "Tomb ofthe Egyptians," one of the many tombs discovered beneath the floor of St. Peter's, a
pre-Constantinian, chest-like masonry
structure was discovered filled with
human bones, obviously the remains
of earlier burials reburied when the
tomb was built.I?
The mixtures of bones found by the
Vatican investigators - whether we
consider the bones found beneath the
Red Wall or in the cavity of the graffiti wall- can be explained simply as
bones unavoidably or unexpectedly
uncovered and collected by tomb builders.

More Suspicious History

tPope Paul also authorized Correnti to
examine the Lateran relic. In secret,
Correnti studied the fragments and expressed the opinion that "no conflict existed between the Lateran skull and the
graffiti wall bones." Not surprisingly, no
official or scientific report has ever been
published, nor has any explanation been
provided for the existence of two skulls of
St. Peter.
Austin, Texas

We have already seen that the

bories now venerated are those which
are supposed to have been found in the
cavity ofthe graffiti wall, not the bones
reported back in 1949 to have been
found in an urn at the base of the Red
Wall. Why is this? If the true grave of
the apostle is the cavity at the base of
the Red Wall, why did Pope Paul VI
Spring 1997

ignore the bones found in it and certify instead the bones associated with
the graffiti wall? In two words, the
answer almost certainly is "Margherita Guarducci."
Margherita Guarducci was a devoutly Catholic epigrapher engaged by
the Vatican in September of 1953 to
study the graffiti exposed over a decade earlier - including the graffiti
which covered the so-called "graffiti
wall." She decided that many of the
graffiti involved a Christian secret
code, revealing not only that the spot
had been frequented
(probably secretly) by Christians up to the time
Constantine built his basilica over it,
but also that a cult of Peter had existed there. Much of her "decipherment" is fanciful and fails to recognize
possible Mithraic significance in at
least some of the graffiti. (Abundant
archaeological finds attest the worship
ofMithra as well as the Great Mother
on the Vatican hill very close to the
site of the present church.j t)
Naturally, Guarducci concluded
that all these Petrine graffiti meant
she was close to a site of great significance to Peter-worshipers.
What else
could it be but Peter's grave, as Pius
XII already had concluded? Moreover,
one fragment of incised Red-Wall plaster seemed to clinch it. Written in tiny
Greek capital letters -letters no taller
than the capitals in the title of this
article - the graffito when whole (see
Fig. 2) is claimed to have read ITETPOC
ENI (Petros eni, "Peter is inside"). But
inside what? Were these tiny letters
on a big wall all there was to mark the
most important
tomb in all of
ttWe know that Mithra was worshipped
within yards of the Vatican high altar in
ancient times, and Mithraic graffiti could
be expected. Mithra, who also bore the
epithet of Rock (Petros in Greek), was a
keeper of the keys to the gates of heaven,
and the many key-shaped graffiti found by
Guarducci could apply to Mithra as well
as St. Peter. Moreover, the supposed ChiRho crosses interpreted as proof-positive
of Christian presence at the site could be
Mithraic as well. The symbol was used as
an abbreviation for Chronos as well as for
Christos. Chronos, the god of time, was a
popular embodiment of Mithra.
Page 15

Christendom? If they were inscribed

on the Red Wall, wouldn't it imply Peter was on the other side of the Red
Wall rather than below it? If Peter really was under the Red Wall as originally supposed, shouldn't the graffito
have been the Greek equivalent of"Peter is below" instead of "Peter is inside"?
The plaster fragment had been
discovered by Antonio Ferrua, one of

article written for La Cioilta Cattolica,

and did not relinquish the piece to the
Vatican until 1957.21
As is often the case with evidence
adduced to support religious claims,
one has to use a bit of imagination and
"reconstruction" to get from what is
real to what is claimed. In point offact,
not all of the letters in the supposed
message nETPOC ENI are to be found
on the surviving bit of plaster, and not

store it to its exact position on the face

of the Muro Rosso."
How handy! If the graffito were in
fact Mithraic or of some other pagan
nature, we will never be able to know.
All we have left is a tiny fragment
which arguably fits into a sentence
meaning "Peter is inside," and we have
no way of knowing ifthe fragment had
been altered while in the possession
of Antonio Ferrua.

Confession in the
With so many graffiti supposedly
the presence of Peter,
Margherita Guarducci was puzzled
( +-,
that almost nothing was found inside
the cavity of the graffiti wall. It was
1953. More than ten years had gone
by since the excavations had been completed and she just happened to be in
the part of the church known as the
Confessione, standing before the graffiti wall with Giovanni Segoni, one of
Figure 2. Actual-size sketch of the Red-Wall plaster graffito reconstructed
the Vatican workmen. As John Evanto read nETPOC ENI [Petros eni, "Peter is inside"). Against this reading is gelist Walsh tells it,23she recalled that
the fact that there is too much space between the EN and the I. In some Segoni had taken part in the work of
photographs one can see what looks like a second vertical stroke between excavation and so she asked him ifhe
the N and the I, making one suppose that the third letter is H [eta) rather
remembered anything having been in
than I [iota). If that be true, it not only eliminates "Peter is inside," it suggests the wall cavity. To this not only did he
a common epithet of Mithra broken into two lines: nETPH-rENHC [Petregenes,
answer yes, he confessed that he him"Rock-Born"). But even if the first line does read Petros, the epithet could self had taken a bunch of bones out of
refer to Mithra just as well as to the saint. Mithra bore the epithet "Rock" the marbled space, put them into a
long before the author of Matthew had Jesus give it to Simon the fisherman.
wooden box, and stored them away. He
Of course, the graffito may simply be the scribble of some ancient teenager
then led her to a room filled with doznamed PETRONIOS!
ens of boxes holding ''bones and other
things turned up in the early digging"
- none of these remains being known
the four original excavators. Although
all of what can be seen upon the piece to the four excavators who authored
it had not been seen when the marbled
necessarily fits easily into the recon- the official Vatican report! Obtaining
cavity of the graffiti wall was origi- struction. If the piece of plaster sim- a particular box, he handed Guarducci
nally studied, it suddenly appeared
ply fell off the Red Wall, wouldn't it be the remains of an identifying attached
one day late in December of 1950 logical to examine the Red Wall care- small card which is alleged to have
fully to see if the missing letters are said simply: "ossa - urna - graf," i.e.,
when, for no special reason, Ferrua
still there in situ? No one reports hav- ''bones - urn - graflfiti wall]."
had shone a light into the supposedly
empty chamber. He concluded that it ing done this, or even suggests that it
Why had a common workman
had become dislodged from a part of would be desirable to do so. The clos- done such a thing? A monsignor had
the Muro Rosso onto which the graf- est thing to recognition of the problem made him do it.
fiti wall abuts and had fallen into the is found in Guarducci's official report
The monsignor had been none
cavity-? According to Walsh, Ferrua
of her study of the graffiti.F "The other than Msgr. Ludwig Kaas, nomicame to treat the piece of plaster as detachment from the wall," she writes, nal head of the excavation project and
his own property, withholding it from "unfortunately had the consequence of author of the glowing preface for the
study by other scholars. Worse yet, he altering the margins of the fragment
Explorations report. It was the same
included an incorrect sketch of it in an so that it is no longer possible to re- monsignor who told of the "methodiPage 16

Spring 1997

American Atheist

cal exploration" conducted "with the

strictest scientific principles," of solving "scientific and technical problems
with the most rigorous method and
absolute objectivity." It was the same
Msgr. Kaas who assured readers of the
official report concerning "scientific
scruples" and wrote of "illustrating
with sober objectivity and documented
completeness the discoveries and ascertained facts of the last decade, determined to clear the path ofthe prejudices of now-outworn polemic, the path
on which we seek the truth and nothing but the truth," concluding with a
reference to the "very serious work
carried out with objective criteria, sustained by rigorously scientific arguments."24
Encountering effusions such as
these, one naturally is led to say,
"Methinks he doth protest too much!"
- and rightfully so in the case at hand.
For Kaas is charged with having sabotaged much of the excavation proceedings and having made any pretense of
"scientific objectivity" a laughing matter. If any part of the charges be true,
the entire matter of St. Peter's grave
and bones need be taken no more seriously than a Three Stooges film.
The Reader's Digest editor John
Walsh indicates that very early in the
proceedings a rift had developed between the four excavators and Msgr.
Kaas - who ''knew little or nothing of
archaeological technique." Soon nearly
all contact between Kaas and the team
had ceased. Walsh elaborates:
It was Kaas' practice late each
evening, after everyone had departed
and the excavations lay quiet,
tour the whole area accompanied by
one ofthe foremen ofthe Sampietrini,
Giovanni Segoni. Almost never
present during the day's work, on
these daily tours Kaas would inspect
everydetail ofthe most recent digging
and dismantling.Asthe workbeneath
the body of the basilica brought to
light stray parts of skeletons, he had
made it his personal duty to see that
no human bones should, in the confusion of cleaning up, become mixed
with the mounds of dirt and debris
and be accidentally thrown out.
Whenever bones were found; includAustin, Texas

ing an occasionalskull, he had them

placed in special boxes and stored
away for reburial. The other four
knew ofKaas' inspection routine and
grudgingly accepted it, though they
were seldominformed ofits daily results.25
Readers may note that the four
excavators not only were Four Stooges,
they were Four willing Stooges. It appears that all the results of the explorations were rendered meaningless by
the actions of Kaas. At a minimum, it
means that we have no reliable information concerning any of the Vatican
bones. The proceedings overall were
too confused to be dignified with the
adjective "scientific." We continue.
One evening early in 1942, a day or
soafter the team had first exposedthe
graffiti wall and peered briefly into
the man-made cavity,intending to return later for a closerlook, Kaas had
cometo the area on his rounds, along
with the foreman. Segoni... inspected
the cavity with a light. When he reported what appeared to be a number
ofbonesmixedwith somedebris,Kaas
unhesitatingly told him to remove
them for safekeeping .... Besides
lumps ofmortar and brick whichhad
fallen down from the wall-fill above,
there were many human bones, all
bleached to a stark whiteness. Reverently,Kaas placed them oneby onein
a box...
Without telling the investigators
what they had done, Kaas and Segoni
hid the box of bones away in the
Vatican basement. And then Kaas
died, taking to the grave priceless information concerning the most remarkable pagan Roman cemetery ever
discovered, as well as information necessary for understanding the true circumstances of the supposed tomb and
relics of St. Peter.
Because she believed the bones
produced by Segoni to have been associated with the graffiti wall, and
because she believed its graffiti plus
the Petros eni fragment ofthe Red Wall
proved that the grave complex was
none other than the "Tropaion of
Gaius," Margherita Guarducci persuaded Pope Paul VI to allow the osSpring 1997

teological studies we have already discussed. Ultimately, she persuaded him

that the bones in the box taken from
the storeroom were those of the legendary first pope himself. But is there
any reason we should believe it?
Can we be certain that the bones
in the wooden box really were once
inside the graffiti wall? Can we be certain that whatever bones were in the
graffiti wall were once in the cavity
beneath the Red Wall? Can we be certain that the Red-Wall structure really
was the "Tropaion of Gaius"? And even
if it is, is there any reason to suppose
Gaius had reliable knowledge? Is there
the slightest reason to suppose that
any of the non-barnyard bones found
near the monument belong to Peter?
According to Walsh.s" Segoni filed
an affidavit (now in the Vatican archives) on 7 January
1965 which
noted, among other things, that the
bones were all stark white. But apart
from the mouse bones, none of the
bones examined by Luigi Cardinir-?
were white. Many were quite dark,
yellowish or brown, due largely to adhering soil. Moreover, the note attached to the bone box indicates the
bones had been in an urn - urna -just
as reported by The New York Times
back in 1949. That would seem to rule
out the graffiti wall, which no one has
reported to have contained an urn. tt
Was Segoni lying about the color ofthe
bones or about which bones had been
in the wall? Of course, he might just
have been confused - considering how
many bones he had helped to hide.
As to whether or not the bones in
question had once been in the ground
beneath the MuroRosso, studies of the
soil associated with the bones in the
box produced by Segoni indicate they
never resided in the "true tomb of Peter." Thermal analysis curves pubtPhotographs in the same book clearly
show the contrast between the white
mouse bones and the dark animal and
human bones.
ttThe Times reported that Vatican staff
had found bones in a terra cotta urn, not a
marble-lined cavity. Was the story of the
urn made up by some Vatican official,oris
an important part ofthe evidence still beinghidden?
Page 17

lished by Lauro and N egretti-" rule out

the Red-Wall site, and these authors
themselves relate the bone-box soil to
a different grave.
Did Gaius know where Peter's
tomb really was? We must realize we
are dealing with a second-hand report
given by the notorious Eusebius of
Caesarea - a not especially trustworthy source. Moreover, the Latin version of Eusebius' version of what Gaius
had written a century before him
places the Tropaion of Peter at a different place than does the Greek version! The Greek version has it on the
Vatican hill itself; the Latin places it
on a public road leading
to the
Vatican.P' Reflecting on the fact that
Eusebius knew of the newly-built St.
Peter's Basilica when he retailed the
polemic of Gaius, it is impossible to
believe he would not have mentioned
the incorporation of the Tropaion into
the basilica ifthat had in fact occurred.
We can only conclude that whatever
the mysterious Tropaion might have
been, it is not to be found under the
high altar of St. Peter's.

Upon Which Rock

To Build The Church?
While we can be sure that none of
the bone collections discovered under
the Vatican have anything to do with
any historical St. Peter, we still need
to explain the fact that Constantine
seems to have been convinced that
Peter's grave was indeed located near
what became the focal point of the
church he erected. The project required not only the desecration
many pagan tombs, but the cutting
away of a large part ofthe Vatican hillside and the infilling of a large platform on the slope below. It would have
been much easier and cheaper to locate the church elsewhere in the neighborhood. Clearly, some tradition relatable to St. Peter must have led to this
extravagance. There is no good reason
to suppose, however, that the "St. Peter" of this tradition was the same as
the St. Peter of Catholic tradition.
The Vatican hill in ancient times
was a place where many deities were
Page 18

worshipped - including some I believe

contributed much to the "biographies"
of St. Peter, the Virgin Mary, and
Jesus. Numerous altars to Cybele (the
Great Mother or Magna Mater and
prototype of Mary) have been found
very close to St. Peter's Cathedral, and
in 1949 a pagan altar was dug up in
the Piazza San Pietro - just several
yards north ofthe statue of Saint Pete
himselfl The altar is inscribed with the
names not only of the Great Mother,
but of Mithra and her son Attis as
well.30 Attis, we may remember, was
a dying and resurrecting god who bore
the title of Papa ("Father"), just as did
the Mithraic pontiff and the pope today. Mithra, the dying and resurrecting god born of a virgin on 25 December, not only bore the epithet Peter
("Rock"), but was often represented as
carrying the key to a gate of heaven. A
key was just as much a Mithraic symbol as a symbol of St. Peter - and
Mithra had it earlier!
Very close to the Vatican cult complex is the Janiculum hill where, according to the testimony of the apocryphal Acts of Peter and Paul, Peter
was crucified upside-down. Here too
in ancient times the oldest of Italian
gods, Janus, was worshipped. (By the
first century, Janus had largely fused
with Mithra - and with St. Peter as
well.) Interestingly, the Feast of St.
Peter is celebrated on 18 January, the
date on which the sun enters the sign
of Aquarius - an alias of Janus and
the beginning of the Mithraic zodiac.
Janus too was a fisherman, since Pisces follows Aquarius. He is the oldest
god said to have held the keys to the
gates of heaven.
Given just this sampling of information on the religious significance of
the Vatican hill and its environs, can
we be surprised that someone was able
to convince Constantine that St. Peter was to be found there? For at least
a century before Constantine, "tour
guides" were taking advantage
Christian credulity by "pointing out"
(to use a phrase of the second-century
churchman Origen) the sacred sites
where every miracle in the Bible supposedly took place. It can hardly be
doubted that Constantine's mother St.
Spring 1997

Helena (a former barmaid who gave

up entertaining the troops when she
became attached to Constantius, the
future Caesar) was duped by such con
artists when she "discovered" the site
in Bethlehem where Jesus was born
and the place on the Mount of Olives
whence he was yanked up to heaven.
We can only suppose the fellow who
led her to the "true cross" on which
Jesus was crucified was richly rewarded by the gullible empress. Although we have no documentary evidence to indicate that St. Helena was
involved in the siting of her murderous son's Vatican basilica, it is altogether possible. But if it was not she
who led Constantine to the building
site, certain it is that there was no
shortage of entrepreneurs
who, when
asked about a man who had borne the
keys of heaven, could have "pointed
out" the same or an equally suitable

When Pope Pius XII told his
Christmas radio audience that the
tomb of St. Peter had been found, he
was wrong. When Pope Paul VI announced in June of 1968 that the bones
of the apostle had been identified, he
too was wrong. An aura of chicanery
amplified by incompetence surrounds
these modern relics no less than it
enfolds all the other relics of Catholic
Christianity. We have just as much
reason to believe that Peter's eleventhcentury skull at the Lateran is genuine, or that all the teeth claimed to
have come from John the Baptist are
genuine - teeth numerous enough to
fit out dentures for a crocodile. And
that, of course, is no reason at all.
1 "Text of Announcement by Pope Paul VI Concerning the Relics," The New York Times,
27 June 1968.
2 Luigi Cardinio "Risultato dell'esame osteologico dei resti scheletrici di animali," in:
Le Reliquie di Pietro Sotto la Confessione
della Basilica Vaticana, by Margherita
Guarducci, Libreria Editrice Vaticana,
1965, pp. 161-168.
3 Luigi Cardini, ibid., p. 168.
4 New York Times, op. cit.
5 Camille M. Cianfarra, The New York Times,
22 August 1949, p. l.
6 John Evangelist Walsh, The Bones of Saint

American Atheist

Peter, Collins Fount Paperbacks, Bungay,

Suffolk, 1982, p. 59.
7 Venerando Correnti, "Relazione dello studio
compiuto su tre gruppi di resti scheletrici
umani gia rinvenuti sotto la Confessione
della basilica vaticana," in: Le Reliquie di
Pietro Sotto la Confessione delta Basilica
by Margherita
Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Rome, 1965, pp.
8 Walsh, op. cit., p. 103.
9 Engelbert Kirschbaum, The Tombs Of St Peter & St Paul, translated by John Murray,
St. Martin's Press, N. Y., 1959, pp. 51, 219
10 "Text ofAnnouncement by Pope Paul VI Concerning the Relics," The New York Times,
June 27,1968. [Emphasis mine]
11 Hugo Gressmann, Eusebius Werke, Dritter
Band, Zuieiter Teil, Die Theophanie. Die
Griechischen Bruchstuche und Ubersetzung
der Syrischen Uberlieferung, 2nd Ed. by
Adolf Laminski,
Die Griechischen
Der Ersten
Akademie Verlag, Berlin,
1992, p.175.
12 B.M.Apollonj Ghetti,A. Ferrua, E. Josi, and
E. Kirschbaum, Esplorazioni
Sotto La
Confessione Di San Pietro In Vaticano
Eseguite Negli Anni 1940-1949,Two Volumes, Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana, Citta
del Vaticano, 1951.
13 Esplorazioni, Vol. I, p. 120.
14 Kirschbaum, op. cit., pp. 91,223.
15 Esplorazioni, Vol. I, p. 162.
16 Kirschbaum, op. cit., pp. 91, 223.
17 Kirschbaum, op. cit., pp. 195f.
18 Walsh, op. cit., p. 166.
19Jocelyn 'lbynbee and John Ward Perkins, The
Shrine of St. Peter and the Vatican Excavations, Longmans, Green and Co., London, 1956, p. 53.
20 Walsh, op. cit., p. 75.
21 Walsh, op. cit., p. 160.
22 Margherita Guarducci, I Graffiti Sotto La
Confessione Di San Pietro In Vaticano, Vol.
II, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Citta del
Vaticano, 1958, p. 396.
23 Walsh, op. cit., pp. 87ft.
24 Esplorazioni, Vol. I, pp. VII-XI.
25 Walsh, op. cit., pp. 78ff.
26 Walsh, op. cit., pp. 168-169.
27 Cardini, op. cit., p. 168.
28 Carlo Lauro and Gian Carlo Negretti,
"Risultato dell'analisi petrografica dei
campioni di terra," in:Le Reliquie di Pietro
Sotto la Confessione
delia Basilica
by Margherita
Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1965, pp. 169179.
29 Daniel Wm. O'Connor, Peter in Rome: The
Literary, Liturgical, and Archaeological
Evidence, Columbia University Press, New
York, 1969, pp. 95-96.
30 Esplorazioni, Vol. I, p. 15.

Austin, Texas

nail J'1ary
By FranM. DeVenuto
"He had to go through the whole
village with his pants leg ripped."
The younger woman stared at the
stout, older one in disbelief, "Why,
Mama? It doesn't make sense."
''That's the way it was then, that's
The younger
woman looked
puzzled. "Do they still do that?" she
"Luisa, how should I know? I
haven't been back there in years. Probably."
"But Mama, why a ripped pants
The older woman, her fat torso
encased in black, sighed.
"I guess it was kind of like a flag, so
the whole village would know ..."
''Why did the whole village need
to know? Why was it any of their business?"
everybody's business."
"And then what happened?"
"What do you mean, then what
"Did they stay married, or what?"
"Stay married? Are you kidding?
It was a disgrace, a horrible disgrace
for the bride's family. They could never
raise their heads again, and they had
to take their daughter back. Of course,
no good family would ever want her ..."
"But Mama, how did anybody find
"Find out what?" The old woman

yawned, then pulled her dark shawl

tightly around her shoulders.
"Find out she wasn't a ..."
"A virgin? They knew because the
next morning the village priest and the
mother-in-law went over to check the
"Check the sheets?" the young
woman was stunned.
"For blood, Luisa, what do you
''Well, what if she didn't bleed?"
Luisa felt angry now, and she didn't
understand why.
''What about her husband? How did
they know if he was a virgin? How did
the village priest check that?"
''What garbage talk is this? Lucky
your papa's not alive to hear it."
They stood in silence for a few
minutes, waiting in the drizzle for the
"Mama, did the bride's family always take her back?"
The balding old woman shrugged,
"Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Like
Maria Silva. Her family took her back,
and her father beat her all the time.
Finally, she killed herself."
Luisa shivered; the old woman
blew her nose and continued talking,
"Some girls ran off and became prostitutes, some married foreign men,
some killed themselves. Now, where
is that bus? We're going to be late for

Dill/-The-Atheist is now the

Americlln Atheist HOT LINE

(512) 458-5731
Spring 1997

Page 19


What do you do
when evangelists
come calling? If you
can anticipate their
arguments and
have some good rejoinders, missionary
mornings can be not
only fun but satisfying. You can bring
the light of reason to
the benighted.

Dennis McKinsey is the author of The

Of Biblical Errancy
(Prometheus, 1995) and a monthly
newsletter called Biblical Errancy. A
long-time debater against apologists
for the Christian bible, Dennis is a
veteran of numerous radio and television "wars." He can be reached at:

c. Dennis
Page 20


t one time or another we have

all been accosted by religious
propagandists hawking their wares
with all the agility of a telemarketer
supper. How one responds to this intrusion is of critical
importance. Should you slam the receiver or close the door? Or should you
view this as an opportunity to correct
a poor misguided human being who
has been brought to your presence for
enlightenment, ifnot salvation? While
many opponents of religion opt for the
former, a more prudent policy would
suggest the latter. More than likely,
the religious proponent to whom you
are speaking will rarely encounter
someone able to correct his illusions
with some well chosen queries and poignant observations. The arrival of a
Jehovah's Witness or Mormon at the
door, or a Campus Crusade for Christ
missionary at your dorm, should be
viewed as an opportunity to expose
religion in general and the Bible in
particular for the frauds that they are.
Victory is obtained not by fleeing the
scene feeling that you won because
they failed to convert you, but only by
remaining at the barricades and showing them the error of their ways.
Before meaningful dialogue can
occur, however, apologists and missionaries must first be shown the error of their ways. Before they are going to listen to what you have to offer,
they must first be convinced something is awry with what they believe.
Only when they begin to acknowledge
weaknesses on the part of their most
cherished beliefs can a truly worthwhile encounter become viable. And
for that to occur, most religionists will
have to be given proofthat comes from
that which they hold most dear,
namely their own literature or sources.
If one relies primarily upon bringing
scientific or historical information to
Spring 1997

the Bible, for instance, to prove the

Bible is erroneous in many respects,
the religious propagandists are simply going to say: "I don't care what
you have. If it says the Bible is false
then it is erroneous. Why? Because
the Bible is divinely inspired and they
aren't." So to influence millions it is
unproductive to use extrabiblical information against the Bible. It will
simply be discounted as so much
devil's handiwork. Instead, critics of
Scripture should go within the Bible
and compare verse with verse.
When something in Deuteronomy
is saying something in Exodus is a lie,
or something in Chronicles is saying
something in Samuel or Kings is false,
or something in Mark is contending a
comment in Matthew is erroneous that's an entirely different matter.
That is far more difficult to discount,
minimize, or ignore. In effect, armed
with information of this kind you don't
have something outside the Bible saying the Bible is false; you have the
Bible saying the Bible is false - and
that is far more potent and effective.
The only drawback to this approach,
however, is that it requires a degree
of biblical knowledge that is at least
comparable to that of the apologist.
Assuming the requisite knowledge
on your part, the question then becomes one of deciding how you should
proceed. For openers I would suggest
some well chosen questions, since the
theology of your counterpart will more
than likely be grounded in biblical fundamentalism. After fourteen years of
publishing a periodical entitled Biblical Errancy, I have decided that the
best questions are those which are
simple, non-interpretive, present in
nearly all versions, reasonably substantive , and poignant. Religionists
in general and biblicists in particular,
especially fundamentalists, view their
American Atheist

defense of religion as being comparable to the Dutch man holding his finger in the dike. If one hole is allowed
to remain unplugged, there goes the
entire barrier. So one can expect an
initial defense that is ardent, resolute,
and sometimes strident.
Questions to Ask
For many years, I have used the
following questions in pamphlets because of their simplicity and effectiveness:
Why are we being punished
for Adam's sin? After all, he ate the
forbidden fruit, we didn't. It's his problem not ours - especially in light of
Deut. 24;16 which says that children
shall not be punished for the sins of
their fathers.
For justice to exist, the punishment must fit the crime. No matter how many bad deeds one commits
in this world, there is a limit. Yet,
Hell's punishment
is infinite. So
where's the justice?
How can 2 Kings 8:26 (which
says Ahaziah began to rule at age 22)
be reconciled with 2 Chron. 22:2
(which says he was 42)?
While on the cross, Jesus is
supposed to have said, "My God, my
God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
(Mark 15:34). How could Jesus be our
savior when he couldn't even save
himself? Those aren't the words of a
man voluntarily dying for our sins.
Those are the words of a man who can
think of a hundred places he would
rather be!
How could Jesus be a true
prophet when he wrongly predicted (in
Matt. 12:40) that he would be buried
three days and three nights, just as
Jonah was in the whale three days and
three nights? Friday afternoon to early
Sunday morning is a day and a half at
How could Jesus be our model
of sinless perfection when he denies
he is morally perfect in Matt. 19:17?
("AndJesus said unto him, Why callest
thou me good? There is none good but
one, that is God")?
While on the cross, Jesus is
made to say, "Forgive them Father
they know not what they do." To whom
Austin, Texas

was he speaking? Biblicists naturally

say "God." But I thought he was god.
How can god speak to god if there is
only one god? That's two gods.
Know Your Apologist's
Needless to say, some apologists
for the Bible have spent an inordinate
amount of time devising a wide variety of rationalizations to defend religion in general and the Bible in particular against these kinds of problems. In any encounter with the Bible's
defenders, knowing apologetic arguments beforehand is very important,
because a few biblicists are knowledgeable and can handle themselves better than most. Atheists and other freethinkers must not only know their
material but also be aware of the arguments most often used on a regular
basis by the opposition. So be prepared for the following defenses:
The ''You Are Taking Verses
Out of Context" Argument
If this one has been used once, it
has been used a million times. Freethinkers are supposedly extracting one
verse, while ignoring all those in the
immediate vicinity. "Not true" is the
only sane reply! One need only go to
Proverbs, for example, to see that there
is no context in many instances. The
narrative is just a series of unrelated
statements that leap from topic to
topic. One need only read the verses
verbatim to see what is being said, to
see that nothing is being taken out-ofcontext. That's a grossly unjustified
and inaccurate criticism in hundreds
of instances. Many conflicts between
the books of Samuel, Kings, and
Chronicles, to. cite another example,
involve nothing more than numbers
and figures which aren't open to interpretation or the contextual argument. Ifanyone really is taking verses
out-of-context it is biblicists, who find
scores of prophecies ofJesus in the Old
Testament by selectively quoting and
isolating certain passages. Anyone
who has dealt with biblicists over any
period of time knows that they are far
better at eisogesis than exegesis.

Spring 1997

The Copyist Defense

Biblicists will concede "The Book"
has contradictions but contend that's
because somebody incorrectly copied
the original manuscripts. On page 15
of All About the Bible biblicist Sidney
Collett says, "But in spite of all this
painful care, mistakes did creep in, as
the documents now in existence show;
for this work of copying was after all
human. Perhaps one ofthe most striking cases of a copyist's error is found
in the age of Ahaziah, 2 Kings 8:26
stating that he was 22 years old when
he began to reign, while 2 Chron. 22:2
says he was 42. Now none ofthe original documents in our possession help
us in this at all, so that it is evidently
due to an error of a very early copyist ...."
To this one can only reply, ''What
original documents?" How does he
know there were documents of this
kind? And where are these original
documents that are now in our possession? No doubt hundreds of scholars
would like to have that question answered, considering the fact that virtually all reliable authorities agree
that there are no extant original
manuscripts of any allegedly original
Bible. On page 94 of I'm Glad you
Asked, apologists Boa and Moody say,
"Errors have crept into the biblical text
through scribal mistakes and modernization. For example, 1 Kings 4:26
states that Solomon had 40,000 stalls
of horses for his chariots, but 2 Chron.
9:25 says that the figure is 4,000. The
exaggerated figure in 1 Kings is a common scribal error due to similarity in
numerical notation (Also compare 2
Sam. 10:18 with 1 Chron. 19:18)."
But how does he know that's true
- since everyone agrees we have no
copies of the originals? Anything we
have, any translation, be it the KJv,
the RSV, the NASB, the NIV, etc. is
nothing more than a book composed
by a group of people looking at a collection of documents that purport to
be accurate representations of originals that no longer exist. We have
thousands of documents and no absolutely certain way of knowing which
ones have copyist errors and which are
Page 21

A Fable
By Thomas Wheeler


fter pursuing a wealthy pros- waited for compliments from his asso- can't have one of my suits displayed
ciates. None came. Finally, he retired
in public with such carelessness."
pect for many, many months,
an insurance salesman fmally to the restroom for a careful look in Hearing the resolve in the tailor's
closed the sale of a whole life policy the mirror. Twisting his back awk- voice, and recalling his reputation conwith a value offive million dollars. In wardly and squinting, he could plainly vinced the man that a proper adjustsee a bubble in the fabric where the ment was forthcoming.
his 27 years with Peerless Life this
"Bring your right shoulder forwas easily his biggest sale and the left shoulder blended into the collar.
salesman was justly proud. With his "Surely the tailor will fix that," he said ward a bit," the tailor instructed. The
man was surprised to hear a voice
commission check in the bank, the dili- to himself.
gent and personable salesman went
lacking the slightest
hint of
straight for the shop of the tailor
warmth. He thought of objecting,
said to be the finest within five hunbut being cooperative in nature, he
dred miles. He was anxious to wear
did as directed.
"Humm. Down a bit now," the taias a symbol of his success something he never could afford - a cuslor mumbled. By now he was avoidtom-tailored suit.
ing eye contact. As the man dropped
The salesman chose glen plaid
his shoulder slightly he could see
and insisted on the finest worsted
in the mirror only rich, smooth fabwool available. It was the touch of
ric where the bothersome bubble
had been.
muted yellow in the pattern of elegant grays that appealed to him.
"Ah, I knew he'd make it right."
Having waited a long time for his
The man thought to himself as he
reward, perfection and luxury were
held the pose and walked to the
to be his at last. Each stitch and
front of the shop. The tailor, silent
tuck was to be perfect. As the tailor
and expressionless, held the door
busily took measurements, the man
open as the man strode onto the
explained, that this suit must be
sunlight of Maple Street.
made with the most meticulous atEvery time the man put on the suit
tention to detail.
he savored its luxury. He kept the
"I have become known," the tairight shoulder forward and down a
lor sniffed, "as the state's most
and after a while the stance be"It's not my suit, but it's the way you
skilled in my trade with good rea- wear it that has brought you back here."
came second nature. On his return
son. You will not be disappointed."
from the most lavish wedding of the
Standing tautly in front ofthe oakTwo weeks went by. Then a third.
year, the man looked closely at the
Being patient and agreeable by na- trimmed fitting mirror in the tailor
left trouser leg. He was disappointed
ture, the man assured himselfthe tai- shop, the man expected some sign of to see the fabric puckering just below
lor was taking extra time for the sake contrition from the tailor that had
the knee along the inside seam.
of quality work. At last the tailor tele- been so widely recommended. Instead
His tailor was visibly annoyed
phoned saying the suit was ready. The the tailor stiffly explained, "It's not my when the man returned the second
final fitting took an hour and a half. suit, but it's the way you wear it that
time to his shop. Tugging at the offendhas brought you back here."
The man wrote a check for almost
ing seam, the tailor grunted, "It's the
three times more than he had ever
"Really, how's that?" Asked the way you point your foot. Point your left
paid for a suit. It was going to be worth man, being careful not to challenge.
foot about 20 degrees to the right."
it, he told himself.
"As I said, it's the way you stand and Puzzled and growing impatient, the
Swelling with pride the man wore hold your shoulder that we must cor- man hesitated, started to object, but
his new suit to the charity banquet and rect. It's good you came in. I simply thinking better of it, rotated his foot
Page 24

Spring 1997

American Atheist

to the right. "He is, after all, the best

tailor around and must know what he
is doing," the man told himself.
Wearing his new suit then meant
bending his shoulder and twisting his
foot in a most unnatural way. Still, its
fabric was splendid and it did fit well
once the man altered his posture and
gait. What a fine suit it was, he reminded himself. Then he noticed the
wrinkle under the left sleeve. This
time the tailor was rude as the man
revisited the shop. He gruffly told the
man to hold his left arm across his
body at a forty-five-degree angle, to
extend his thumb and to point it toward his right knee. "This all seems
odd indeed," the man thought, but he
assured himself that ifhe followed instructions as before all would be satisfactory. It always had been so before.
This is the best tailor in the state, he
repeated to himself.
With this last alteration to his demeanor, the man walked with a halting and most unusual gait.
Two flower vendors near the bus
stop watched him pass slowly by and
one turned to the other, "Don't you pity
that poor soul so deformed and contorted? I think he does well not to be
in a wheel chair, don't you?"
"Oh, I do, indeed," the second vendor replied, "But have you ever seen a
suit fit anyone so well?"

How silly it would be to stand unnaturally to make a suit seem to fit

properly. Just as the insurance salesman unquestioningly
accepted the
tailor's instructions to alter his posture
to make up for the imperfections in the
suit, gullible religious folks twist their
thinking into bizarre shapes that support a belief system based on fear and
superstition. The sales man is a victim ofboth the appeal to authority and
the deductive reasoning that underlies
much of religious thinking.
What else would make Rose
Kennedy say:
'We always understood the ways
of almighty God - the crises which he
sends us; the sacrifices which he demands of us. Thus we know his great
Austin, Texas

goodness and love." (Rose Kennedy

during a TV interview at the Cape Cod
compound a week after the funeral of
RFK. From the PBS series on the
Kennedys, summer 1992.)
Or make Beverley LeHaye say:
"I see this as the Lord's way of
strengthening me," commenting on a
grandchild with Down's syndrome and
another having had seven surgeries to
correct a hearing problem? (Amy Wilson, Detroit Free Press, May 16, 1993
Sec J, page 4)
Or these:
"I think life can be a sort of a spiritual testing ground and I think when
we see suffering in life often the greatest thing that God achieves is that of
suffering." (Charles Colson during interview with Larry King, January,
1993. Colson was awarded
Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion in February of 1993.)
"Persons with terminal illness or
those born with severe physical or
mental limitations are needed by all
of us, because they help us to see the
full range of gifts within the human
person .... even terminal suffering has

value and meaning ..." (Archbishop

Adam J. Maida, Detroit Free Press,
Letter to Editor, February 11, 1993)
All this calls to mind the early
days of my fraternity membership
when we pledges would approach an
active member, hand him a paddle and
assume the position appropriate to
receive a smarting blow to the posterior. Then we'd say, "Thank you sir,
may I have another?"
Sure let's have more suffering-its
good for us all. More babies with
Down's syndrome to strengthen us.
Got that, everybody? According to the
First Article of Religion of the episcopal Church (1801), "There is but one
living and true God... of infinite power,
wisdom and goodness ..." So that god
of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness strengthens A by ruining the life
of B. And how do folks explain it?
Some like Mrs. Kennedy say it's "great
goodness and love," while the less articulate say "God works in mysterious
ways." How often do we hear that?

It's our fault, not the taylor's!


-- .


Spring 1997

Page 25

A Glimpse

of the Invention ofChristiani!i


ll religions are invented. Christianity is no exception. Thegeneral conclusion of this article

that all the Jesus Christ stories are
fiction and that the authors knew trey
were writing fiction. They each wanted
to write the best story for their readers. So they selected material from
previous Jesus Christ stories, modified
it, and added their own ideas. -Iohn
and Simon Peter had ambitions to become preachers and faith healers, so
the biblical gospels portray Jesus as
their ideal - a preacher with faithhealing successes. According to my
reanalysis and redating of the manuscripts found at Nag Hammadi in
Egypt in 1945, the earliest Jesus
Christ stories come from secret librar- .
ies of Greek temples and churches.
Jesus Christ began as one of their
many gods and sub-gods. He was first
mentioned in these writings, I believe
I can demonstrate, about 150 BC~,
where he is a savior and the first born
and only Son of the Father. In the next
century and a half many new and diverse stories were written, with Jesus
Christ becoming their central figure
in about 25 CEo
Without considering the secret
Greek writings, here are several rea,
sons for concluding that Jesus Christ
is entirely fictional:
1. Josephus (37-95 CE), in his histories, gives the only non-religious account of events in Jerusalem for the
period from 4 BCE to 70 CEo He mentions several preachers who attracted
crowds and were killed by the authorities. None of these were named Jesus.
(There is, however, what appears to be
a forged reference to Jesus Christ in
book 18, chapter 3 ofhis Antiquities of
the Jews. It was probably inserted in
about 315 CE in the office of bishop
Eusebius of Ceesarea, in present-day
Page 26


By Christopher M. Drew

2. Supernatural events do not occur.

The virgin birth, the miracles and the
resurrection are supernatural events.
It is a certainty that these parts of the
gospels are fiction.
q. The gospel miracles and teachings
show that the authors were theologians. Innovative theologians invent
new god ideas (or improve on old ones)
for other people to use. The gospels are
examples of story writing by theologians aimed at building a religious following. As such, they are unlikely to
contain any history.
4. Paul of Tarsus preached his own
gospel which he says he got from no
one else (Gal 1:11-12, 56 CE) in spite
of Paul's personal meeting in 45 CE
with Peter and James the Less (Gal.
1:18-19). The only biblical gospel ideas
that Paul used in his letters were the
"Son of God" idea, the crucifixion (in
later letters), resurrection after death,
and the Second Coming. His letters
use none of the teachings in the biblical gospels, mention none of the
miracles (except the resurrection) or
say anything personal about Jesus
Christ. Paul acted as though his own
ideas ofJesus Christ were just as valid
as those of Peter and James. That suggests that all three thought of Jesus
as a theological invention.
5. Paul's earliest epistle, Thessalonians (52 CE) is mostly about Christ's
second coming, a purely theological
concept. It mentions that Christ was
killed but does not mention crucifixion. Later, Paul preached that Christ
was crucified. Apparently, when Paul
started his journeys (45 CE), both Peter and Paul were saying that Jesus
died on a tree. Acts 5:30 and 10:39
quote Peter as saying that Jesus was
hanged from a tree. Acts 13:29 quotes
Paul as saying that Jesus was taken
down from the tree and lain in a sepulchre. For his gospel (48 CE), Peter
Spring 1997

chose crucifixion on a cross. Only theologians intent on inventing the best

story would change the method of
death. Historians would not.
6. John probably wrote his "Revelation" in 41 CE, during the reign of the
sixth king (Agrippa 1). It is mostly
about Christ's Second Coming. Here
is John's description of Jesus' first life
on earth (12:5): "And she brought forth
a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child
was caught up unto God, and to his
throne." Jesus Christ is treated as a
purely invented concept - odd if Jesus
Christ had been a real person.
All fiction contains some inspiration from real life. The fictional hero
is, however, still fictional.
The Fictional Origin
of Jesus Christ
After Alexander the Great established his empire in 325 BCE, the
Eastern Mediterranean world came
under the control of Greeks. Greek
temples were built. These temples accumulated religious writings which
could only be read by initiates after a
long apprenticeship (perhaps three
years). In the initiation ritual, initiates
were sworn to secrecy. In the secret
writings, Jesus Christ was one of
many heavenly beings. He was the
only Son of God and he would come to
earth as a savior. He would be crucified, crucified on a tree or hung from a
tree depending on the particular writing. In some writings, he would ascend
to heaven and sit on the right hand of
the Father. Many Jesus Christ writings survived. In 1926 a few were published in Lost Books of the Bible, which
has been widely distributed. In 1945
about fifty writings were found at Nag
Hammadi near Luxor, Egypt, and
were published by Brill and by Harper
& Row in 1977 as The Nag Hammadi
American Atheist

Library. Scholars have published

many more since then in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (1983) and the
New Testament Apocrypha (1991).
There is a list of 47 of the titles
from the "Nag Hammadi Library" at
the end of this article, with my estimated composition dates arrived at by
putting the writings into the most
likely sequence. One writing fragment
comes from Plato's Republic, written
in 380 BCE. Another writing, the Gospel of Thomas, can be reasonably
dated to 44 CEo Twenty-three of these
writings mention Jesus Christ by
name. Professional bible scholars refer to them by the term "Gnostic," and
have publicly dated most of them to
the second century CE or later - a mistake, in my opinion, to help preserve
Jesus Christ as a real person.
The early Nag Hammadi writings
have complicated and confusing gods,
goddesses, minor gods, divine rulers,
and angels.
Heaven comes in multiple layers.
Some writings have one layer, some
have seven, some nine, and one has
72. Some of them have Adam, Eve,
Cain, Abel, Seth, Noah, and flood stories. The later Nag Hammadi writings
seem to have been written in Judea
starting in about 25 CEoAmong these
later writings there are contributions
from a Simon Peter, a Thomas, a John,
a James, a Mary, a Paul, and a Philip.
Mentioned also is John the Baptist,
the Jordan River, Levi, Andrew, Matthew, Bartholomew, Mary Magdalene,
Salome, and a Judas.
From the Nag Hammadi library,
from the New Testament, from other
surviving Jesus Christ writings, and
from Josephus, it is possible to draw
the following conclusions: Around 30
CE, some men (and at least one
woman) in Jerusalem became interested in preaching and faith healing
in the name of Jesus Christ. Most had
a thorough knowledge of the Hebrew
bible, most were of Greek descent,
rather than Hebrew, Syrian, or Persian descent. (All the New Testament
writings were originally written in
Greek.) Some had probably joined the
local Greek temple to Asclepius and
had access to its secret writings.
Austin, Texas

(Asclepius specialized in faith Messiah had been born, had

ing.) Early on, most of them thought ,'!,~'ilen. swept up to heaven, had the
of themselves as loyal Jews. By 1,Q~, . ,l.\~e of Jesus Christ, and would resome of this group already had their .. t\' shortly and rule all the nations
own writings on Jesus Christ, such as WIth a rod of iron. There is severe criti"The Acts of Peter and the Twelve
cism of the Roman emperor and his
"The Sophia of -Je sus
servant, the sixth king, because of an
Christ," "The Apocryphon of John,"
expected imposition of image worship.
and ''The Gospel of Mary." They tried
It was probably Caligula and Herod
out their ideas on their supporters and Agrippa I. This Agrippa was the sixth
wove the most effective ideas into new kIng of the house of Herod. Caligula
stories. In 42 CE their preaching and
wasplanning to have his image placed
faith healing became more public. In in the Jerusalem
temple in 41 eE,
preaching Jesus Christ to Jews, they
which is probably the writing date.
were probably following the example
(The plan died when Caligula was asof earlier advocates, the most recent
sassinated by his own tribune. He was
of whom was John the Baptist. This
disliked by the upper classes.)
John was put to death by king Herod
According to Acts, the group ran
Antipas in 28 CE for fear that John
afoul of the high priest (probably
might use his following to start a re~ Simon the son ofBoethus who had just
replaced Theophilus) in about 42 CEo
Later, when the biblical gospels
Presumably the high priest thought
were written, many ofthe gospel char- that the Jesus Christ stories were heacters were named after the senior
retical and were attracting the attenmembers of this group. In the period
tion of too many Pharisees. The group
from 30 to 60 CE some of the senior
was asked to stop speaking in the
members were Levi, Simon Peter, his name of Jesus, but they continued.
brother Andrew, James the Elder, his
Paul of Tarsus was amongst those who
persecuted them. Paul had a change
Mary Magdalene,
of'heart and in three years became one
Salome, James the Less, Nicodemus
of the group's most effective prosely(a Pharisee and a friend of John),
tizers among the Greeks. The group
Judas the brother
of probably referred to themselves as
James the Less, Matthias, and Paul
"Christians" as early as 44 CE, when
of Tarsus. James the elder was killed
''The Gospel of Philip" uses that term.
in 43 CE by Agrippa I. James the Less Members of some Greek temples and
competed with Simon Peter for the
churches probably used the term for
leadership. James assumed the title
themselves before that.
of first Bishop of the Christians in
Part of ''The Gospel of Simon PeJerusalem. He was stoned to death in ter" (48 CE) was discovered in the
62 CE at the instigation of the high
grave of a monk atAkhmim in Egypt,
priest Ananus - a rigid Sadducee.
in 1886. It seems to come before John's
John wrote "The Revelation of gospel. Peter opted for crucifixion (unJohn" in 41 CEo He was energetic and
der Pontius Pilate) as the method of
inventive. In this book he seems to be death. His crucifixion story is roughly
a loyal Jew, but is also interested in similar to that of the biblical gospels
Greek churches. The first few pages
but is shorter and with very different
are addressed to Greek churches at detail.
Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, 'I'hyaJohn's gospel was written sometera, Sardis,
where around 51 CE, with a major cruLaodicea (all in western Turkey),
cifixion story. Judging from his gospel,
which he may have visited. His stateJohn appears to have had friends in
ment that he had been on the nearby
the Jewish hierarchy (John 18:15),
island of Patmos (Rev. 1:9) confirms
which would have given him some prothat he had been in that vicinity. Furtection from prosecution. He was now
ther on in his "Revelation,"
lessJewish and more Christian.
writes with the assumption that the
Matthew's gospel (56 CE) was writ-

Spring 1997

Page 27

ten with much new material blended

with material from several previous
gospels. For example, it borrows from
John's crucifixion story and has 27
teachings from Thomas's gospel (44

After Paul and Luke had gone to

Rome in 60 CE for Paul's trial by Nero,
they were joined by Mark. he brought
all the writings he could, to help with
Paul's defense, including writing out
his own gospel (61 CE). he copied Matthew but shortened it by 35%. He left
out the miraculous birth and some of
the more Jewish material, possibly to
make it more acceptable to Nero's
staff. Some texts were expanded. An
practices (Mark 7:2) was added - perhaps also for Nero's staff.
Luke worked with Paul in Rome
to record Paul's journeys, which became "Acts" (64 CE), dedicated to
Luke's patron Theophilus, possibly the
former high priest (34-42 CE). Luke
apparently stayed on in Rome. He may
have written his gospel as the Jewish
revolt was beginning (66 CE), because
flight is recommended if armies surround Jerusalem (Luke 21:20). His
gospel is mostly based on Mark. he
added back some of the Matthew material, but shifted its placement. Luke
added a lot ofhis own material as well.
Luke seems to have aimed at putting
together a superior gospel for posterity.
When the Romans broke into
Jerusalem in 70 CE, they killed almost
everyone, including all the Christians,
except perhaps for John. Apparently
some of the group left Jerusalem before the revolt started and took many
of the early writings to Egypt. There
they were added to the secret libraries of some of the Greek churches and
temples, including some near Luxor.
The New Testament writings are
mostly the ones that were taken to
Rome. Some of Paul's letters were collected from the churches they were
sent to. He may have made an extra
copy of some of them for himself.
Anyone who takes the trouble to
read the Gnostic writings with an open
mind will conclude that these and the
biblical gospels are fictions. Some
Page 28

churches require their seminarians to

read them and let them decide for
themselves what to believe. Most come
to realize that Christ is fictional. When
they become clergymen, theologians,
or professional bible scholars, they
cannot tell the public that Christ is a
fiction because they have vowed to
support the church. Ifthey did tell the
public, they would be rejected by their
fellow professionals, by their church,
and by some ofthe public they are trying to serve. These churches may occasionally lose a good student but,
strangely enough, most of these students become effective professionals,
although with a calmer style than

their fellows. This opinion is based on

many personal talks that I have had
with believers and professionals.
The general conclusion is that all
the Jesus Christ stories are fiction and
that Jesus never existed as a real person. The biblical gospels were written
by educated theologians. They were
John, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The
gospels of Thomas and Simon Peter
(also theologians), although earlier,
were not put into what became the
Christian Bible. Simon Peter is portrayed in the gospels as an uneducated
fisherman. In real life, I believe, he
was an influential theologian.

The Books from Nag Hammadi

Dates of Composition
The forty-seven titles below are from The Nag Hammadi Library, edited by James M. Robinson (Harper and Row, 1988). These writings were
discovered in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, near Luxor, Egypt. They had been
hidden away about 360 CEo The dates of composition are according to the
analysis of Christopher Drew.
380 The Republic, Plato
300 Prayer of Thanksgiving
300 The Discourse on the Eighth and
Ninth (initiation ritual)
290 The Hypostasis of the Archons
("the essence of the rulers")
280 The Apocalypse of Adam (a revelation)
270 The Concept of Our Great Power
260 Asclepius
250 The Thunder: Perfect Mind
240 Zostrianos
230 Allogenes
220 Apocalypse of Marsanes
210 The Three Steles of Seth
200 Paraphrase of Shem
190 The Thought of Norea
150 The Tripartite Tractate
(first mention of Jesus Christ)
140 On the Origin of the World
100 Hypsiphrone
90 The Gospel of the Egyptians, by
50 Authoritative Teaching

20 The Teachings of Silvanus
22 The Treatise on the Resurrection
(life after death)
24 Melchizedek
24 Trimorphic Protennoia

Spring 1997


The Interpretation of Knowledge

The Sentences of Sextus
A Valentinian Exposition
The Second Treatise of the Great
The Acts of Peter and the Twelve
Eugnostos the Blessed
The Sophia of Jesus Christ
The Book of Thomas the Contender
The Apocryphon of John
(secret writing)
The First Apocalypse of James
(a revelation)
The Apocryphon of James
(secret writing)
The Gospel of Mary
(probably Mary Magdalene)
The Prayer of the Apostle Paul
The Apocalypse of Paul (a revelation)
The Testimony of Truth
The Gospel of Truth
The Gospel of Philip
The Dialogue of the Savior
The Gospel of Thomas _
The Act of Peter
Apocalypse of Peter (a revelation)
The Second Apocalypse of James
(the death of James)
The Exegesis on the Soul
(a dissertation)

American Atheist



o wise one, with thy mystic sight,

As you scan the stars at night,
Is it spooky? Is it scary?
To be an astral visionary?

There are holes in heaven

When you look through the trees
Especially at morning
When rain in swift descent
Veers from the sky,
When air is asleep
Except for birds,
The murmured drenching ofleaves
And rumble
Of a distant train
An articulate six o'clock
With no gold but gray
And slow heave of foliage.
Why revere a cathedral
When trees in shadow
Spread wider and more varied
Than any church?
And who could not, without an altar
Worship the inscrutable silence of a tree
Or loneliness of early rain?

Did you, tripping in the door,

Foresee your landing on the floor?
Was it then that you decided
The Planet and your Moon collided?
Unconscious - as you see more stars,
The rings of Saturn, moons of Mars There is vision. There is hope.
It says so in your horoscope.

Albert Sterbak


I was the last to read it,

thus it became final.
It was the Bible in the sidewalk trash.
Fifty dollar fine for littering.
Someone observed regulations.
But who'd be such a scrupulous observer?
Not even the prodigal son would have been so blatant.
Who'd pitch the word to follow the law?
And why?
A quick thumb through the pages gave the reason.
A mighty river of blood had flowed,
from Genesis to Revelation.
Again why?
Seven times seven, forty times forty whys.
The book was silent about its bloody history.
The Redeemer's blood? Hardly.
More likely a street addict's.
A compress to stanch a wound.
I was very careful, no finger touched red.
The Book witnessed yet another desperate story.
This redemption through the blood
of the Lamb, of Christ, of a "found-Jesus" sinner
provides only a leaky tourniquet for a hemorrhage of faith.
Down the street the sanitation truck
starts the morning pick-up.

children of blessed charity run,

chase a wave into the sun
wouldn't hurt a fly or flea
rusting into ecstasy
like an old car in scrap yard
knee-deep in some golden mud
where they once were sent to be
soldiers in a god's great army
fighting for a higher life
beyond this world of storm & strife
fighting, but not digging trenches
some in penthouses, some on park benches
fighting to make a BOOK OF LOVE
write stories of what's beyond, above,
below, most anywhere, so's long
as it's outside this world. wrong
wrong, i can't agree with them
although my heart goes out to some
for everyone who dies in bliss
ten thousand face the leper's kiss
& really have no choice in it.
for we are not born free you know,
before too long our training shows
& of no one is this more true
than those who claim to beat the blues
with buddhist chants & arcane scrolls
mixed with drugs & rock'n-roll
they really know nothing more than me
who makes no claims on ecstasy's
inner sanctum radios, i'mjust fred
& all i know's there is no gc d
or special place, whatever's here
we've got to face.

Richard Fein

Fred Pietarinen

David Napolin


Austin, Texas

Spring 1997

Page 29

0]6"'" @6C8
1". 80iJRI6
" may be suffering from an illness
which only a spiritual
experience will
conquer. To one who
feels he is an atheist or
an agnostic such an
experience seems
impossible .... To be
doomed to an alcoholic
death or to live on a
spiritual basis are not
always easy alternatives
to face."
-Alcoholics Anonymous,
"The Big Book"

Ron Larsen is a professional

writer who is continuing to develop his skills in journalism and
creative writing at the University
of Nebraska. He is the American
Atheists state director for Nebraska and operates the Nebraska
Dial-an-Atheist" service.

Ron Larsen
Page 30

"Do you have anything to say for

yourself, Mr. X-?"
"No, Ma'am. Other than I made a
mistake. And I'm sorry."
"Nevertheless, for driving under
the influence, I sentence you to pay a
$500.00 fine plus court costs. I'm also
pulling your license for three months.
During that time you must attend 90
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings
in 90 days to reinstate your driving
privileges. Failure to comply with any
of the preceding will earn you 30 days
in jail."
The judge peers balefully over her
glasses. "Questions?" she asks.
"No, ma'am," you say, relieved. It
could have been worse.
"Good. Next case!" The judge
pounds her gavel.

Church's evening AA Meeting. Let's

begin by reading the AA Preamble:

Intent on paying your debt to society, you must attend your first AA
meeting the next night. Scanning the
list of meetings provided by the Court
Clerk, you're happy to see there are
two meetings a day, morning and
night, just a few blocks from your
house. As an Atheist, you're not keen
on meetings in the basement of the
Methodist Church, but oh well. The
judge said AA meetings or jail. You
push your misgivings below the surface. After all, you really have no
Arriving a little before eight in the
evening, you take a seat at one end of
a semicircle of battered folding chairs.
Side by side, derelicts, men in expensive suits, and blue-collar types sit
smoking, and swilling
coffee from Styrofoam cups. Shortly
one stands, clearing his throat:
"Hi, I'm Bill and I'm an alcoholic."
"HI, BILL!" the crowd roars in
'Welcome to Bethany Methodist

Bill coughs and pauses, scanning

the men. He nods toward one.
"Jim, will you lead us in the Serenity Prayer?"
Jim nods gravely.
shuffles to their feet, dutifully joining
hands and bowing heads. Remaining
seated, and eschewing the proffered
hand of your neighbor, you are outside
the circle. Feeling extremely uncomfortable, you fold your arms and observe the magic show.
Jim, hesitating, casts a remonstrative eye your way, but then resolutely
plants chin on chest, scrunches his
eyes shut, and plods on:
"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the
courage to change the things I can, and
the wisdom to know the difference.
Amen." (Bufe: 45)
"Amen," everyone drones, sitting
back down.
"Thanks, Jim," Bill says.
Uneasily, you wonder what's going
on. Just seconds before they had said

Spring 1997

AA is a fellowship of men and

women who share their experience,
strength and hope with each other
that they may solve their common
problem and help others to recover
from alcoholism.
The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.
There are no dues or fees for AAmembership; we are self-supporting
through our own contributions.
AA is not allied with any sect,
denomination, politics, organization
or institution; does not wish to engage
in any controversy; neither endorses
nor opposes any causes.
Our primary purpose is to stay
sober and help other alcoholics to
achieve sobriety." (AAWS: 2).

American Atheist

AA wasn't affiliated with any sect or

denomination. But they have just
clearly performed a patently Christian
conjuring ritual. What gives? Youhave
no time to reflect as Bill commands:
"John will now read the 12 Steps
for us. John?"
John drags deeply on his cigarette,
opens the thick blue volume in his lap
to a marked page and reads:
"Step One. We admitted we were
powerless over alcohol- that our lives
had become unmanageable.
(Horseshit. lfmy life were unmanageable I'd be institutionalized or on
the street.)
Step Two. Came to believe that a
Power greater than ourselves could
restore us to sanity.
(What?! I'm not insane!)
Step Three. Made a decision to
turn our will and our lives over to the
_ care of God as we understood him.
(He's got to be kidding.)
Step Four. Made a searching and
fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
(How very Christian')
Step Five. Admitted to God, to ourselves,and to another human being
the exact nature of our wrongs.
(Oh goody,confession. Where's the
little phone booth thingie?)
Step Six. We're entirely ready to
have God remove all these defects of
(Now I'm defective? And "gawd" is
gonna fix me?)
Step Seven. Humbly asked Him to
remove our shortcomings.
(Oh please.)
Step Eight. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
(Wow. Since childhood? Well, lessee, I smacked Willy Braxton in the
head with a dirt clod, I ... say, what's
this got to do with alcohol?)
Step Nine. Made direct amends to
such people wherever possible, except
when to do so would injure them or
(Great. Penance. Yeah, that'll do
the trick.)
Step Ten. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were
wrong promptly admitted it.
(I'm so-o-o-o wrong. I'm so-o-o-o
Austin, Texas

works ... "

bad. I should be spanked!)
Bill is lying.
Step Eleven. Sought through
prayer and meditation to improve our
And so it goes from California to
conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowl- Maine to Florida to Washington State,
edge of His will for us and the power and everywhere
between. Despite
to carry that out.
common sense, and long-standing
(Baa-a-a-a .....)
empirical evidence to the contrary,
Step Twelve. Having had a spiri- thousands of well-meaning people perpetuate the most astounding fallacies
tual awakening as a result of these
in the mistaken belief that AA is the
steps, we tried to carry this message
only proven method to overcome alcoto alcoholics, and to practice these
principles in all our affairs." (Wilson: hol or drug problems. These same
people will tell you, straight-faced,
(Well, there's the clincher. Gimme that AA is not religious at all, but
an armload 0' Bible tracts and let's hit merely "spiritual." Unfortunately, the
preachy program ofAA and its associthe bricks.)
The rest of the meeting goes by in ated concepts of alcoholism as a disa blur of drunkalogues (tales of tipsy ease and spirituality as the only remescapades), exhortations to "Let go and edy have become part of the social
let God," and people crediting a milieu of America. No one asks why
"Higher Power" for their sobriety. Feel- we "treat" with "spiritual" medicine
ing nauseous, every fiber ofyour Athe- what is - in the United States - widely
ist being rebels, screaming for you to held to be a disease.
flee and NOW. Only the specter ofjail
Sadly, the taboo against goring the
sacred cow of AA helps ensure that
time keeps you seated. Finally, the
meeting ends ... with a group recita- virtually all treatment clinics in the
tion of the "Lord's Prayer."
United States feature it and its prinSwallowing a burgeoning resentciples as the core of their programs (Le:
ment, you approach Bill to have your 603; Peele: 47, 58, 75-76). To test the
court card signed. Hoping for an al- omnipresence of AA in the treatment
ternative, you ask:
system try calling every alcohol or
"Uh, Bill? The judge said I have to drug treatment center in your Yellow
make these meetings. The problem is Pages. Ask what resources are availthat I'm really uncomfortable with this able for those who decline participareligious stuff. Isn't there a nonreli- tion in Twelve-Step programs. You
gious group or something I could go to won't find any. You will be told, in so
many words, thatAAis the only thing
Bill eyeballs you up and down. He that works, that one size fits all, that
decides to take pity on you. After all, those who won't work the Twelve Steps
you're just a newbie, a "pigeon" in AA aren't serious about their problem. You
may even be told that some people
"AA isn't religious. It's spiritual,"
have to get worse before they can get
he says, scrawling his initials on your better, and that AA-refuseniks will
court card and handing it back. "But inevitably die or go insane (Trimpey:
to overcome this disease you abso- 13).
lutely must come to believe in some
Incredibly, you can be jailed for
Higher Power outside yourself." (Wil- refusing to attend court-mandatedAA
son: 44-45)
prayer fests. If you are already incarcerated, you can have privileges with"I have no idea what that means.
I am an Atheist. There's gotta be some held or your sentence lengthened for
other group I can go to that isn't spiri- refusing to attend. Employee Assistual or religious."
tance Programs divert alcohol or drug
"N0, there really isn't. But give it users intoAAas a condition of employa chance," Bill says. "AA is the most ment. Service members
can be
effective approach for alcoholism in drummed out and given less than an
the world. Keep coming back. It really honorable discharge for refusing AA
Spring 1997

Page 31

meetings. People who object to TwelveStep programs are routinely discharged without referral to more appropriate, secular, non-AA programs.
Parents are denied custody of their
children unless they participate in
Twelve-Step programs. Eligibility for
certain organ transplants attach AA
attendance as a prerequisite for consideration. Health care professionals,
under threat oflosing their practices,
are required to participate in AA to
retain their licenses. Family members
of people deemed alcoholics or addicts
are often coerced into p-articipating in
the "codependence" Twelve-Step program (RR-PLAN: 1).
All Americans - but Atheists especially - should be troubled over the
critical First-Amendment
raised by mandatory AA attendance.
Concurrently, the erroneous portrayal
ofAAas the most effective, and indeed
the only method, to address an alcohol or drug problem is of concern to
all who want their money's worth
when it comes to addiction care. We
are all affected.
Persons of average intelligence
immediately peg AA as the religious
approach to overcoming addictive behaviors merely by reading the Twelve
Steps. Even a cursory reading of Ms
central reference, the "Big Book,"
leaves no doubt whatsoever. Yet AA
adherents and proponents continue
irrationally to insist that their program is not religious but only spiritual. Watch the tap dancing when you
ask an AA member to clearly define
the difference!
Along with plain old common
sense, let's arm ourselves with the
facts. The three most important questions for the Atheist who has been
caught within the grasp of the AA leviathan are:
IsAA, indeed, religious in nature?
Is it effective?
What are the alternatives to AA?
Let us first examine the evidence
and lay to rest once and for all the
question of the religious nature ofAA.
The roots of AA are buried in the
soil of the Oxford Group Movement
(OGM), first known as the "First Century Christian Fellowship." The OGM
Page 32

was founded by a Lutheran minister

named Frank Buchman around 1918.
Both Bufe in AA: Cult or Cure and
Ragge in More Revealed report that in
the late 1930s the group changed its
name to "Moral Rearmament" in an
attempt to dissociate itself from itself
after Buchman publicly "thanked
heaven" for Adolf Hitler standing as a
bulwark against the "anti-Christ of
Communism" and claimed that the
world's problems could be solved by a
"God-controlled democracy," a "theocracy," or a "God-controlled" Fascist dictatorship
(Bufe: 23; Ragge: 20).
Buchman's goals are clear in an excerpt from a speech given during the
1930s. Ragge quotes Buchman as saying:
... The secret is God-control. The
only sane people in an insane world
are those controlled by God. God-controlled personalities make God-controlled nationalities. This is the aim
of the Oxford Group. The true patriot
gives his life to bring his nation under God's control. Those who oppose
that control are public enemies ...
World peace will only come
through nations which have achieved
God-control. And everybody can listen
to God. You can. I can. Everybody can
have a part (Ragge: 3).

The Buchanan connection in the

origins of AA proper are well-known
and begin in New York City, in the autumn of 1934, when an oft-institutionalized drunk named Bill Wilson met
an old friend, Ebby T., from his boarding school days. Ebby had been a very
heavy drinker, so Bill was astounded
when he refused an offer to hoist a few.
Ebby had joined the evangelical OGM,
"got religion," and reformed his alcoholic ways. He recounted for Bill the
Group's teachings of individual powerlessness, recognition of personal sin,
confession, restitution, altruistic selfdenial, and prayer to the Christian
god. Underwhelmed, Mr. Wilson kept
drinking (Bufe, pp. 35-36).
He continued to drink until December when he found himself in the
hospital again. Here he took the "belladonna cure," consisting of an interesting cocktail of morphine, henbane,
psychoactive drugs, and belladonna Spring 1997

in large doses, a potent hallucinogen.

In the hospital, and under the influence of these potent drugs, Bill Wilson underwent his "spiritual awakening." In the book AA Comes of Age,
quoted by Bufe, Wilson recounts his
experience thus:
I found myself crying out, "If
there is a God, let Him show Himselfl
I am ready for anything!" Suddenly
the room lit up with a great white
light .... All about me there was a wonderful feeling of Presence, and I
thought to myself, "So this is the God
of the Preachers" (Bufe: 36).

Some might describe his "spiritual

awakening" as more of a hallucinatory
nervous breakdown
- but not to
quibble. Wilson did not drink alcohol
from that day forth.
He became an ardent activist in
the Oxford Group Movement and
slowly started - along with "Dr. Bob"
Smith in Akron, Ohio - to build a
group of drunks who attempted to remain sober using the Movement's
teachings. In late 1937 a schism developed, and the unnamed alcoholic
group split from the OGM.
In 1938 Bill Wilson began writing
the central reference ofAA, its famous
"Big Book." Here, for the first time, the
core ofMs teachings is distilled as the
Twelve Steps. Except for the first and
last, all the Steps are the immediate
offspring of OGM principles. Predictably - according to AA legend - the
writing of the Twelve Steps was "spiritually inspired," or in other words, directed by the Christian god. Ragge
quotes an AA source:
As he started to write, he asked for
guidance. And he relaxed. The words
began tumbling out with astonishing
speed. He completed the first draft in
about half an hour, then kept writing
until he felt he should stop and review
what he had written. Numbering the
new steps, he found that they added
up to twelve - a symbolic number; he
thought of the Twelve Apostles, and
soon became convinced that the Society should have twelve steps (Ragge:

The Big Book was excoriated by

the medical and scientific press that
American Atheist

gave it any attention, although the

popular and religious press of the time
reacted favorably. The most notable
review, as noted by Bufe, came from
the October 14, 1939, Journal of the

American Medical Association:

The book is a curious combination
of organizing propaganda and religious exhortation. It is in no sense a
scientific book ... The book contains instructions on how to intrigue the alcoholic addict into the acceptance of
divine guidance in place of alcohol in
terms strongly reminiscent of Dale
Carnegie and the adherents of the
Buchman (Oxford) movement ... the
book has no scientific merit or interest (Buffs: 44).

During the 1950s the American

Medical Association had a change of
. heart - mainly due to heavy pressure
from AA, which had by this time
gained a huge following - and wholeheartedly embraced AA and its concepts. The AMA'sinitial response, however, remains as a statement of unadorned honesty.
The best evidence for AA religiosity remains the Big Book itself.
Within just the first 164 pages of
text and its twenty pages of preliminary material alone, God and associated words, e.g., Godly, God-given, etc.,
are used 174 times. Use of personal
pronouns referring to the Christian
god, with the first letter capitalized,
total 62 - for a sum of 236 usages in
the first 184 pages. Other terms relative to the Christian god, e.g., Creator,
Boss Universal, and so on, are used
55 times. The words spiritual, religion,
and religious are used 142 times. Direct biblical references or paraphrases
are quoted 11 times (Fox: 50-53). All
religious references and words are
used in a positive sense.
Pages 171-561 ofthe Big Book consist of 43 purportedly true-life stories
of alcoholics who gained sobriety
through the auspices of AA. Each
reads as a tale of personal helplessness, sin, and redemption. Each contains passages that exhort the reader
to find the Christian god through
prayer and adherence to the Twelve
Austin, Texas

York case, Warner v Orange County
Chapter Four, entitled: ''WeAgnosDepartment of Probation, a man who
tics," is a barely veiled, but direct athad been convicted of drunk driving
tack, on Atheists and Agnostics. In
was sentenced toAAas an alternative
tone, this chapter is arrogantly selfto prison. The court found that the
assured. It savages those who would
county was guilty of "coercing the
be silly enough to use their critical
plaintiff into participating in religious
thinking faculties and natural selfexercises, an act which tends toward
sufficiency instead of relying on mysthe establishment of a state religious
tic faith in the hypothetical Christian
god. A common admonishment in AA
In 1994, all materials
circles is: "You're a prisoner of the inHazelden Publications, a publishing
tellect." This platitude springs from
arm of AA, were ordered out of Calithe visceral anti-intellectualism
fornia Youth Authority classrooms.
Chapter Four. The unmistakable mesAdditionally, decrees announcing the
sage of the chapter, taken as a whole
right to refuse Twelve-Step participais: Don't think; just believe and your
tion were posted in all living quarters.
troubles will be solved. Forthose who
A 1994 federal
court case,
won't or can't comply with this pithy
and the
advice, the message is equally clear:
found AA to be reYou are insane and will die unless you
ligious and ordered the State of Calicome to believe as we do.
fornia to offer alternatives to TwelveThe Big Book ofAAclearly exposes
Step programs in any state-funded or
the inherent religiosity of the program.
mandated program.
But for those yet un convinced, consider what just a
few court decisions
SNAPSHOTS by Jason Love
Fox, in Addiction quotes Grand-

berg v Ashland
County, a 1984 Wisconsin ruling concerning judicially
mandatedAAattendance, the court
AlcoholicsAnonymous materials ...
and the testimony
ofthe witness established beyond a
doubt that religious
as defined in constitutional law, were a
part of the treatment program. The
distinction between
religion and spirituality is meaningless, and serves
merely to confuse
the issue .... (Fox:

In a 1994 New


"Sorrv, bovs, but I unIt imagine spending

rest of mv IHe sober."

Spring 1997

Page 33

In Griffin v Coughlin on June 11,

1996, the New York Court of Appeals
ruled that the substance abuse program in use by the New York Department of Corrections was unconstitutional because, "after a fair reading of
the doctrinal literature of AA, [the
Twelve-Step program was found to be]
unequivocally religious."
In August of 1996, the U.S. Court
of Appeals, Seventh District ruled in
Kerr v Lind, et al., that due to Ms
religiosity, an inmate's rights were violated when privileges and consideration for parole were withdrawn as a
direct result of his refusal to participate in Twelve-Step meetings.
In December of 1996, the U. S.
Supreme Court turned down, without
comment, New York's appeal to have
the Griffin v Coughlin ruling overturned, in effect agreeing with the
Court of Appeals' finding eRR-PLAN:
Fox again, in Addiction, refers to
Ellen Luff of the American Civil Liberties Union who said that nearly all
criminal defendants who fight AA attendance on religious grounds win,
and that similar lawsuits don't even
have to go to trial because "the case
that it [AA] is a religion is so strong."
This ain't rocket science, folks.
Bluntly, anyone who tells you thatAA
is not religious is either stupid, suffers from some sort of perceptual deficit, and/or has a certainAAphilosophical axe to grind. This more than passes
the crap test, and with flying colors. If
it looks, smells, feels, and sounds like
crap, it probably IS crap. And, legally,
no one can force you to swallow a plateful for confirmation.
Turning our attention now to the
question of the effectiveness of AA what would you imagine the "cure"
rates are for an approach predicated
on god-belief? Remember, AA holds
that to overcome alcoholism you must
come to believe in a "Higher Power"
outside yourself - namely, the Christian god. What do you think? If your
answer includes the word "lousy," give
yourself a cookie. Unsurprisingly, the
AAreligion is no panacea for problems
of alcohol or substance dependency.
Stanton Peele, in his courageously
Page 34

unflinching book, The Truth About

Addiction and Recovery, says:
What about joining a support
group such as AlcoholicsAnonymous?
Here, too, research reveals the opposite of what we have been led to believe. AAis a valuable community resource for those who find support in a
certain type of religiously oriented

Vaillant's candid assessment:

It seemed perfectly clear ... by
turning to recovering alcoholics [AA
members] rather than to Ph.D.'s for
lessons in breaking self-detrimental
and more or less involuntary habits,
and by inexorably moving patients ...
into the treatment system ofM I was
working for the most exciting alcohol

Anyone who tells you that AA is not religious is either stupid, suffers from some
sort of perceptual deficit, and/or has a
certain AA philosophical axe to grind."
group ritual. But the best we can say
about AAis that it works for those for
whom it works. Meanwhile, there are
plenty for whom it doesn't work. There
is no scientific evidence thatAA works
better than other approaches when
randomly selected alcoholics are assigned to AA or other treatments. In
fact the evidence is that the people
who are now often compelled to attend
AA - after being arrested for drunk
driving or being sent by a company
Employee Assistance Program - do
worse than those who are left on their
own (Peele: 29).

Ms own triennial membership

surveys consistently show drop-out
rates of 80% within the first thirty
days of AA attendance. Half of the remainder drop out within 90 days, and
95% of newcomers drop out of AA before a year is up. Less than 5% of the
untold millions of people who have
attended AA have achieved a lasting
Jock Trimpey of Rational Recovery also cites an analysis of major research on AA. This analysis "... found
only a .2 correlation (slightly better
than chance) betweenAAinvolvement
and drinking outcome .... " (Fox: 39).
Peele, in Diseasing of America,
cites a study conducted by noted
Harvard psychiatrist George Vaillant,
who followed 100 alcoholic men over a
period of eight years. (One of the longest studies of its kind ever done.)
Spring 1997

program in the world. But then came

the rub. [We] tried to prove our efficacy.... After initial discharge, only
five patients in the Clinic sample
never relapsed to alcoholic drinking,
and there is compelling evidence that
the results of our treatment were no
better than the natural history of the
disease .... Not only had we failed to
alter the natural history of alcoholism,
but our death rate of three percent a
year was appalling (Peele: 73-74).

The data listed above are just a

small sample of a very large body of
empirical evidence indicating thatAA
is no better than doing nothing at all.
The few studies that have shown any
benefit to AA attendance are notable
for their methodological flaws and are
virtually worthless (Le et al.: 603).
The chief reason for Ms dismal
record is obvious to the Atheist. Any
"treatment" predicated on belief in an
imaginary despot-in-the-sky must fail.
We might as well turn our lives over
to the Energizer Bunny.
So let's pretend that you're faced
with the prospect of attending an alcohol or drug self-help group. As an
Atheist, you sensibly abhor the fundamentalist fervor organic to the AA
approach. What can you do?
Happily, secular alternatives have
appeared and you can - should - demand the right to attend one in lieu of
AA The status quo is being challenged
American Atheist

- by scientists, in the courts, in the

arena of public opinion, and wherever
people have stood up and said enough!
If you are still somehow coerced into
AA, you can with confidence sue, secure in the knowledge that there is a
growing body of jurisprudence in your

What are these non-spiritual alternatives? The groups that have, on
a national scale, recently emerged to
confront the Twelve-Step behemoth
Rational Recovery (RR)
Self-Management and Recovery
Training (SMART)
Women For Sobriety (WFS)
Men For Sobriety (MFS)
Secular Organizations for
Sobriety (SOS)
Moderation Management (MM)
While still dwarfed by AA, these
groups are viable and available, although it may take effort to find them
in some regions. Let's take them oneby-one and capsulize their respective

Rational Recovery: In California, in 1986, Jack Trimpey, a Licensed

Clinical Social Worker, founded RR in
response to a perceived need for a secular self-help group. Probably the largest and best known ofthe alternatives,
free RR groups now exist in hundreds
of locations around the country and
overseas. Commercial Rational Recovery Centers have opened near Chicago,
in Sacramento, and in Orange County,
California. More are planned.
The RR method is completely antithetical to AAin eV,eryregard except
one: both programs have total abstinence from alcohol as the goal, although RR's emphasis on this preferred outcome does not seem quite as
absolutistic. RR does not regard "alcoholism" as a disease in any real
sense of the word, and sensibly asks
Austin, Texas

how a voluntary behavior could be a

sickness. RR encourages participants
to become recovered and get on with
their lives by learning to regard their
past drinking as a regrettable phase
oftheir lives now over. RR discourages
adoption of the forever "recovering"
drunk persona as a hindrance to sobriety. Once members have internalized the RR method they are expected
to leave the group, completely recovered and not return. Great emphasis
is placed on self-efficacy. In fact, the
need to even attend meetings is openly
questioned as evidence indicates most
people recover independently. There
are no steps and zero consideration to
religious matters, making RR a good
choice for the Atheist.
RR vigorously opposes and is publicly, some would say vehemently, critical of what it terms the "Recovery
Group Movement" (RGM), a euphemism for AA, its clones, and the Twelve
Trimpey holds that there is no such
thing as a treatment for alcohol or
drug addiction and characterizes the
entire RGM as a huge scam, peddling
religious snake oil.
Therefore, RR considers and characterizes its approach as education
and not treatment. The most important component of RR is Addictive
Voice Recognition Technique (AVRT).
AVRT theory holds that the sole reason anyone drinks or drugs is for pleasure. Anger, rotten spouses, dysfunctional childhoods, and the like are regarded as merely the rationales or excuses used to justify drinking or drugging.
UsingAVRT, a "student" learns to
recognize his "Addictive Voice," defined as any thought, idea, or mental
imagery that supports drinking or using - ever. After learning to recognize
the Addictive Voice in all its forms,
participants are taught to dissociate
from this Addictive Voice by labeling
it as their "enemy" and not their "true"
selves. Mental techniques are then
taught to figuratively "slay" this enemy - no negotiation, no surrender. RR
members internalize AVRT so that it
becomes automatic, running in the
background like a computer program,
Spring 1997

unnoticed but active.

RR is also involved in planning
legal actions against the RGM, under
the auspices of the Rational Recovery
Political and Legal Action Network
(RR-PLAN). The RR-PLAN web page
minces no words:
The purpose of RR-PLAN is to end
the coercive and deceptive tactics commonly used by the chemical dependency counseling professions, and to
end mandated participation in the recovery group movement and its business arm, the addiction-treatment industry. In effect, the purpose of RRPLAN is to put AA out of business the addiction-treatment business they
say they aren't in, the business of'politics they shouldn't be in, and the daily
business of health professionals, educators, civil servants, and elected officials ... (RR-PLAN: 1).

who feel their FirstAmendment
trampled by coerced AA attendance
may register to participate in a future
class-action lawsuit.
RR can be contacted by writing to:
Rational Recovery,
Box 800, Lotus, CA 95651,
Telephone: (916) 621-4374/2667.
The RR e-mail address is:
Their website can be accessed at:
http://www. rational. orglrecoveryl

Self-Management and Recovery Training: SMART developed during the past five years as an offshoot
of RR, and describes itself as: "A new,
non-Twelve Step, abstinence-oriented,
mutual help group," and claims approximately 200 free groups across the
country (SMART: 1).
The group uses the principles of
Behavior Therapy
(REBT) to help members learn to abstain from alcohol or drugs. Like RR,
belief in a "Higher Power" is not required. SMART also shuns the disease
model of addictive behaviors. Meetings
usually consist of small discussion
groups that concentrate on fostering
the motivation to remain abstinent.
Members are taught to recognize the
emotional patterns that precede drinkPage 35

ing, and ways to change those emotions by changing their thinking patterns. Attendance may be as long as
two years.
As with RR, there is no requirement to self-label as an alcoholic or
addict. SMART asserts that by learning REBT principles that enable persons to change their emotional state
at will, members can empower themselves to abstain from drinking or using. SMART groups focus on REBT,
present-day events, and the causes of
self-destructive behaviors. The object
is to recognize and change those
causes to achieve a more positive
lifestyle. SMART emphasizes:
Enhancing motivation,
Refusing to act on urges to use,
Managing life's problems in a sensible and effective way without
substances, and
Developing a positive and healthy
lifestyle (1-3).
SMART may be contacted by writing:
35000 Chardon Road
Willoughby Hills, OH 44094
Telephone: (216) 951-0515
Their e-mail address is:
Their website can be reached at:
Women For Sobriety: WFS was
founded in 1976 by Dr. Jean Kirkpatrick, former U.S. ambassador to the
United Nations, and claims hundreds
of groups. According to Kirkpatrick,
the WFS purpose is: help all women recover from problem drinking through the discovery of
self, gained by sharing experiences,
hopes, and encouragement with other
women in similar circumstances ...
WFS is unique in that it is an organization of women for women ...
(Kirkpatrick: 6).

There is a $2.00 donation required

per meeting attended, but no donation
is expected for the first meeting. WFS
considers alcoholism a physical disease, and expects participants to rePage 36

cognize their "disease" as such. WFS

supports an abstinence goal.
Kirkpatrick's WFS "New Life" Acceptance Program contains six "Levels of Growth," which are:
Accepting alcoholism as a physical disease;
Discarding negative thoughts,
putting guilt behind, and practicing new ways of viewing and solving problems;
Creating and practicing a new selfimage;
Using new attitudes to enforce
new behavior patterns;
Improving relationships as a result of our new feelings about self;
Recognizing life's priorities: emotional and spiritual growth, selfresponsibility.
These levels of growth incorporate
thirteen total "Statements of Acceptance." These statements are:
(1) I have a life-threatening problem
that once had me;
(2) Negative emotions destroy only
(3) Happiness is a habit I will develop;
(4) Problems bother me only to the
degree I permit them to;
(5) I am what I think;
(6) Life can be ordinary or it can be
(7) Love can change the course of my
(8) The fundamental object of life is
emotional and spiritual growth;
(9) The past is gone forever;
(10) All love given returns;
(11) Enthusiasm is my daily exercise;
(12) I am competent and have much
to give life;
(13) I am responsible for myself and
my actions (Kirkpatrick: 2-4).
While these Levels and Statements have a somewhat touchy-feely
tone to them, WFS seems to lack or
push any real religious or spiritual fervor. This writer could find no mention
of organized religion or gods of any
stripe in the literature provided.
Spring 1997

WFS may be contacted by writing: .

P.O. Box 618
Quakertown, PA 18951
Telephone: 1-800-333-1606.
Men For Sobriety: MFS utilizes
the same approach and principles as
WFS. Contact information is the same.
(Note that the 1-800 number answers
to WFS but is also listed for MFS in
the brochures.)
Secular Organizations for Sobriety: Also known as "Save Our
Selves," SOS came into being after
James Christopher published an article, "Sobriety Without Superstition,"
in the Summer 1985 issue of Free Inquiry, a leading secular humanist
magazine. The article received such a
good response that Christopher organized SOS for others who wanted sobriety without the god-stuff. Today
SOS holds meetings in every state.
SOS is a subcommittee of the Council
for Secular Humanism.
SOS adheres to the disease model
and supports total abstinence as the
only way to overcome alcoholism. It is
similar to AA in another way: insistence on a need to self-label as an alcoholic or addict in order to defeat an
addiction. Christopher describes SOS
as: alternative recovery method for
those alcoholics or drug addicts who
are uncomfortable with the spiritual
content of widely available 12-Step
programs. SOS takes a reasonable,
secular approach to recovery and
maintains that sobriety is a separate
issue from religion or spirituality .
SOS credits the individual for achieving and maintaining his or her own
sobriety, without reliance on any
"Higher Power ... (Christopher: 1).

The key concept in the SOS paradigm is called the "Sobriety Priority."
SOS small group meetings reinforce
this priority by communication between members of their emotions,
ideas, and knowledge. Constructive,
and reasonable approaches to living an abstemious and
American Atheist

rewarding lifestyle are emphasized

(Christopher, 1-2).
SOS may be contacted by writing:
SOS National Clearinghouse
The Center for Inquiry - West
5521 Grosvenor Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90066
Telephone: (310) 821-8430.
E-mail may be addressed to:
The website may be accessed at:
Moderation Management: Established in 1993 by Audrey Kishline,
MM is the latest of the secular alternatives, and as can be discerned from
the name, supports a goal of drinking
in moderation. MM is currently the
only group that offers this as its raison
d'etre. MM recognizes a difference between alcohol abuse and dependence,
and believes that a rational option for
problem drinkers may be moderation,
while abstinence is better for seriously
dependent drinkers. The group emphasizes that MM is intended for those
drinkers who have had mild to moderate levels of alcohol-related problems. As with RR and SMART there
is no requirement to self-label as an
alcoholic. Meetings are free, although,
as with all the listed groups, members
may make small donations to support
their local group. According to
Kishline, MM offers:
- A supportive mutual-help environment that encourages people who
are concerned about their drinking to
take action to cut back or quit drinking before drinking problems become
- A nine-step, professionally reviewed program which provides information about alcohol, moderate drinking guidelines and limits, drink monitoring exercises, goal-setting techniques, and self-management strategies. As a major part of the program,
members also use the nine steps to
find balance and moderation in many
other areas of their lives, one small
step at a time ..... (Kishline: 1).

Kishline lists the nine steps ofMM

Austin, Texas

Attend meetings and learn about

the program of MM. (The MM program can be followed without attending meetings.)
Abstain from all alcoholic beverages for 30 days and complete
steps three through six during this
Examine how drinking affects
your life.
Write down your priorities.
Take a look at how much, how often, and under what circumstances you used to drink.
Learn the MM guidelines and limits for moderate drinking (provided at meetings and in MM literature.),
Set moderate drinking limits and
start weekly "small steps" toward
positive lifestyle changes.
Review your progress and update
your goals.
Continue to make positive lifestyle
changes, attend meetings for on
going encouragement and support,
and help newcomers to the group
(Kishline: 3).
MM may be contacted by writing:
P.O. Box 6005,
Ann Arbor, MI 48106
The MM website address is:
As the rise of nonreligious selfhelp groups implies, theAAdeath grip
on the addiction care system of
America, though yet strong, has loosened. The struggle has begun. Armed
with the Constitution, reason, and
right, bantam groups now wrestle the
Twelve-Step Gargantua for the right
to serve the American public with
secular alternatives.
Formidable in its own right, the
AA colossus commands powerful allies
in all branches and levels of government, the medical establishment, and
within the religious community. AAlike all religions - will fight to maintain its power. It will use every tactic
and expend all reinforcements in the
battle. The issue is in doubt.
To triumph we must be resolute.
Spring 1997

We need never allow ourselves or those

we love to be coerced into kneeling at
the "sacred" altar of AA. Alternatives
exist that do not demand we check our
brains at the door nor surrender our
Atheist philosophy. We must demand
our right to attend the group we deem
The First Amendment is both our
shield and sword. Use it. If you go to
court, you will win. It may be but a
small victory in a lengthy campaign,
but that is the nature of war. And have
no doubt that is what we're fighting.
This is another skirmish in the ancient
confrontation between reason and religion, hope and tyranny, the candle
and darkness.
For our children, for ourselves, for
all humankind - we must prevail.
Works Cited
Alcoholics Anonymous World Services
(AAWS). This is AA ... an introduction to
the AA recovery program. New York:AA,
Bufe, Charles Q. Alcoholics Anonymous:
Cult or Cure? Tucson: Sharp, 1991.
Christopher, James. "SOS Home Page." 28
1997. Website
Web. (Initial posting date unknown)
Fox, Vince. Addiction, Change and Choice:
The New View of Alcoholism. Tucson:
Sharp, 1993.
Kirkpatrick, Jean. Women & Addictions:
A Way to Recovery. Quakertown: WFS,
Kishline, Audrey. "Moderation Management Home Page." 28 January, 1997.
Website posting:
mm!. Worldwide Web. (Initial posting
date unknown)
Le, Christine, Erik P. Ingvarson, and Richard C. Page. "Alcoholics Anonymous
and the Counseling Professions: Philosophies in Conflict." Journal of Counseling and Development. (July/August
1995): 603-609.
Peele, Stanton. Diseasing of America: Addiction Treatment Out of Control. Boston: Houghton, 1989
The Truth About Addiction and Recovery.
New York: Simon, 1992.
Page 37

Ragge, Ken. More Revealed: A Critical

Analysis of Alcoholics Anonymous and
The Twelve Steps. Henderson, Nevada:

Another Epistle of Brother Josiah

Alert!, 1991.

By Josh Karpf

RR-PLAN (Rational Recovery Political

and Legal Action Network) "Common
Twelve Step Coercions." 25 January
1997. Website posting: http://www.
World-Wide Web. (Initial posting date
SMART. "Self-Management and Recovery Training." 28 January,
Website posting: http://www.netwizards.netJrecovery/smart.html.
Worldwide Web. (Initial posting date u n known)

April 20, 1996

Taco Bell
Pepsi Cola Inc
Anderson Hill Road
Purchase New York 10577

Dear Taco Bell

Your new T. V. ads with the TAKE A RUN TO THE BORDER words
hits at the heart of this nashion's pride. I am a taxpayer
and a Christian and I object. Are you saying that mexican
Trimpey, Jack. The Final Fix for Alcohol
food is more good than American food. If so you have not
and Drug Addiction:AVlIT. Lotus, Calihad real American food and you should eat some and see! Why
fornia: Lotus, 1994.
do we have to take a run to the border. I heard on the news
that were trying to stop them from run over the border
Wilson, William G.AlcoholicsAnonymous
they take jobs from Americans. Am I missing somthing.
("The Big Book"). New York: AA, 1995.
Do you mean that if you eat your food by Taco Bell you get
that is not a good thing to say on T. V.


since kids are watching and whil grownups

can watch wat they want kids cant becauz its
not good for them theres too much of the
DEVIL in the world and your not helping.

by Jason Love

Ofle (\0.rron )

...under (icd J
with liberty and

justice for

011 .

And so the d.ay begiM in a country sworn to

separate church and state.
Page 38

I think that Taco Bel could do much more

Taco Belling if it didn't serve so much spic
food and instead made hamburgers
and hot
dogs and freiz and weerd pieces of chiken
like mcdonalds and burger King and like
that. American food is much more good. It
makes you strong like a man so you can get
the girl you want. I ate a million million
hamburgers when I was young and met my very
happy Dolleen Sue who is very happy to meet
me then. We were sinners but then we were
Born Again and to help Jesus Christ we said
wed help the dephicit by eating at good
restarants all the time to keep the money
circilating. So we ate at Taco bell for
Jesus but we found Satan was there by making
'un American food and making un American ads
that say people need to go to the bathroom a
lot of times. Were very mad at you for this
and want you to make real food and real ads
so the world will be safe and good to eat
when JESUS return.
Pat Robertsen for Presdent!
Trust him! And HIM!

Spring 1997


American Atheist

Their prayer rallies in

stadiums now implore hundreds of thousands of men
each year to "take responsibility" in their god-mandated
roles as husbands, fathers,
heads of households, and
leaders in society. They define
their organization as a
"Christ-centered ministry
dedicated to uniting men
through vital relationships to
become godly influences in
their world." The PROMISE
KEEPERSmovement is the
nation's fastest-growing religious group - and is promoting a reactionary theocratic
social agenda.
With its theological roots
and links to extreme charismatic, apocalyptic beliefs, its
penchant for spectacle, and
its promotion of a totalistic
ideology which seeks to manipulate and control the
psyches of its followers,
Promise Keepers is precariously close to being a cult.

Conrad Goeringer is an antiquarian bookseller and freelance

writer who lives on the cape of
NewJersey. Afrequent speaker at
American Atheists national conventions, he is director of American Atheists On-line Services and
a contributing editor ofAmerican

Conrad Goeringer
Austin, Texas

Gods Mighty Men:

The Promise Keepers Rise Up
By Conrad f. Goerlng.r

he images have become familiar ones in the pages of news

papers and magazines and in
the glow of the televised evening news
- throngs of men packed into stadiums
and other sports venues raising their
arms in unison, praying, embracing
each other, crying, and listening to
hours of preaching. The crowd is
mostly white. Many are men who have
brought their sons for this emotionladen spectacle. There are no women
to be seen, except those operating the
concession areas. There are hours of
emotional preaching, exhortations for
the men to humble themselves and
submit their wills to Jesus Christ. The
speeches are often laced with sportsrhetoric: "crossing the goal line," "carrying the ball." At the end of it all sometimes after two days of wrenching prayer, confession, crying, grieving, and sermonizing - the men are
told to go back to their families,
churches, and communities and make
a determined "commitment to godliness."
It is a rally staged by Promise
Keepers, the nation's fastest growing
religious movement - which to some
resembles a bastard child of the religious right and the NFL Superbowl.
The sports metaphors are no accident.
Promise Keepers began seven years
ago, when University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney supposedly
had a vision of males flocking together
in stadiums "to honor Jesus Christ and
learn more about becoming men of integrity." The vision came at an opportune, ifironic time in McCartney's own
life. It was in shambles. "Coach"
McCartney - as his players and, now,
his Promise Keepers devotees enthusiastically call him - admits as much
in his autobiography From Ashes to
Glory. His daughter became pregnant
due to a liaison with his star quarterSpring 1997

back. On top of that, McCartney's

climb to the pinnacle of football collegiate coaching had been at the cost of
years of neglect of his own wife and
family. Years later, his autobiographical musings would describe battles
with drugs and his own inner demons.
From Ashes to Glory - a hot seller at
Promise Keepers rallies and in Christian bookstores - was his attempt to
"open up, to expose myselfto the world
for what I really am ... I'm an ordinary
guy with an extraordinary God."
In 1990, the "ordinary guy" with
a handful of supporters and key religious-right leaders started a movement known as Promise Keepers.

From vision to reality

Years later, McCartney's "vision"
of throngs of "men at risk" - turning
their lives over to Jesus in a charismatic soap-opera drama of spectacular proportions - had become a reality. In 1991, McCartney attracted a
mere 4,200 men to a prayer rally in a
basketball arena. The following year,
22,000 showed up for a Promise Keepers meeting in Boulder's Folsom Stadium. Six stadium rallies took place
in 1994, including a prayer-fest at the
Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis which
attracted 62,000 of the cheering faithful. In 1997, Promise Keepers events
- not even including a monster "Solemn Assembly" scheduled for October
in Washington, D.C. - will probably
draw over one million participants.
In all of these stadium spectacles,
the few women permitted into Promise Keepers events maintain their status as a "ladies auxiliary" staffing the
concession and sales areas. After
plunking down $50-$60 for registration, PK-ers can still keep their wallets open for copies of the group's manifesto, Seven Promises of a Promise
Keeper. Written by a minister named
Page 39

Tony Evans, it exhorts men to:

Sit down with your wife and say
something like this: "Honey, I've made
a terrible mistake. I've given you my
role. I gave up leading this family, and
I forced you to take my place. Now I
must reclaim that role."
... I'm not suggesting that you ask
for your role back, I'm urging you to
take it back ... there can be no compromise here. If you're going to lead,
you must lead ... Treat the lady gently
and lovingly. But lead!
(From the chapter: "Reclaiming
Your manhood") .

The Seven Promises is published

on behalf of the organization by James
Dobson's Focus on the Family group.
Dobson is one of a number of religious
gurus tied to the Promise Keepers
movement. Focus, with its $100 million annual budget and estimated
600,000 supporters, remains a key
force on behalf of "family values," com-

batting gay and abortion rights and

defending the need for prayer and corporal punishment in the schools.
Promise Keepers enthusiasts can
also subscribe to the organization's
magazine New Man, or pick up other
books or pamphlets including Coach
McCartney's autobiography. They can
also wander back to the packed stands,
where PK speakers declare that wives
should "submit" to the will of their
husbands, or urge the men to "build
strong marriages and families through
love, protection, and biblical values."
There is also plenty of what The Nation described as "warm and fuzzy
rhetoric" where the mostly white audience is urged to move toward "reconciliation" with blacks and other ethnic groups.
Predictably, the reaction to the
Promise Keepers phenomenon runs
the gamut from the effusive support
of Pat Robertson's 700 Club to the
more critical insights in The Nation,

or even The New York Times. For investigative writers Joe Conanson,
Alfred Ross, and Lee Cokorinos, Promise Keepers represents "The Third
wave of the religious right," the fruition of a process that began with Jerry
Falwell's now-dormant Moral Majority movement (the First Wave) and
continued as the more politically sophisticated efforts of the Christian
Coalition (the Second Wave). Indeed,
many of the movers-and-shakers behind Promise Keepers represent a less
pragmatic approach to the political
gamesmanship carried out on Capitol
Hill and in state and municipal bodies as well. The Christian Coalition
has come under fire from some former
religious allies who feel that it has
"sold out" to professional politicians
inside the Republican Party. James
Dobson has expressed his reservations
about the Christian Coalition strategy
of working within the ''big tent" ofGOP

Promise Keepers and The Dominionist Mandate

Just as most of the godly men "Bible law" must govern the person,
families, and governmental institupouring into stadiums are unaware
tions. In a Dominionist culture, there
of the charismatic influences within
the Promise Keepers movement, or is no separation of state and church.
the backgrounds and associations of If anything, the police powers of the
their own leadership, they and other state are harnessed to ensure that
Americans are similarly oblivious to Bible laws are enforced.
a religious-political tenet known as
Nevertheless, Dominionists (especially the Christian
Reconstruc"Dominion Theology" or Dominionism. It is the integration of reli- tionists) will insist on defending a pegious doctrines into political conser- culiar version of state-church separavatism that distinguishes the agenda
tion. "The Creed of Christian Reconofgroups like the Coalition on Revival structionism," drafted by Rev.Andrew
or the Christian Coalition from the Sandlin ofthe Chalcedon Foundation,
economic, laissez-faire teachings of insists that the Reconstructionist
"firmly believes in the separation of
secular conservatives or even libertarians found in groups like the Cato church and state, but not the separaInstitute.
tion of the state - or anything else Simply put, Dominionism teaches from God." Variants ofthis disingenuthat Christians are commanded by ous argument are found throughout
religious fundamentalist and evangeligod to occupy and govern all institutions in anticipation of the "final days" cal political movements. David Barton,
and the Second Coming. It teaches
author of the 1989 book The Myth of
that biblical principles must be ap- Separation and head of the fundamentalist ''Wallbuilders,'' has promoted the
plied to every aspect of individual,
social, and political lives. So-called notion that the Wall of Separation is
Page 40

Spring 1997

"one-directional" or intended to prevent the government from interfering

in the affairs of religion. This position
is fashionable in religious-right materials and often repeated by Ralph
Reed, James
and Pat
To varying degrees, groups like
Promise Keepers, Christian Coalition,
Operation Rescue, and Coalition on
Revival are Dominionist in that they
accept the primacy of Biblical doctrine
in the governance of society. But there
can be, and are differences. Ralph
Reed is more of a political pragmatist,
and may be uncomfortable in both
theory and practice with hard-core
preach the death penalty for homosexuals and adulterers.
A Reconstructionist, though, like Rousas John
(R.J.) Rushdoony can rub shoulders at
meetings of the semi secret Council for
National Policy (CNP) with Christian
Coalition boy wonder Ralph Reed, or
schmooze with other religious-right
American Atheist

But most of mainstream journalism has dealt with only the most superficial aspects of the Promise Keepers phenomenon, ignoring nagging
questions about the group's potential
involvement in mass politics, or minimizing the homophobic, antiwoman
rhetoric of the group and its leadership. Laura Flanders took her fellow
journalists to task in a recent issue of
Extra! contrasting the different coverage of Louis Farrakhan's Million Man
March (a hidden agenda? racist manipulation?) with the more credulous
observations made about the Promise
Keepers, such as claims about racial
"reconciliation" or the statement that
the group had a "chivalrous" attitude
about women. Even less is understood
or unearthed about the ideological and
theological roots of the Promise Keepers, or the kinship of its leadership
with some of the most extreme
Dominionist, Reconstructionist, and
bizarre charismatic movements on the

religious landscape today.

Cultic Qualities and the
Dominionist Mandate
In researching the theological
foundation, structure, and origins of
the Promise Keepers movement, it
became apparent that the typical categorizations that abounded in mainstream media did not adequately describe what this organization truly is.
Promise Keepers is more than a fundamentalist or evangelical reaction
against the rise of feminism in modern culture and the changing nature
of gender and families. It is something
beyond the scope of previous politicized religious movements, something
more than a Third Wave of the religious right. While groups such as the
Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition made no bones about their political character, Promise Keepers vehemently eschews such a label. The organization has certainly attracted the

gurus such as Gary Bauer of the Fam- to obey the orders of parents.
ily Research
Council, Rev. Don Reconstructionist writers have ground
Wildmon of the American Family As- out a steady flow of books, tracts, and
sociation, Howard Phillips ofthe U.S. position papers - many of which conTaxpayers Party, or antiabortion ma- cern arcane theological questions such
ven Phyllis Schlafly. It is within the as the exact sequence of events leadconfines of groups like CNP where
ing up to the Second Coming of Christ.
Dominionists doctrines are most effecA number of Promise Keepers
tively transmitted.
There is also a leaders including Wellington Boone,
trend where individuals once associ- E.V. Hill, John Perkins, and Joseph
ated with religious-right or political
Garlington embrace Reconstructionist
conservative movements gravitate to- views; all are associated with the Coaward even more extreme positions and lition on Revival (COR).
adopt a Reconstructionist- Dominionist
While COR is considered
Theology perspective. The most pro- Reconstructionist group, the group's
nounced form ofDominionist Theology founder Jay Grimstead prefers to call
is Christian Reconstructionism, iden- himself a "modern day Puritan."
tified closely with R.J. Rushdoony and
and other
the Chalcedon Foundation movement.
Reconstructionism has become a vi- maintain a lower profile than their
brant doctrinal force on the religious
religious fundamentalist and evangeliright. Its advocacy of "theonomy," the cal counterparts. The Reconstruction
application of Bible law to all areas of journal Chalcedon Report includes in
life, has appealed to those religious
its Creed:
eager to shape the
A Christian Reconstrucnation's cultural
destiny. Recontionist is a Dominionist. He
structionists advocate the death pentakes seriously the Bible's
alty for a wide range oftransgressions,
commands to the godly to take
including abortion, homosexuality,
dominion in the earth. This is
witchcraft, adultery, and even failure
the goal of the gospel and the
Austin, Texas

Spring 1997

support and interest of traditional religious right stalwarts like James Dobson and Pat Robertson; but the leadership of this movement is, in a way,
more dangerous. It is firmly identified
with extreme evangelical and charismatic sectarianism,
where the polished political savvy of a Ralph Reed
and the Coalition are sacrificed for a
more blatant, even martial "spiritual
warfare." The structure of Promise
Keepers, by its own admission, is that
of an army of God. If this is indeed a
''Third Wave" of religious righteousness, Promise Keepers then isn't so
much an open and inclusive political
movement, but an aggressive "army"
which in its rhetoric, totalistic philosophy, and theological roots borders precariously close to cultism.
I have coined the term paracultic
to describe the essential traits, the
deep structure of the Promise Keepers movement - which I believe comes
very close to being a cult. What paraGreat Commission.
Christian Reconstructionist
believes the earth and all its
fulness is the Lord's - that
every area dominated by sin
must be "reconstructed" in
terms of the Bible. This includes, first, the individual;
second, the family; third, the
church; and fourth, the wider
society, including the state ...
While Promise Keepers is not
technically a Reconstructionist movement, it certainly embraces the spirit
of Dominionist Theology. And the
"Dominion Mandate" trickles down
through the structure of Promise
Keepers, where "team leaders" exercise an invasive, authoritarian,
paracultic control over members of
"accountability groups."
Although Reconstructionists are
Calvinists, who eschew the fervent
"spirit-filled" shenanigans of charismatic Christianity, they do find themselves in common cause with Promise Keepers - especially with their
heavy Dominionist theology environment and its authoritarian,
martial structure.
Page 41

military organizations are to military

organizations, paracultic organizations are to cults. In the case of Promise Keepers, there are several characteristics or assumptions which, in my
opinion, constitute compelling evidence of a dangerous paracultism.
Cultish admiration
worship of a strong leader
Promise Keepers founder Bill
McCartney began making his public
career not simply as a religious-right
rabble rouser, but as a football coach.
He is referred to throughout the movement by the label Coach, and his suc-.
cess as the organization's founder led
to his being named "Person of the
Week" last year on ABC News. At
Promise Keepers, McCartney's persona often eclipses other speakers. Not
surprisingly, his charged rhetoric is
laced with sports metaphors, undoubtedly a holdover from his days as one
of the most successful coaches in college football prior to his 1994 decision
to resign from the game and proselytize full time.
The use of mass spectacle
as an instrument
of proselyti-

The fact that Promise Keepers
stages its events in athletic venues like
stadiums has evinced surprisingly
little curiosity from the media, other
than to suggest that the athletic ambiance is a familiar one to many American males. Mass spectacles of any kind
alter the psychology and behavior patterns of participants. Individuals become part of the mass. Stadium spectacles can suppress any critical faculty
in persons who have become anonymous components of a massive group.
Albert Speer recognized the compelling potency of mass spectacle in orchestrating the Nuremberg rallies for
Hitler and the Nazi Party. Mass spectacles ranging from tedious mechanical parades to enormous stadium and
arena rallies have become a perfected
art form for totalitarian regimes. One
thinks of the choreographed performances honoring "the great leader" not
only from the Nazi era, but in later
authoritarian and totalistic societies
such as Stalinist Russia, China, Korea, or Albania. Regardless of the exPage 42

plicit ideology, such mass spectacles

A Manichaean division of
the world
inevitably carry an implicit message
Promise Keepers is more than a
of suspension of individual consciousrevolt against the blurring and disinness, subordination to "the greater,"
tegration oftraditional gender stereoand induce a sense of being immersed
types. It is a reaction against the prob- or swept along - in a cause, program,
ideology or belief greater and more im- lematic and conditional aspects of
modernity itself. The movement's ideportant than one's self. One is humbled
both literally and metaphorically be- ology bifurcates the world into moral
fore "the greater" - be it an ideology, absolutes based on a literal interpretation of doctrine. Despite the claims
god, movement, or all three.
of Promise Keepers leaders that their
Construction of a "totalmovement is "spiritual," there are disistic" ideology
tinct social and political implications
Promise Keepers shares with
of such a Weltanshauung, where the
many fundamentalist and evangelical
Christian groups the premise that the religious doctrine of Dominionism
Bible is an absolute and total guide in compels followers to become "spiritual
governing all aspects of individual and warriors" in "renewal" and "taking
group behavior. The frenzied spectacle back" the institutions of society. PK
of Promise Keepers rallies with hours
evangelist Tony Brown, for instance,
tells the godly men that there is to be
of chanting, praying, and near-belligerent calls for repentance and submis- "no compromise" on authority in the
sion serve to ''break down the walls" home, and that women should submit
(a famous PK slogan) of individual re- "for the survival of our culture."
sistance in order to construct a "godly
Suspension of skepticism,
man." The totalistic ideology,however, critical judgment, and disbelief,
and the pressure to conform
continues in follow-up environments.
Along with the rhetorical bomPromise Keeper "huddles" continue
the process of "breaking down" and bardment of rallies and "accountabil"constructing" by pressuring members
ity groups" (a feature
found in
to participate
in "accountability
paracultic groups like the Vineyard
groups." Journalist
Russ Bellant
Movement and the "Shepherding-Dis("Promise Keepers, Christian Soldiers cipleship" sects), Promise Keepers subfor Theocracy," Front Lines Research,
merges followers in a closed system of
May, 1995) notes that in such groups, belief which offers simplistic, vague
these "godly men" are "expected to solutions to complex problems. Nosubmit all aspects of their lives to re- where is critical judgment or thinking
view and rebuke. Each member must
emphasized: rational thought is reanswer any probes concerning his placed with slogans and terminology
marriage, family, finances, sexuality, borrowed from tent-evangelism and
or business activity."
mass media advertising. "Mega WakeA Promise Keepers national coor- Up Calls," "Everything You Need to
dinator in charge of these "account- Know" seminars, calls for "reconciliaability groups" has noted, "I can go tion" or "Building Men of Integrity,"
home and maybe still be the same guy and fixation with "the mystery of the
after a [Promise Keepers] conference. Gospel" are substituted for reasoned
But if I have another guy calling up, discourse. Followers are implored to
holding me accountable, asking, 'How Stand in the Gap! or Break Down the
are you treating your wife? Are you Walls - phrases supported with Bible
still cheating on your income taxes? verse rather than clear, definitive exAre you looking at your secretaries
planations for what they supposedly
with lust?' it makes a difference. I don't (or really) could mean.
think a woman would get in my face,
Fabrication of a "Crisis" or
go toe to toe with a guy, whereas a guy "Last-Days" Mentality which decould tell me, 'I don't like it. And if you fines the actions of the group.
don't listen to me, I'll punch your lights
Promise Keepers rhetoric and
out.' Something like that."
materials are laced with terms and
Spring 1997

American Atheist

ideas popular in the "spiritual warfare" circles of fervid evangelical and

charismatic groups. Apocalyptic thinking - the sense that one must labor
frantically as a predetermined timetable of events unfolds - often serves
to unify tight-knit religious groups.
Varying degrees of such "end times"
phobias have been found in cults as
diverse as Peoples Temple, Aum "Supreme Truth" (Japan), Church Universal and Triumphant, and the Order of
the Solar Temple. Members are instructed to filter all events in the outside world through a "lens" which reveals a deeper level of truth. Within
the ur-cultism of Promise Keepers,
this truth coincides with a "signs and
and extreme evangelicals.
The "Word of God" and

James Ryle
Few mainstream journalists have
inquired about the ideological roots of
the Promise Keepers movement; but
. such an excavation is necessary if we
are to understand what this group is
and the danger it poses. The foundation of paracultism in the Promise
Keepers essentially
begins with
"Coach" McCartney, and his own theological journey through the backwaters of Christian theology, specifically
the "Word of God" and "Vineyard"
McCartney has claimed the
two individuals who most influenced
his life (interestingly, he does not mention Jesus Christ ... ) are James
Berlucci (a leader in the Word-of-God
community) and the Rev. James Ryle.
Both are linked to fringe, charismatic
Word of God is a small movement
which is based upon the shepherdingdiscipleship tendency found in extremist Christian sects. The basis of this
practice is total submission to an individual within the church who supposedly "shepherds
the disciple"
through a training regimen. Russ
Bellant notes in his PUBLIC EYE article that in shepherding-discipleship
sects like Word of God, "members were
required to submit their schedules in
Austin, Texas

advance and account for every hour of

every day. Marriage partner, movie
choices, jobs, and other decisions also
had to be approved by (the) leader."
Bellant also reveals that within the
Word of God community, questioning
of authority - particularly by women
- resulted in "traumatic 'exorcisms',"
and members were "trained to see the
world with suspicion and contempt as an enemy."
"Shepherding" is an extreme tendency within the charismatic Christian movement. Sara Diamond, writing in Spiritual Warfare: The Politics
of the Christian Right, observed in
1989 (well before Promise Keepers was
close to getting onto the political radar screen) that shepherding "involves
an emphasis on the designation of
'spiritual authority' by one group of
Christians over another." She added
that "Other terms used by this subset
of the charismatic movement include:

headship, discipleship, covenant relationships, cellgroups, andaccountability groups." For inspiration,

shepherding movement drew upon the
passage Ephesians 4:11, which refers
to a five-fold ministry mandated by
God to preserve the Body of Christ
until the Second Coming:
And these were his gifts: someto
be apostles, some prophets, some
evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip God'speoplefor work in
his service, to the building up of the
body of Christ.
McCartney was already involved
in the authoritarian
Word of God
movement when he was hired by the
University of Colorado. There, according to Bellant and others, he was introduced to a "Vineyard"
where he feli further under the influence of discipleship-shepherding luminaries, including
John Wimber.
Wimber referred to the Vineyard activity as "power evangelism," where
sect members were "self-conscious
members of God's army, sent to do
battle against the forces of the kingdom of darkness." But another Vineyard leader would have perhaps the
most influence
in shaping both
McCartney's increasingly fervid comSpring 1997

mitment to "spiritual warfare"! and

the ideology underpinning the Promise Keepers movement. That man was
the Rev. James Ryle.
Ryle had been pastor at the Boulder Valley Vineyard Christian Fellowship since 1984. While Bellant suggests that the Word of God movement
introduced McCartney and Ryle, another account suggests that the two
met because "Pastor Ryle" was the official chaplain to the University of
Colorado (a state university!) football
team. In addition to mesmerizing
darkness, Ryle has also been an influential figure crafting the Shepherdingdiscipleship views of other Promise
Keepers leaders, including the group's
president, Randy Phillips. He is also
a frequent guest throughout the Christian media, including Pat Robertson's
700 Club program on the Christian
Broadcasting Network.
Ryle's own testaments and writings, along with his admittedly profound influence
on both Coach
McCartney and the Promise Keepers
movement, is usually the basis of
charges from other Christian groups
that PK is doctrinally suspect, and
conceals a hidden agenda. But the
record of Vineyard leaders such as
James Ryle is not concealed, merely
ignored. By his own admission, Ryle
is a fervent believer in charismatic
mysteries such as direct revelation
from god, and even the revelational
potency of dreams. His 1993 book
Hippo in the Garden drew its name
from a dream that he allegedly experienced in 1989. (McCartney is somewhat more restrained, speaking instead of having a "vision" of men
packed into stadiums, submitting and
surrendering their lives to god.) For
Ryle, god communicates with human
beings through scriptures, the evidence of creation itself, conscience, and
the imaginative tapestry of the dream
state. In Hippo he uses terminology
lIn Seven Promises of a Promise Keeper,

the group'smanifesto, McCartney declares

"We'rein a war, men, whether weacknowledge it or not. The enemy is real, and he
doesn't like to see men ofGodtake a stand
for Jesus Christ and contest his lies."
Page 43

rampant in Promise Keepers literature when he challenges Christians to

"get past the barriers of unbelief'
through acceptance of such hallucinatory unfoldings.
Ryle, in his turn to identify the
forces shaping his views, cites the influence ofJames Wimber, the "power
evangelist" of the Vineyard movement, whom he met in 1984. Wimber
began the Association of Vineyard
Churches as a network of "new
churches" promoting a charismatic,
revelational ideology true to the
Vineyard vision of biblical scripture
and revelation, Ryle noted in another book published in 1995, A
Dream Come True, that:
"A few of our less illustrious
seminary professors have molded the
minds of zealous young ministers with
their own biased traditions ... so that
dreams and visions, along with other
miraculous phenomena, are no longer
regarded with any measure of credence ... "

Prophets of Latter Rain Cult

Theology and Doom
James Ryle and other Promise
Keepers luminaries
confluence of theological tendencies
and schisms which remain little understood, or even examined, by outside
observers. Along with Ryle's beliefs in
the power of direct revelation during
dream states, though, is a wide acceptance of the paracultic theology known
as Latter Rain Doctrine." The god of
this theology reaches churches by
means of a vast prophetic movement
"and a validated prophetic message
through the church in the midst ofthe
2"Latter-Rain" theology holds that Christian denominations will be unified as The
Church prior to the Second Coming and
will constitute a corporate body where all
will experience the presence of The Lord
at the same time. God comes into a church
"filling" all individuals with the presence.
There are visible manifestations of the
Latter Rain defines a wide range of
Pentecostals, including snake-handlers,
the energetic Aimee Semple McPherson,
and "signs-and-wonders" evangelists. Itis
significant that - in light of the identificaPage 44

world resulting in an evangelic ingathering."

For Ryle, McCartney, and other
shepherding cultists, this "vast pro-

mysterious "gifts ofthe spirit."

Doctrine has been
personified in the flamboyant evangelical outreaches of men like Oral
Roberts, William Branham, and
Gordon Lindsay. More contemporary
figures include signs-and-wonders
preachers such as Morris Cerullo,
Marilyn Hickey, Kenneth Copeland,
George Otis, and Benny Hinn. All
preach a message which emphasizes
direct revelation, ecstatic experiences ("feeling the presence of the
Spirit"), and apocalyptic doom. Any
political content appears to emphasize a distrust of homosexuals, feminism, and popular media, and the
need for greater religious involvement in public life"

Bill McCartney,
a man "saved by
Grace." "Grace who?" you may ask.
We don't know, but Amazing Grace
says she didn't do it.
phetic movement" obviously is the
Promise Keepers. It is a church within
a church.
Sara Diamond (Spiritual Walfare)
locates the "Latter Rain" movement as
a Pentecostal trend in the 1940s and
1950s. Along with direct revelation
and dream states, "the word" would
unfold through holy-roller experiences, glossolalia
tongues), prophetic visions, and other
tion of Promise Keepers leadership with
"Joel's Army" - a reference to "latter rain"
is found in Joel 2:23:
Be glad then, ye children of Zion,
and rejoice in the Lord your God; for
He has given you the former rain
faithfully, and He will cause the rain
to come down for you - the former
rain, and the latter rain in the first
The Encyclopeedia Biblica (London,
1906) observes that "the rain is imagined
as water which has been drawn from the
great heavenly reservoirs ... " Latter rain
literally refers to the height of the rainy
season in Palestine. Throughout the Bible,
rain is evidence prayer being answered,
and one of the fruits of piety.
Spring 1997

creates a virtual conspiracy mentality, where social and political developments
are viewed in terms of an unfolding war
between good (the true church, godly men,
the "body of Christ") and evil. The latter
is, literally, the work of the devil. Ahost of
wicked characters, ranging from homosexuals and Atheists to evolutionists and
secularists, is under the influence or control of Satan. There will be no Twinkie
defense permitted, though. Come Judgement Day, the wicked will receive their due
by being cast into a fiery pit with Lucifer.
American Atheist

of 1994 at the Toronto
In truth, Joel is about far more
(Canada) Airport Christian Fellowthan calling an "Assembly." Joel, in
ship, a sect affiliated at the time with
fact, discusses the "Lord's Army,"
the Vineyard movement. The "Blesswhich in the final days executes "God's
ing" remains to this day a point of diterrible judgment" upon a land while
vision among those caught in the fethe sun is "turned to darkness and the
ver swamp of signs-and-wonders
moon into blood before the great and
Christianity. For so-called discernterrible day of the LORD come ... " ,
ment Christians, including some funPaul Cain, a Vineyard preacher
damentalists and evangelicals, the
who some believe originated the idea
Toronto Blessing is either false docof a men's group "training" in staditrine or outright deception by Satan.
ums, is even more blunt about the
For Hayford and the Promise Keepers
eschatological significance of Joel's
inside leadership, it is another example of ''breaking down walls."
We call it "the last days
The "Blessing" is described as a
ministry," ... 1 believe we're on the
"transferable anointing" characterized
threshold of it ... And I know the Lord
by emotive outbursts oflaughter, conis coming to His Church and he's govulsions, groaning, uncontrollable
ing to prepare us ... We're closer than
weeping, and other behaviors. It apwe've ever been before. Who would
think that there would be a group like
peared to be an even more intense
Promise Keepers who'd already be setemotional experience for both onlookting the stage and filling stadiums ...
ers and those receiving the "anointing"
They'll be over 100,000 in no time, and
than the traditional sensations and acRandy Phillips
maybe they already are. So, what if
tivities which characterize PentecosGod shows up at just one of those
Gap: A Sacred Assembly Of Men. He
tal, charismatic
meetings? That could just be the kickmore remarkable was the belief that
cited Ezekiel 22:30 as inspiration: "I
off for "last days ministry." Think
the Blessing had a virus-like property,
looked for a man among them who
and could be spread or transferred to would build up the wall and stand beother locations. Similar outbursts of fore me in the gap on behalf of the land 'McCartney's vision of men packed into
religious frenzy soon followed, and
so I would not have to destroy it, but I stadiums, girding themselves as Joel's
Army may be traced back even further into
now the Toronto Blessing has spread
found none."
to England, Switzerland, Germany,
Promise Keepers literature, in- the religious fever-swamps ofVineyard and
Hungary, Holland, Japan, South Af- cluding the official Stand In The Gap other cult movement. In 1988, Kansas City
Vineyard Pastor Paul Cain predicted an
rica, Taiwan and - some insist - to proclamation also quotes Joel 2:15, ecumenical unity, Joel's Army, an impormainland China.
"Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a tant teaching of the Latter-Rain belief.
The Toronto Blessing soon at- fast, call a sacred assembly," and adds Christian Conscience (Feb. 1996) suggests
tracted a spat of media coverage, and a comment by Dale Schlafer, national
that Cain, not McCartney, was the one
a mixed reception from other religious
PK director for the "Sacred Assembly": with a "vision":
I told you about ... this recurring
groups. For the senior pastor at the ''The corporate act of contrition is per(35-year-old)
vision I had ... The anToronto Vineyard sect, there was a haps the only thing left to stay God's
said, "You're standing
rush of public enthusiasm, and the hand of judgment of His people."
oflife. What to you
group soon left its old building right
Schlafer paraphrases Billy Graham
see?" And I saw a brilliantly lit billbeyond a runway at the Toronto Interthat if God does not judge us, He owes
board which reads, "Joel's Army now
national Airport for more spacious ac- Sodom and Gomorrah an apology.''The
in training." ... I believe one day soon
commodations. It has been estimated
time has come for godly men in the
Joel's Army will be in training
unthat over 300,000 have made the pil- Church to stand up and say, 'We're
til it graduates into the stadium .
grimage to Toronto; of these, ten per- going to be accountable for our genAccording to McCartney, this army
will have "one leadership":
cent have come from Britain.
We've got to have one leadership,
While references to Joel about
only. We've got to have
Joel's Army
blowing trumpets or calling sacred
on all cylinders.
In announcing
plans for the
gatherings may appear to be so much
There's only one race. It's the human
Promise Keepers October, 1997, gathevangelical propaganda, they actually
race. There is only one culture. It's
eringin Washington, D.C., the group's reveal important theological inspiraChrist before culture. Christ culture
President, Randy Phillips (like Ryle, tions crafting the Promise Keepers
- that's all there is ... "
a product of the Jesus-People Move- movement and defining its role as a
Could this become Ein Yolk! Ein
ment) referred to it as Stand In The paracultic, apocalyptic movement.
Fuhrer! Ein Reich!?
Austin, Texas

Spring 1997

Page 45

about that ... What if 120,000 get together and then the fire comes from
heaven and the glory of God...

Mer The Rally What Lies Ahead

For the Promise Keepers?
History suggests that periodic
waves of end-times hysteria and impassioned, charismatic revivalism are
difficult to sustain. Even the earlier
form of muscular Christianity typified
by evangelist Billy Sunday or the revivalist tradition of the nineteenth
century produced mixed results in
terms of long-term commitment to a
faith. Indeed, there has never been a
time in American history - from Colonial times through the Great Revival
and into the current era of religious
fundamentalism - when a majority of
the nation's
people were regular
church attendees. Even in an era when
Promise Keepers is filling stadiums,
most Americans are "un-churched."
The religious profile suggests that doctrinal and denominational pluralism
is widespread. While groups like the
Christian Coalition attempt to reach
out to Catholics and Jews with mixed
results, Promise Keepers - with its distrust of denominational boundaries may find that task even more daunting.
The Promise Keepers are certainly
indicative of widespread Angst concerning issues such as the changing
role of women in the society, efforts to
gain rights for gays and lesbians, and
the erosion of traditional bastions once
considered secure for men. It is wrong,
however, to sa that Promise Keepers

is just a misogynist movement, or simply a male backlash. At least in its origins, and in the group's higher ranks,
it is a revolt against secular modernity and the affirmation of an apocalyptic, charismatic religious impulse.
It is a paracult.
Despite rhetoric about reconciliation, it is also a creation of individuals and groups identified with religious-right politics in America. Promise Keepers may not endorse candidates like the Christian Coalition, and
it may not be as clear in its agenda as,
say, Focus on the Family, Christian
Voice, or the Traditional Values Coalition. The group's leadership
choose to fixate instead on the religious apocalyptic climate as we approach 2000, seeing the new millennium not as an election to win, but a
spiritual battleground to proselytize
in. Even so, much of the language

emanating from Promise Keepers

suggests a political agenda. Promise Keepers may become the spiritual boot camp for a politicized
version of Joel's Army."
It may also fail.
Biblical fundamentalist
about the emergence of a "one-world
church," whether under the leadership
of the Pope, the Anti-Christ, or some
other figure out of the carnival tapestry of Revelation.
Unity and ecumenism are buzz-words now in both
the Vatican, and the ruling circles of
groups such as the National Council
of Churches. Coach McCartney's goal
(and that of the individuals behind
him) of breaking down the walls be-

The veil of respectability

is pulled from religious
and political leaders in
this frank overview of
three basic elements of
human society and how
religion has influenced

in History
Soledad de Montalvo.
Vols. 1,2, 3, & 4
Page 46

tween denominations
expresses the
same impulse.
The world and human nature may
have other plans, though. Promise
Keepers, or any other religious movement,
is fighting
not only the
trend of ideological
balkanization - a proliferation rather
than unification of sects and ideas but the same kinds of dysfunctions and
tendencies which prompted Martin
Luther to nail his 95 Theses to the door
of a church at Wittenberg in 1517 and
commence a historic split with the
"One Church" of his era. Denominational walls seem impervious, whether
to the Pope or a stadium of exuberant
men performing a "wave" for Jesus
The question remains, though:
How much damage can Joel's Army
and the godly men of Promise Keepers do if they are mobilized in the service of religious-political
Would the group's role as a spiritual
boot camp for precinct-level prayer
warriors continue to fuel groups like
Christian Coalition, or the more fanatical ranks of Operation Rescue, in
their continued assaults on civilliberties and state-church separation? That
prospect seems very likely. Such an
overt political agenda could undermine Promise Keepers support. But
for the men who perceive the quest for
political Dominionism
as part of a
wider theological mandate, it is a risk
they may well be willing to take.
After all, they are all thinking,
"God is with us."

Paperback. Four-volume set,

Stock # 5427. $40.00 plus
$2.50 shipping and handling.
Spring 1997

American Atheist

"Godly Men"
With a Dominionist Agenda
In January when Promise Keepers gious-right movement today. Its memannounced its official plans for a "Sa- bership includes hard-line Christian
Reconstructionists like Gary North
cred Assembly" in the nation's capital,
and R.J. Rushdoony,
media and other observers were natuWildmon of the American Family
rally curious. Why pick Washington,
D.C.? Randy Phillips, President of Association,
Henry Morris of the
Promise Keepers had plenty of cliches Institute for Creation Research,
ready, and insisted that his group was Ralph Reed of the Christian Coaliof Christian
merely ''humbling ourselves before God tion, Pat Robertson
Network, and Richand pleading for His mercy." Aside Broadcasting
from the claim that their god had called ard de Vos of Amway fame. Another
the Promise Keepers leadership to hold Focus on the Family official active in
the event in Washington, Phillips as- Promise Keepers is E. Peb Jackson,
sured the public that "The key word the group's Senior Vice President of
Public Affairs.
for this event is 'repentance',"and that
no political agenda was at work.
Bill Bright
But while hundreds of thousands
is another Promise
of "men at risk" may be surrendering
whose tenure in
and submitting, the men behind the
movePromise Keepers have a very distinct
ments predates even Dobson. Bright
and disturbing theopolitical agenda.
They take literally the Biblical com- started Campus Crusade for Christ
mand to take dominion, and use Bibli- in 1951. 'lbday the organization has
of over
cal principles to reconstruct all levels an
of society - from individual and family $100,000,000, and thousands of "crusaders" who distribute tracts like the
behavior, to political and governmen"Four Spiritual Laws" and "witness"
tal institutions. The godly rank-andfile may be seeking salvation, but the on high school and college campuses.
In 1967, Bright began efforts to
higher echelons of this growing movesentiment of muscular Christianity have cash-in on antiestablishment
ments and opposition to the Vietnam
other plans.
war by co-opting youth energies and
promoting a disingenuous campaign
Who's Behind Promise Keepers?
While "Coach" McCartney has he packaged as "Revolution Now."
been enthralled by the bizarre theologi- Sara Diamond wrote in Spiritual Warcal teachings of relatively obscure men fare that Bright's fraudulent "revolusuch as James Ryle, other names
tion" was "geared specifically toward
linked to the Promise Keepers are well thwarting the efforts ofthe movement
known for their involvement in funda- against the Vietnam war and supportmentalist Christian political activism. ing Bright's friend Governor Ronald
James Dobson, founder of the giant Reagan in his attempt to contain
Focus on the Family group, is the massive campus disruption ... " Bright
"Bible discipline" guru of the religious also poured money into other kabuki
right. Focus publishes the Promise
groups such as the Christian World
Keepers manifesto, Seven Promises of Liberation
Front (CWLF) which
a Promise Keeper. And Dobson is one tried to mimic the terminology and
of the group's links to the semisecret
trappings of student cause organizaCouncil for National Policy (CNP), tions. Bright explained his bogus plan
an elite policy-making body for reli- to one journalist:
gious-right causes. CNP is perhaps the
Christian World Liberation Front
most important linchpin in the reli- .
was, in the beginning a front organi-

Austin, Texas

Spring 1997

zation for Campus Crusade - Only

about half a dozen of us were aware
of what was happening and it was a
test. There was a powerful radical
movement among the students then,
and we were trying to figure out which
route to take, whether we as a movement should adopt a radical counterculture approach on campus in order
to be all things to all people that we
might win them for Christ.

CWLF - the creation of Bill Bright

- eventually split from Campus Crusade, but not before coalescing as an
element in the "Jesus
People" or "Jesus Freak" movements
of the 1970s, which in turn nurtured
the cultish Vineyard churches and
Bright was also present at the creation of the modern Christian fundamentalist right, as a participant in the
little-known Third Century Movement. His group also poured over one
billion dollars into evangelistic
projects from 1974 through 1976, including
a glitzy "Here's
America!" revival campaign funded
with help from Texas billionaire
Nelson Hunt. Today, Bill Bright is
known for his involvement
groups such as Washington
Jesus, Christian Embassy, and.the
Council for National Policy. He is
also a winner of the million-dollar
Templeton Prize in Religion, a gift
by financier Sir John
Promise Keepers founder Coach
Bill McCartney
"accepted Jesus
Christ as Lord and Savior," according
to his official PK bio-sheet, during a
meeting of another Bright group
known as Athletes in Action.
Other Connections
Ronald Blue, a Promise Keepers
national board member is another link
to religious-right causes. The founder
of a financial planning firm, he serves
see Godly Men, page 49
Page 47

Trying to Make a Case For Faith Healing

By Kevin Courcey, RN

aith healing. Many Americans

believe they can affect the
course of an illness through
prayer, laying on of hands, a visit to a
shrine, or being sprinkled with "holy"
water. If only it were true. What a
simple thing it would be to cure illness.
We would just say the right incantation, wave the correct herb, offer just
the right sacrifice, -and the illness
would be taken away.
Our hospitals would no longer
bother with medications, MRIs or IVs.
They would be refining the proper incantations for each illness. We would
have managed care committees trying
to determine if beginning a prayer
with "0 Glorious and Great God"
yields a more cost-effective treatment
than "0 God, the Great and Glorious."
But this is obviously not the case,
and even "people of Faith" call their
MD when they are sick, not their
priest. This is such common knowledge
in this culture that when serious
claims for the efficacy offaith healing
do surface, we take notice. Thus it was
quite remarkable to find an American
Agenda segment entitled "Faith and
Healing" on the ABC evening news
with Peter Jennings. The thrust of the
entire segment was that praying and
religiosity have a powerful healing effect on you. The tone for the piece was
set by the opening scene: the camera
pans over a large group of people, with
eyes closed, praying in a church; the
voice-over explaining, ''This [praying]
may playa critical role in healing."
This assertion was buttressed by such
totally irrelevant facts as "80% [of the
American public] pray when they are
sick - and a majority of those believe
god helps heal them." Is this news? Do
they expect the American public to
believe this is somehow "scientific"
simply because there is a percent sign
in the sentence?
Several people then gave testimonials that they believed god had healed
them. Unfortunately,
the reporter
lacked the nerve to ask why their bePage 48

lief in god hadn't simply prevented

them from getting sick in the first
place. The report concluded with statements from Dr. Harold Koenig of Duke
University, who claimed his research
showed that "belief in god helped fight
off depression and anxiety."
Now this was indeed of interest.
Here was a professional researcher
claiming that he had data to support
the efficacy of belief in god as a cure
or even a preventative for depression.
As a psychiatric nurse and an Atheist, I was very curious about how one
would structure such a study. Depression is notoriously difficult to measure,
and one can easily be misled by selfreports of mental status. However, after reading several of Koenig's published papers, I found I did not have
to delve into a rigorous analysis of
Koenig's research protocols to find
fault with his conclusions that a belief in god can constitute a prophylactic against depression. Dr. Koenig's
own research tended to show exactly
the opposite was true. Koenig himself
stated in the study cited in the ABC
report, "Whether religious beliefs and
behavior actually help to prevent or
relieve emotional distress is far from
clear. Psychiatric illness may be even
more common among the religious,
perhaps predisposing them to greater
problems in later life ... i
Indeed. A more objective review of
the data from this 1992 study reveals
that people who expressed strong religious beliefs were hospitalized with
acute illnesses (such as cancer, heart
disease, kidney disease, respiratory
disease, and neurological dysfunction)
at rates two to four times higher than
those who expressed "no religious preference'P This study also noted that
previous research had found that conservative, fundamentalist, or evangelical Protestants were, as a group, more
likely to have "chronic health problems
and physical disabilities." In a subsequent study, Koenig confirmed that,
"Several studies have reported an asSpring 1997

sociation between psychiatric disorder

and religious affiliation, with rates of
disorder highest among non-mainline
Protestant groups."4 In fact the study
showed that this highly religious
group had psychiatric disorders at a
rate 50% higher than that ofthe general public.f In yet another 1992 study,
Koenig's data showed that the likelihood of major depression among Pentecostals was three times greater than
among persons who said they had no
religious preference.f
This ABC report would be innocuous pandering, except that it encourages people to use prayer, rather than
modern medicine, to "heal" themselves. It encourages the type of behavior that resulted in the death of six
kids in Pennsylvania from measles in
1991 because parents in a faith-healing congregation refused to allow them
to be immunized. Dozens more would
have died if the state hadn't used a
court order to immunize the remaining children in the church.
We are left with the question of
why a respected researcher
prostitute himself by giving an extremely skewed version of his research
on national TV. Perhaps he was taken
out of context. Perhaps ABC, in its
rush to trot out a feel-good piece ofreligious tripe during the Christmas season, played fast and loose with the
facts. Perhaps it is time to call for an
American Agenda segment detailing
how people with strong religious beliefs are more apt to have chronic illnesses and disabilities, and far more
likely to have psychiatric disorders.
But such a report would no doubt conflict with the values of the new owners of ABC, the Walt Disney Company.
If it is true that "more people get their
news from ABC," and if this report is
any indication offuture trends, we are
in for some troubling journalistic
1Koenig, Harold, et al. "Religious Coping
and Depression Among Elderly, HospiAmerican Atheist

tali zed Medically III Men." Am. J. Psychiatry (1992) 14ft 1693-1700.

3Koenig, Harold, et al. "The Relationship

Between Religion and Anxiety in a
Sample of Community-Dwelling Older
Adults." J. Geriatr. Psychiatry (in press).
4Koenig, Harold, et al. "Religious Affiliation and Psychiatric Disorder Among
Protestant Baby Boomers."Hospital and
Community Psychiatry (1994) 45,6: 586596.
5National Institutes

of Mental Health,

Update on MentalDisordere,


6Koenig, Harold, et al. "Religious Affiliation and Major Depression." Hospital

and Community Psychiatry (1992) 43,
12: 1204.

. Godly Men from page 47

as a Director for Gary Bauer's Family Research
a religious
group which lobbies against abortion,
gay rights, liberalized divorce, and
other causes. He is also a Board Member for Campus Crusade for Christ.
Billy Kim is a Promise Keeper
Conference speaker linked to the Far
(FEBC), an evangelical radio operation
based in the Philippines. Sara Diamond
notes that FEBC personnel boasted of
their work with groups like the CIA in
the days of cold-war politics, and the
firm's evangelism received enthusiastic approval from Philippine dictator
Diamond also says that FEBC is a
propaganda outlet which also targets
evangelicals in the United States. "In
reams offund raising and promotional
mailings, FEBC perpetuates the theme
of a world polarized between good and
evil, Christianity and communism ... "
FEBC represents one of the most
sophisticated evangelical outreaches to
penetrate the Asian portion of the socalled "10/40 window," that region of
the earth dominated
by Muslim,
Hindu, and Buddhist (i.e. non-Christian) cults.
A number of Promise Keepers leaders have ties to extreme Reconstruction

Austin, Texas

and Dominionist movements including

the controversial Coalition
on Revival.
Wellington Boone, John Perkins,
E.V. Hill, and Joseph Garlington.
The Coalition on Revival was founded
in 1984 by Jay Grimstead. The group
sees its mission as ''building a Christian Society" which is eager to ''have
God's will done on-earth." The Coalition remains an elite network of local
pastors who have joined "together
around the large dream ofChristianizing their own city and state ... to form
themselves into the 10 committees for
Law, Government, Economics, Education, Medicine/Family, The Media, The
Arts, etc."
Garlington has served as a Promise Keepers ''worship leader" during the
group's rally in Pittsburgh's
River Stadium. E.Y. Hill has been with
COR since 1986, gave the inaugural
prayer for President Richard Nixon
in 1973, and headed up a group known
as Clergy for Reagan.
While operating a ministry in Pittsburgh, Garlington was an early guest
on Pat Robertson's 700 Club program.
At that time he was also active in the
"Shepherding-discipleship" movement
- which proved too much even for
Robertson. According to Christianity
Thday (Oct. 10, 1975), the latter became
concem.ed with the more threatening
and cultish aspects of the movement,
its emphasis on "cell
groups" where member's lives were
under the total control of a "shepherd."
Robertson declared that "the so-called
'submission-shepherding' cult is vastly
worse than anything I could have conceived of... In these cells, each member is under total domination by the
shepherd. The shepherd can forbid the
husband and wife from living together,
and have (sic) done so, and can delay
the visit to a doctor (and did so with a
married girl who became pregnant.)
They have absolute control over all finances and spending and issue the
same threats that are issued under
voodoo and witchcraft ..."
Another figure linked to Promise
Keepers is D. James Kennedy of
Florida's Coral Ridge Ministries. Like
PK Board Member Jack Hayford,
Spring 1997

Kennedy is linked to extreme charismatic, evangelical outreaches including

Trinity Broadcasting Network which
has specialized in promoting the apocalyptic eschatology of evangelists like
Oral Roberts, James Robinson and
Kenneth Copeland. Kennedy was also
one of the ''inner circle" behind Jerry
Falwell's Moral Majority group formed
in 1979 and in 1984 affiliated with a
group called Coalition for Religious
Freedom, a "front" for Rev. Moon's Unification Church. Dr. Kennedy is also
involved in the Council for National
Behind "Submission"
- A
Political Agenda
Despite claims that Promise Keepers is not a "political organization," the
group's leadership is identified and active in religious right groups; PK literature also focuses on issues which
clearly have a political dimension. A
Bill Bright publication sold by Promise Keepers, for instance, warns the
godly men about the ''homosexual explosion," lack of prayer in public schools
and even the teaching of evolution in
classrooms. "Coach" McCartney, while
excoriating followers on the need for
"reconciliation," has spoken at Operation Rescue events (he called abortion
a "second Civil War") and joined the
board of Colorado for Family Values
which sponsored the bigoted Amendment 2 to the Colorado Constitution, a
measure striking down civil rights protection for gay men and lesbians.
Whereas groups like the Christian
Coalition have an explicit and overt
political agenda, Promise Keepers performs a slightly different function. With
its top-down structure of command
leadership and "accountability groups,"
Promise Keepers views itself as the
"Godly army" prophesized
in Bible
verse, and in the utterances of men like
James Ryle. Its call for men to "assert
godly leadership" in families, churches,
communities and the halls of government is a political call. And just as any
army requires general and foot-soldiers, the Promise Keepers "army of
god" will deliver the troops for fighting
a holy war, in homes, stadiums and precincts.

Page 49

Me Too

Leaky-Boat Rumors About

Condoms Don't Hold Water
The leaky-boat
rumors about
condoms spread by
the religious right do
not hold water. But
condoms do hold
water - and hold
back the H IV vi rus

Religious-right political hacks like

columnist Cal Thomas try to portray
use of condoms and safer sex as a liberal-left political plot. Yet Surgeon
General Antonia C. Novello, appointed
by Republican President George Bush,
issued a statement published in the
June 9, 1993, issue of the Journal of
the American Medical Association
strongly supporting condom use for
prevention of HIV transmission. Similar statements were issued by her predecessor, Surgeon General C. Everett
Koop, who was appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan.
Novello claims that twenty, forty,
or eighty percent of all new HIV
seroconversions in the United States
will be avoided if twenty-five, fifty, or
:::;:::::;:.;.::;.;.;.;.....:.... ::::::::::::::::::;:;:::: :::::::::::::::::::}?:::::::::::::::::::
one hundred percent, respectively, of
persons use latex (rather than lambskin) condoms consistently and correctly.
As to the question of pores in
condoms - which, in the minds of modem day religious zealots, has replaced
the medieval question about how
many angels can stand on the head of
a pin - she cites a National Institutes
of Health study which found no holes
in latex condoms even at 2,000-power
"Me Too" is a feature designed
Acknowledging that holes can octo showcase short essays writcur,
she refers to quality control testten by readers in response to
the United States Food and
topics recently covered by
which has found
American Atheist or on topics
rate of
of general interest to the
of a
Atheist community.
batch of condoms exceeds four per
.thousand, the condoms are recalled
Essays submitted to "Me Too"
and barred from sale. This is far from
(P. o. Box 140195,Austin, TX
33 percent failure rate claimed by
78714-0195) should be 650 to
hysteria mongers like Thomas.
1500 words.
Dr. Novello says that there are
further obstacles to passage of HIV
even through a microscopic hole. Afree


Page 50

Spring 1997

virus, which is nonmotile, would pass

through a hole only if it were moved
by hydrostatic pressure through the
hole. However, monocytes and lymphocytes that may carry HIV are too large
to pass through the microscopic holes
detected by routine testing. And an
FDA study simulating free HIV in
fluid under pressure found that most
condoms leaked no fluid at all, and
that "even the worst-performing condom reduced estimated viral exposure
The statement cites condom effectiveness during actual use evidenced
by contraceptive failure rates ranging
from less than one per 100 to 16 per
100 users per year. She illustrates the
importance of proper condom use by
results from a British study of married, more experienced users with condom-user failure rates for pregnancy
as low as six per thousand users per
The Center for Disease Control's
August 6, 1993, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report estimated that
the HIV transmission rate for consistent condom users is 1.1 per 100-person years of observation compared
with 9.7 for inconsistent users.
C. M. Roland's concerns about the
barrier performance of latex rubber
featured in the June, 1993, issue of
Rubber World were rebutted by an
article by M. D. Morris and T. D.
Pendle in the very same issue. Morris
and Pendle attribute condom failures
mainly to misuse rather than to any
inherent defect in the product.
Leaching in water, which is part
of the normal condom production process, effectively makes the porous
structure in the latex disappear, they
claim. They also refer to the two rubber layers of a condom, saying that
American Atheist

"the possibility of a hole being made

through both layers, or of a hole in
each layer being perfectly aligned
seems extremely remote." They say
that their contention is further borne
out by the tensile strength of condoms
under high elongation and direct experimentation with the HIV virus.
AMarch, 1989, Consumer Reports
article "Can You Rely on Condoms?"
also reports that examination
stretched latex condoms by an electron
microscope showed "no pores" and "an
effective intact barrier which won't
even let water - one of the tiniest of
molecules - filter through." It also describes various laboratory experiments showing that various sexually
germs cannot pass
through latex condoms.
The leaky-boat
rumors about
condoms spread by the religious right
do not hold water. But condoms do hold
water and hold back the HIV virus too.

Talking Back

What does an Atheist
say to a religionist who
challenges, "Prove to
me there is no god'?

-Jim Senyszyn
North Carolina


hen someone challenges

me to prove that there
isn't a god, I tell him that I don't
have to. Since it is he who is proposing the existence of something that isn't apparent to the
ordinary senses, the burden of
proof is his. If he insists that I
try to prove the negative, I turn
the question back on him by
challenging him to first demonstrate that it is possible to prove
a negative: I ask him to prove
to me that he isn't a murderer. I
then explain that in order to do
so, he will merely have to solve
every unsolved murder that has
occurred during his lifetime,
and show that it was committed by someone else. Obviously,
he will protest that that isn't a
fair test. My reply is that, since
he acknowledges that it is impossible to prove a negative
statement about something as
simple as the mere physical
world, then it is obviously unfair of him to expect me to be
able to prove a negative statement about metaphysical questions: the burden of proof belongs to the person who claims
that a thing does exist.

Note added in press: Religiousright, Republican Governor David Running out of steam in dealBeasley of South Carolina has just ing with the religious zanies
issued an executive order to all who bug you with what you
state health clinics to stop all free feel are stupid questions? Talk
condom programs. Beasley says back! Send the question you
such programs violate the state's hate most along with what you
feel is a good answer.American
"pro-family philosophy." This has
Atheist may print it along with
created a crisis in South Carolina,
the answers of other Atheists
which has the dubious distinction
or American Atheist editorial
of ranking 11 th highest of the staff. Get into the verbal fray.
United States with respect to the It't time to "talk back" to relinumber of AIDS cases reported. In gion. For the next issue, how
about sending us your answers
1995 there were 5850 reported
the questions:
cases of AIDS in the state. Considering the fact that 67% of the state's (1)How can you be moral if you
teenagers are sexually active and don't believe in a god? Without
god, all is permitted.
only around 20% used condoms
(2) Don't you know that Jesus
before the governor's deadly deloves you? Why don't you open
cree, it is reasonable to predict that your heart and let him come
religious ignorance once again in?
will sow sorrow in the South, and
Lee Helms
death wi II be the harvest.
Rochester Hills, Michigan
Austin, Texas

Spring 1997

Page 51

Letters to the Editor

Let the churches compete

''Letters to the Editor" should be

either questions or comments of
general concern to Atheists or to
the Atheist community. Submissions should be brief and to the
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Page 52

I just received the winter issue of

American Atheist on "millennium
madness" and immediately read it
cover to cover. The witty, informative
and scholarly writing persuaded me to
send via snail mail the $20 subscription fee so that there is no break in
my continuing education. However, I
take issue with a few of the points
raised by Conrad Goeringer in his otherwise excellent article, "Social Psychopathology of End-Times Faith." Mr.
Goeringer correctly notes the salient
distinctions between exoteric and esoteric religions, and the seeming treatment of these competing beliefs by society, and religious institutions themselves as a commodity. While this state
of affairs apparently worries him, I see
progress! Since the telecommunications age has reduced religion to a slick
sophisticated marketing enterprise,
that's precisely how it should be
treated. Let this crankery compete in
the marketplace of ideas "for those
hungry, thirsty, and starved for spirituality [who are] adrift in a sea of
postmodern alienation." Betcha religion won't fare too well up against
Friends, Beverly Hills 90210, or MTV.
Mr. Goeringer worries that there
is a dark side to this religious pluralism. Perhaps, but I think not. I prefer
to have 36% of young adults "not define God in orthodox Judeo-Christian
terms" than the inverse statistical
breakdown probably extant a quarter
century ago. It's better to have The
Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine (an institution with which I am
well acquainted) stage "trendy solstice
and Earth Day masses, complete with
a procession of animals and celebrants
in outrageous costume" (and by the
way you left out the really cool music
of the Paul Winter Consort), than to
see the institution exert its bad old
Morningside Heights and strongly influenced city politics in the 1950s. In
short, better to have the new age faddists and the traditional fire and brimSpring 1997

stone crowd expend their energy competing with each other for adherents
- diverting their attention from us,
Congress, and state legislatures. As to
Mr. Goeringer's concern with the malleability of those "craving" and thirsting for belief: if we do our job educating (preferably in a non-confrontational manner where possible) we have
a .chance to capture the minds of the
aforementioned 36%.
Matt McNaught
Staten Island, NY

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In 1954, when an act

of Congress added the
words "one nation
under God" to the
Pledge of Allegiance
to the Flag, Lincoln's
Gettysburg Address
was the alleged source
for the phrase. No
"nation under God"
wording is to be found
in this autograph,


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