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EDueA nON & ENLIGHTENMENT

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and public acceptance of a human tions of authority and creeds.
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tral figure, who alone must be the within himself - can and must cresource of strength, progress, and ate his own destiny. Materialism reideals for the well-being and happi- stores to man his dignity and his inness of humanity;
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and sciences and of all problems af- strive always to improve it. It holds
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American Atheists, Inc .• P.O. Box 140195 • Austin, TX 78714-0195

Alerican Atheist

A Journal

of Atheist

April 1989

News and Thought

Editor's Desk
R. Murray-O'Hair

3

Director's Briefcase
Jon G. Murray

4

The story of the founder of Domino's
Pizza only emphasizes "The Tragedy
of Self-censoring Atheists."

Cover design by Nicki Jensen.

49

Atheists have been going to court to
fight for their rights for at least fifty
years.

11

some speeches, memories, and
photographs from the 1989 Convention of American Atheists.
The Late Great Nineteenth Annual
National Convention of American
Atheists - Jon Murray gives a behind
the scenes look at the last convention
and lists 1988's award-winning Atheists. - 12
What Makes Religionists Tick? Psychiatrist John E Higdon discloses
the mechanisms that keep religion
going strong. - 18
Blasphemy in Austria - Anton
Neureiter tells about the fate of free
thought in his Roman Catholic churchdominated country. - 22
Germany and Atheist Rights Gottfried Niemietz explains why it's
not safe to be an Atheist in West Germany. -26
Photo Section - San Diego played
host to a hotel full of enthusiastic
Atheists. - 2J

Talking Back

Austin, Texas

The third and final part of "How Did
LifeBegin?" promises that science will
soon find the last pieces of the puzzle.

The American Atheist General Headquarters always wants to make members welcome - but one reader does
not want to put out the red carpet for
feminists and gays.

A Special Convention Section
The American Atheist presents

Volume 31, No.4

42

Historical Notes
9

AskA.A.

The Probing Mind
Frank R. Zindler

Report from India
Margaret Bhatty
India's Hindus want to legislate loyalty
to the national anthem, but Jehovah's
Witnesses find that they have "Patriotism of Another Colour."

American Atheist Radio Series
Madalyn O'Hair

April 1989

54

The founder of Dial-An-Atheist and
the American Atheist Museum, gives
a piece of his mind in "Lloyd Thoren,
Interview #2."

Me Too

57

"Once a Catholic, Now an Atheist" is
the tale of how one man made his way
out of the church of Rome.

41

The moment of silence debate makes
one sometimes want to shout, "For
Christ's Sake, Shut Up!"

51

Letters to the Editor

58

Classified Advertisements

60
Page 1

Alerican Atheist

Membership Application For
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Editor

R. Murray-O'Hair
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o Freethinker
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Objectivist
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I am, however, an Atheist and I hereby make application for membership in
American Atheists, said membership being open only to Atheists. (Those not
comfortable with the appellation "Atheist" may not be admitted to membership
but are invited to subscribe to the American Atheist magazine). Both dues and
contributions are to a tax-exempt organization and I may claim these amounts
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April 1989

American Atheist

Editor's Desk

Give them a buzz
One of the early difficulties the Dialor many years, one of the most important outreaches of American An-Atheist services faced was that of
Atheists has been the Dial-An- advertising: many outlets would refuse
Atheist services it sponsors in many to accept Atheist advertising. It was
cities. Persons interested in Atheism, or therefore a great victory when the Utah
curious about Atheists, can call up this Chapter of American Atheists was able
recorded message service to hear the to have the local Dial-An-Atheist service
latest news and views of American Athe- advertised inside the city buses in Salt
ists.
Lake City, the home of one of our
One would be surprised how many nation's most reactionary and repressive
Atheists take advantage of this service. religions. Well, this issue also mentions
In this Christianized nation, in which the Puget Sound Chapter of American
Atheists are continually told that not Atheists, which recently won an award
only is nonbelief next to child molesta- for its efforts in making the Atheist point
tion but that it is unAmerican, many of view. Among its many projects was
Atheists are finding that punching seven advertising the local Dial-An-Atheist
buttons to hear another Atheist speak is service on the outside of the city buses
a low threat way to gain intellectual re- of Seattle, Washington. An article on
inforcement for one's position. Coming the city bus advertisement is appearing
to one's first Chapter meeting or National in a future issue, but you can get a sneak
convention can be a bit scary for a well- preview of the Chapter's success on
closeted Atheist who wonders ifa Chris- page 17of this one.
Given the importance of the Dial-Antian lynch mob will also be attending,
but dialing another Atheist can help Atheist service to the Atheist movement
open up that closet door. Many new as a whole, and the fact that it is twice
members of American Atheists have mentioned in feature articles this month,
confessed that they called Dial-The- it somewhat ironic that this month there
Atheist in Austin, Texas, almost daily for was no room left over for the listing of
months (sometimes years) before they the Dial-An-Atheist services.
mailed that membership application.
Over the years, I've developed an inThe Dial-An-Atheist services across
tricate series of lists and outlines that aid
the nation do more than get us in con- me in ensuring that each month the
tact with our fellow Atheists, though:
they also help us communicate with the
public at large and the news media in an
extremely timely manner. An hour after
a hot local or national event, the Atheist
Phoenix, AZ
(602) 273-1336
point of view can already be buzzing on Tucson, AZ
(602) 623-3861
Dial-An-Atheist lines.
Los Angeles, California (213)823-2445
The Dial-An-Atheist service was the San Diego, CA
(619)660-6663
brainchild of Lloyd Thoren, who is fea- San Francisco, CA __
(415)668-8085
tured in this month's "American Atheist Sonoma County, CA _ (707) 792-2207
(408) 377-8485
Radio Series." The June 1988 issue of San Jose, CA
God Speaks
(408) 257-1486
the American Atheist (the twenty-fifth
(703) 280-4321
anniversary issue) included an article on Greater DC
Denver,
CO
(303) 252-0711
the history of the Dial-An-Atheist ser'Southern Florida
(305) 474-6728
vice. The current article will give you
Tampa, FL
(813)677-7731
some insight into the man behind the Atlanta, GA
(404) 662-6606
Dial-An-Atheist dream.
Northern Illinois
(312)506-9200

F

••

R. Murray-O'Hair
Austin, Texas

American Atheist has all of its parts together before we go to press. But despite all precautions, every once in a
while (with the chaos that attends a
cause organization's
publication) I
come up at the end with one more piece
of the jigsaw that simply cannot be
mated or dexterously fitted into place.
This month, the only place left to tuck
away the Dial-An-Atheist listing was this
page. In a way, that is fortunate indeed,
because it gives me the opportunity to
encourage our supporters, old and new,
to enjoy the talents of the many Dial-AnAtheist writers and announcers across
the nation. The maintenance of a DialAn-Atheist service is a requirement for
all Chapters of American Atheists, but
Chapters do not treat it as a duty. Some
use the opportunity to present serious,
hard-hitting analysis of local state/church
separation issues. For others it becomes
a sort of theater, in which all the humor
to be found in religious ideas is absurdly
exposed. Some Chapter officers, given
the task of managing a Dial-An-Atheist
line, have blossomed in the job. But all
of the Chapters of American Atheists do
good jobs and put a lot of hard work into
Dial-An-Atheist messages. They deserve
a round of applause for keeping this important outreach viable and growing. ~

DIAL-AN-ATHEIST

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Minneapolis, MN

No~thern New Jersey
eene, NH
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Findley (Toledo), OH
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Philadelphia, PA
Pittsburgh, PA

(201) 777-0766
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(212)861-6520
(718)899-1737
(614)294-0300
(419)423-4090
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DIAL-THE-ATHEIST
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(512)458-5731

Dallas, TX
Houston, TX
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April 1989

Page 3

Director's Briefcase

.

The tragedy of
self-censoring Atheists
was recently reading about the exploits of a wealthy chief executive
officer (CEO) of a major corporation
and his funding of religious charities.
This is not an unusual thing. Wealthy
folks have been pouring money into
church-related activities for years. This
particular incident had caught my eye
because of the nature of the corporation
and the executive involved.
I am speaking about the Domino's
Pizza chain and its founder and CEO,
Tom Monaghan. Mr. Monaghan is now
fifty-two years old. In 1960, along with
his younger brother Jim, he bought a
pizza parlor in Ypsilanti, Michigan. By
1973the company had 76 stores in thirteen states. This year, Domino's Pizza
opened its 5,000th store, with 300 of
them being in fifteen foreign countries.
Mr. Monaghan has no college degree,
which differentiates him from the average CEO, He won the Horatio Alger
award, which is given to persons who
overcome adversity to reach success.
He is currently included in the Forbes
magazine register of the 400 richest men
in the United States, having an estimated total net worth of $480 million.
Monaghan has an antique car collection valued at $30 million, and in 1983he
purchased the Detroit Tigers major
league baseball team for $53 million and the team won the World Series in
1984.He is a diehard fan of Frank Lloyd
Wright! and has been one of the foremost collectors of his designs in many
forms.
Monaghan was reared in a Roman
Catholic orphanage until age twelve and
foster homes thereafter. He is, as may

I

Do Atheists have the
right to stay in the
closet - or should they
boldly go out
and purchase a
Domino's pizza?

A graduate of the University of Texas
at Austin and a second generation
Atheist, Mr. Murray is a proponent of
"aggressive Atheism." He is an
anchorman on the "American Atheist
Forum" and the president of American
Atheists.

Jon G. Murray
Page 4

lFrank Lloyd Wright (1869-1959), United
States architect who became world famous
as creator and expounder of "organic architecture," his phrase indicating buildings
that harmonize with users and environment
(Encyclopedia Britannica, vol. 23 [Chicago:
William Senten, Pub., 1961],p. 808).
April 1989

be expected from that upbringing, an
ardent Roman Catholic. He regularly attends daily mass and says the rosary
three times a day. He lives with his wife
of twenty-six years, Margie, and their
four daughters.s
Tom Monaghan has been doing more
than collecting antique cars and buying
baseball teams lately. He has embarked
on the financing of Roman Catholic mission work in Honduras, Central America. Prior to his involvement in Honduras, he had helped finance computer
equipment for the Vatican, paid for a
good part of the Michigan portion of
Pope John Paul II's 1987 United States
tour, got to meet Mother Teresa, and
founded a Roman Catholic corporate
executives organization called "Legatus" which advocates an emphasis on
business ethics.
In 1985he was told of the growing acceptance of Christianity in Africa and
throughout the Third World as a result
of the efforts of some missionaries, and
he decided to get involved in Central
America since it was close to North
America and he could do so on a more
personal level. He contacted Jack Quinlan of an organization called Hispanic
Missions, which was based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Quinlan set up a meeting
between Monaghan and the Honduran
Roman Catholic Rev. Enrique Silvestre
and Steve Rhinehard, an American
businessman who was funding Silvestre
at the time. Rev. Silvestre is a charismatic Spanish priest with a parish surrounding San Francisco de Ojuera in Honduras. When Monaghan learned that
Steve Rhinehard had died, earlier in the
day, on the day of the proposed meeting
he saw this as a sign from god. Monaghan
was then convinced that he should become involved as a benefactor of Rev.
Silvestre.

2Parade magazine, 11June 1989, p. 16, 17.
American Atheist

On November 5, 1985,Monaghan and
others flew to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, in the Domino's corporate jet for a
meeting with Rev. Silvestre. At the time
of that meeting Monaghan gave the
priest a four-wheel-drive Toyota pickup
- and from there .the aid escalated to
the point thatMonaghan has invested
almost $1 millionin Silvestre's mission in
the form of equipment, services, and
land acquisitions. As a novel way of establishing continuing help for Silvestre,
Monaghan set up what has now expanded to eight Domino's Pizza stores
in Central America, with the first opening in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, in May
1987. The stores are independently
owned (franchised) and the royalties
from their operation go directly to Silvestre's mission. Other Domino's Pizza
stores have also been opened in Guatemala, Panama, and Costa Rica. Those
royalties came to about $25,000 in 1988.
Out of the store royalties and additional direct gifts from Tom Monaghan,
a list of projects have been initiated. A
factory called Manufacturas Honduras
Mission was opened in EIMochito, Honduras, to make expensive designer
men's wear for export and sale in United
States shops at a large profit margin. In
San Pedro Zacapa, Honduras, there is a
training center for regional farmers to
teach them modern crop-raising methods. Some modern housing has been
built with features like indoor plumbing.
A medical clinic, called Clinica Suyapa,
has been established in EI Mochito to
give low- or no-cost care. A hydroelectric dam was built for the village of San
Jose de los Andes, Honduras. A program to build low-cost Roman Catholic
chapels was established. In Santa Rose
de Copan, Honduras, funds were made
available for a Roman Catholic seminary. A prayer support group for women
was initiated. Lay Roman Catholics
called "Delegates of the Word" have
been trained to take the gospel where
priests are not yet available. Expenses
have been paid for lay persons to attend
religious retreats.
Austin, Texas

All of this is in a country, Honduras,
that is the poorest of its Central American neighbors, and the second poorest
in the hemisphere, ahead of only Haiti.
Honduras has one-third unemployment, with those who can find jobs earning less than U.S. $100 a month.
Monaghan has been criticized for his
efforts on behalf of a few Hondurans
and a particular priest while the overall
economic situation in Honduras remains
abominable for the majority of starving
peasants. The criticism has come not
alone from the minority secular liberal
media but from liberal Roman Catholic
publications as well. He denies any association with such groups as Opus Dei
or the Sword and the Spirit and says
that he is not involved in funding the
Contras, although he agrees with Bush
administration policy with regard to
them.' The National Organization for
Women has called for a boycott of Domino's Pizza because of Monaghan's support of anti-abortion groups.'
The presidency of Domino's Pizza,
Inc. has since been assumed by P.DaVId
Black, who had been the vice president
of operations since 1981. Mr. Black
wants to take on new tactics with regard
to company involvement in social issues.
I'm going to try to keep us focused on the pizza business and
not get sidetracked with other
issues .... We've built a lot of momentum and I want to push forward.'
That is the Tom Monaghan story. He
is not alone. The Roman Catholic church
has been for many years urging its adherents to stick to church doctrine and
to pursue it not alone in their individu-

3Detroit Free Press, "Pizza Missionary," 4
June 1989, sec. B, p. 4A and B, 5B; "Pizza
Missionary: Part Two," 5 June 1989, p. lA,
4A.
4Detroit Free Press, 13 June 1989, p. 7C.
sIbid.
April 1989

allives but in their business, professional, or governmental positions or careers. A case in point is the call by
United States cardinals, archbishops,
and bishops, for Roman Catholic officeholders to oppose abortion with their
votes. Roman Catholics are expected to
toe the line with regard to papal dogma.
The church is having a difficult time
commanding unanimous obedience out
of its flock, even on the abortion issue,
but it is not failing completely. Many
powerful Roman Catholic politicians
and executives continue to vote a "Catholic conscience" or to fund missions or
programs that advance the tenets of
their faith, such as Tom Monaghan's
Honduran investments.

Interdenominational cooperation
So, why am I telling the readers of an
Atheist journal about the efforts of a
Roman Catholic businessman to pump
funds into missions in Honduras? Well,
I want to make a point. The point is that
religionists, of whatever denomination,
have a way of sticking together. They
support their fellows both here and
abroad and rally to one another's aid. By
and large, despite the theological divisions with which they grapple, they are
united by their god-belief system and
they support the institutions which protect, sustain, and project any belief system into the public arena. When it
comes to the issue of the exempt status
of church property, Protestant, Roman
Catholic, and Jewish congregations
alike can readily agree on the need to
fight to maintain those exemptions.
They are in unity behind god oaths,
prayers at public functions, official days
of prayer, and aid to parochial schools.
They may split hairs over which voucher plan is best, but they all agree on the
basic concept of government funding
for parochial school systems. They are
one voice on the issue of prayer in public
schools; they are for it. The squabbles
over which prayer or whose prayer will
come later, after the combined strength
of the churches can succeed in placing
PageS

religious ceremonies back into the public schools.
You will not see the Baptists, Methodists, or Episcopalians come down
hard and fast in opposition to the Roman
Catholic stand against abortion, They
may differ over tactics, but they willnot
openly and "officially" criticize another
denomination that is bent on saving
human "souls."
My experience with groups in dissent
to religion is much different.
The entire history of groups in dissent
to religion is of not alone noncooperation, but outright hostility. The Atheists
hate the agnostics, who hate the humanists, who cannot stand the rationalists, who keep their distance from the
realists, who do not speak to the Unitarians, and on and on it goes. It is not that
these groups just differ on tactics they disagree on major philosophical
points, unlike their religionist enemies
who all agree on basic sets of beliefs. All
the religionists share a belief in a god/
supreme being. They all believe in the
existence of a soul. They all believe in life
after death. They all share the concept
of "sin." They all share the concept of a
devil or anti-Christ/God figure, some
sort of a personification of evil. Most
share a belief in either the existence of
a "messiah" or the promise of one to
come. Those in dissent to religion, on
the other hand, cannot agree on anything. They cannot even agree on the
simple concept that "there is no god."
The agnostics and the Atheists have
been fighting that one to a standstill for
over one hundred years. I know from
experience that ifone put an Atheist, an
agnostic, a humanist, a rationalist, a
realist, a freethinker, a Unitarian, an objectivist, and an ethical culturist in the
same room together, they could not
agree on almost anything. If one put a
Roman Catholic, a Baptist, a Jew, a
Methodist, a Presbyterian, a Mormon,
an Episcopalian, an Adventist, a Church
of Christ member, a Muslim, or even a
Buddhist in the same room together,
they could agree on many basic things
Page 6

even though their interpretations are so
diverse.
I have been at meetings of dissenters
to religion and always, in the early going,
a verbal (sometimes a physical) altercation breaks out, causing the meeting to
break up before any results are had
therefrom. I know of many interdenominational meetings of religionists which
run smoothly, with all sides being able to
exchange views.
That kind of cooperation and standing up for one another is never going to
happen with the radical left - of which
dissenters to religion are a subset. The
conservative right is highly organized,
cooperative, and funded. The radical
left is disorganized, fraught with discord, underfunded or not funded at all.
I know, personally, of Atheists who
possess the kind of wealth that Tom
Monaghan does, yet they will not use
any of that largess to aid the fight against
the domination of our culture by the religious. In the American Atheist organization, the persons who could easily
make annual $lO,OOO-leveldonations
willsend $100 or $500 once a year, while
the base of our support continues to be
from individuals, through $5.00 and
$10.00 donations each month, amounting to only slightly more than $100 in a
year. On the other hand, a religionist
who can afford a $10,000 donation to his
or her church will do so without hesitation. This is not only true with regard to
religion, but in regard to politics too.
The left side of the political spectrum
cannot squeeze money out of supporters, but the right-wing candidates usually have funds to spare in any campaign.
Atheists will simply not get involved
with the promotion of their chosen lifestyle. I cannot think of a group harder to
motivate to do anything, except - perhaps - the anarchists. Atheists seem to
feel that their position with regard to religion is a deeply personal thing that
does not need to be shared with others.
Their Atheism is their deep, dark, little
secret that they carry close to their
April 1989

hearts. I know many Atheists who will
not even reveal their thoughts on religion to their spouses. Is it because they
have allowed the religionists to strike
terror so deeply inside them that they
are afraid of their own thoughts? Are
Atheists subconsciously afraid to think
against religion? I fear that the answer is
yes in many individual cases. I have met
many Atheists who cannot surpass the
"what if I am wrong?" stage. They also
fear alienation from their families and
their peer groups.

The fear and shame of Atheism
A recent case in point drove this
home to me vividly.I received a call here
at the American Atheist General Headquarters from a female reporter for a
Midwest newspaper. She asked ifAmerican Atheists knew of any Atheists, or
had any members, in the state in which
her newspaper was published, because
she wanted to interview them and ask
them what it was like to be Atheists in
a heavily religious area. I will not name
the state, but it does not matter as it
could have been any state in the Union.
In response to the reporter's request, I
answered some of her questions myself
and then I said that I would try to round
up some persons in her state from
American Atheists' membership files
who would consent to talk to her. I told
her that I could only put her in touch
with those persons who gave their prior
consent to me for an interview with her.
I went to the membership rolls and
picked out some names that I recognized from meeting the people personally and some I did not know who had
been members for at least three or four
years. I first had a rough time finding
telephone numbers for all of the names
I had chosen. Many, many Atheists have
unlisted telephone numbers. When I finally got down to a list of about fifteen
persons for whom I had telephone numbers, I started to call. I spent a good
many hours on four consecutive days
on the telephone, off and on, trying to
reach each of the numbers on my list.
American Atheist

When I finally got in touch with these
persons Iexplained to each of them, one
at a time, that a newspaper reporter in
their state wanted to talk to ordinary
Atheists and get their impressions about
livingan Atheist life-style in that state in
the midst of a religious majority. I told
each of them that I had not given their
name or number to the reporter and
would never do so without their permission. I said that I was calling in order to
obtain their permission and that only if
they agreed would I give the reporter
their name and number and advise that
she could call them with her questions.
What I encountered with the majority of the persons with whom I made contact was a deep and abiding fear of being discovered as an Atheist. I was told
by a working wife that her husband
might be willingto talk to a reporter but
that she had too many relatives in the
state and that she felt they would never
speak to her again and/or she could lose
her job ifshe were named. Her husband
traveled in his work, she said, and would
therefore perhaps be more willing to
come out. An older couple told me that
if I waited one more year, after the husband reached retirement age and got his
pension, that they could speak out.
Right now, though, they did not dare
have their names in the paper because
the husband's boss was a right-wing
Reagan supporter and a staunch Christian. Another couple, who are business
owners, said that any publicity of their
Atheism would destroy their customer
base and they could not afford to lose
their income.
As I called from person to person I
encountered such deep-seated fear that
I could hardly believe my ears. Some of
the persons even spoke softly on the
telephone as if they were being monitored. In short, most of the Atheists I
contacted were petrified with fear at
being "found out." It was as ifan Atheist
was the most horrible thing that one
could be. I might as well have been talking to lepers on the phone, asking them
to leave their colony. It was a climate of
Austin, Texas

total fear, with the religious majority
dominating the lives and suppressing
the thoughts of the persons to whom I
was speaking. Out of the entire list I was
able to get three persons who were willing to be called. I have never heard from
the reporter or any of the Atheists since,
so I do not know if they were ever contacted or if an article was ever generated from that contact. The exercise of
contacting them was enough for me; it
really taught me a lesson.
I thought that the situation had gotten
better than that over the twenty-five
years since the founding of American
Atheists. I was, alas, disappointed. I do
not really think that things have changed
that much in regard to the attitude of
Atheists to going public since the l%Os.

Self-censorship
Whenever I read about a religious
person, such as Tom Monaghan of
Domino's Pizza, doing some good works
or providing financing for his church, I
think to myself, "Where are the rich
Atheists who could do the same for their
cause?" I know that certainly there are
persons of great means who are Atheists, but they simply willnot assist in the
struggle against religion. Their fear of
being discovered is so great that it
amounts to a kind of self-censorship.
That is the crux of the matter: selfcensorship. Over hundreds of years
Atheists have been so afraid of what
might happen to them if they revealed
their true positions with regard to religion that they have kept those positions
hidden at all costs. It is my contention
that had they come out openly as Atheists, in numbers, and banded together
for protection early on, they would have
gained more and lost less in the long
run. It is because the bulk of Atheists
stood by for years and years and let religion tear one or the other of their comrades apart that the majority of Atheists
still remain, for all practical purposes,
under the control of religion. Allthat the
church had to do was to try one Atheist for blasphemy, or send one to jail, and
April 1989

thousands of other Atheists folded up
and slunk off to their hiding places never
to poke their heads out of the holes
again.
Just think of the many situations: If
the church had hold of an Atheist and
was preparing to burn him at the stake
for blasphemy, his fellow Atheists cowered in fear and watched from their hiding places as the flames engulfed him.
What should have happened is that they
should have risen up and marched to
the stake, cut down their comrade, and
then stormed the church to get the bishop by the neck for passing such a sentence on an Atheist. If that had been the
case, Atheists of hundreds of years ago
could have slowed religion down or
stopped it altogether. Instead they were
cowardly and disorganized and sat back
and allowed one or two brave individuals to speak up for them and get mauled
by the church.
Let us look at the state of Texas for a
modern example. Texas has a statutory
oath for jurors which requires them to
either swear or affirm "So help me
God." That is, whether they are swearing or affirming, it must be "So help me
God" at the end of the oath or affirmation. I know that out of every panel of
prospective jurors, hundreds in a given
courtroom on a given day, there must be
at least one Atheist. In fact, there should
be about nine out of everyone hundred
persons. Yet, when all the prospective
jurors are asked to rise and take the
oath, the Atheists willsimply take it with
the rest of the assemblage, "God" and
all, to avoid being discovered. Then
comes along a single Atheist who refuses to take either the oath or the affirmation and stands firm. She goes to jail.
Why? It is because all the others in the
room who agreed with her did not say
anything. If every day, out of every
group of prospective jurors, nine or ten
out of every hundred stood firm and refused to either swear or affirm "So help
me God," the Texas court system could
not jailthem all. Sooner or later court officials would get the message that the
Page 7

time and time again. When the leaders,
or, more correctly, mercenaries, either
give up, die, go to prison, or are killed,
their lackluster armchair backers will
slink off into hiding and claim, if asked,
that they never knew anything about
these radical Atheist persons. This is
hardly the way to run a war.
It is a war. Many Atheists do not think
so. Most think that religion will die out
by and by of its own accord and that it
Abandoning
really does not matter if they speak up
the mercenary system
What we have now, as regards orga- or not. They can live their Atheist lifenized Atheism, is a situation in which a style and nobody bothers them; no one
very small number of activist, outspo- is forcing them to go to church or read
the Bible. Why make a fuss? Well, reliken Atheists play the role of mercenaries hired by the bulk of Atheists who are gion has forced itself upon mankind
in hiding. The majority of Atheists ex- from its inception. It does not need to
pect these few persons to fight all their force anybody to read the Bible or atbattles for them on a hired basis. The tend church now because it is the domfirst problem is that the mercenaries are inant social and political factor of our
underpaid and ill-equipped, and the sec- culture. Religion is in command; it conond problem is that they have no back- trols all the social and political agendas,
up or support personnel. In the military, so it need not force anyone anymore it is known that it takes an average of that is, until it starts to lose its grip, and
sixteen persons behind the lines to sup- then the pressure will be for survival.
port one person on the front lines in ac- Religionists of the 1980s think that they
tual combat. Atheist mercenaries have are losing their grip on the culture, so
force is once again being applied. It is
never had that kind of a ratio of support.
If the relationship between Atheists and subtle at first, and then it will become
more and more overt as time goes on.
their leaders is to remain on a mercenary
The Atheists have had their opportubasis, then those on the paying end will
simply need to cough up more funding nities when religion was at its low points,
but they were too late time and time
to provide for a proper support staff.
Iwould like to see the situation change again. During the Reformation they
could have struck while religion was at
from having a small group of mercenaries fighting for the bulk of Atheists to the a dividing point. At the time of the formation of this nation, the first to base'
bulk of Atheists fighting for themselves.
Every other minority group of which I itself in part on separation of state and
can think has come out of the closet, en church, the iron was hot, but the Athemasse, except Atheists. The Blacks, the ists did not strike. At the turn of the cenwomen, the homosexuals, the poor, the tury in the midst of the industrial revoHispanics, have all been out in the lution, when division among the denomstreets marching for their rights, but, inations was at a peak, the Atheists
missed another opportunity. Now that
alas, not the Atheists.
The Atheist equivalents of Tom Mo- the religious are ready to tug on the
naghan need to step forward. As great leash to draw the culture back into line
as the need is, it willnot be fulfilled.The the Atheists must go along with the rest.
Atheists will continue to sit and watch, The opportunities have been lost to
moaning and groaning about the ad- stop religion from gaining control of the
vances of religion, and their leaders will culture. The religious are in control now.
continue to be beaten up, or defeated, We Atheists can only react to what the
oath had to be changed or that some
provision had to be made for those who
did not desire to take a "god" oath.
What happens instead is that individual
Atheists are treated differently than all
other citizens, harassed; and jailed because they stand up for their right to say
"no" to religion, while the other Atheists
just go along with the majority.

Page 8

April 1989

religious decide to do, because we cannot stop them from doing anything anymore.
If the religious do not want women to
have abortions, they have the power to
stop them. If the religious want education to be "god-centered," they have the
power to implement that policy. If the
religious want to ban books, they have
the power to do that. If the religious
want to stop sex education, they can do
it. If the religious want to do away with
public schools, they can do so. If the religious want to outlaw the scientific fact
of evolution, they can do it. They can
and willdo all these things because they
have had and have the Tom Monaghans
on their side and his Atheist counterparts have not been willingto come out
of the closet.
The only way they can be stopped is
by mass organized resistance. A few
scattered fighters here and there simply
cannot do the job. Either everyone who
is opposed to religion, for whatever reason, says so or religion wins, period.
This Atheist is not going to give up,
but he knows that his chances of preventing eventual world theocracy are
slim at best. It is a shame that the result
of a viable minority's fear of fear itself,
and that minority's self-censorship will
cause the retrogression of the culture as
a whole.
I want to go on record as being one of
those who tried as hard as he could to,
ifnot stop, at least slow down the forces
of ignorance. I do not know what else I
can do to convince other Atheists to act.
I cannot duplicate my life experience
and motivating factors in others. A novice or closet Atheist simply has to go
through some of the same types of trials
through which I have gone in order to
get radical and aggressive. I cannot impute my stance or determination to
others. For the rich Atheists, and Iknow
you are out there, Icannot force you to
help your cause. You have to want to do
that. ~

American Atheist

1

Ask A.A.

The American Atheist General He~d- .
quarters (below) in Austin, Texas, is
always open to its supporters.

Visiting headquarters

In "Letters to the Editor," readers give
their opinions, ideas, and information.
But in "Ask A.A.," American Atheists
answers questions regarding its
policies, positions, and customs, as
well as queries of factual and historical
situations. Please address your
questions to "Ask A.A.," P.O. Box
140195, Austin, TX 78714-0195.

Austin, Texas

there?

This is to relate to your staff and
readers my recent, first visit to your
General Headquarters. As a member of
only two months standing, I came into
Austin on business and dropped into
your spacious (but full) offices. Within
moments I met Dr. O'Hair and we
settled into a pair of seats in the reception area, discussing everything from

Drop-in visitors to the American
Atheist General Headquarters do hinder our progress. They can take the
time of from one to three staff members
for as much as one-half to one hour or

her memoirs (I was trying to convince
her to produce them) to "Near Death
Experiences" to famous talk show hosts
she has known.
Christina Ditter gave me a leisurely
tour of the facilities; as I jokingly told
Robin Murray-O'Hair, "If there were no
monthly magazine to produce, the job
here would be easy!" The man-hours required to typeset, print, and collate by
hand the monthly copies is staggering to
me; anyone who doubts how tough your
jobs are should visit and see for themselves, as I did.
I look forward to seeing staff and
fellow members at the San Diego convention in March; and a question: do
drop-in visitors at the General Headquarters help or hinder your progress

more. Multiply that by 500 visitors a
year and one can immediately see how
much time is given to visiting members.
What we have here is a membership
organization. You are all-important to
us. We take whatever time is necessary
to greet you and to show the GHQ to
you.
We hope that you will be inspired to
bring in at least one other member, to
stand up openly and say you are an
Atheist somewhere, sometime, to take
pride in your own Atheism and the organization which represents you in the
nation.
Sure, you take our time, you hinder
our progress, you are a pain in the ass
when we are in a position where we are
pinched for time and output - but ba-

April

1989

Wes Jackson
California

Page 9

sically, you belong to the family and we
love you and need you. So keep coming.

Choosing issues
Let's see if you have the balls to print
this in your publication. I have in the
past sent contributions- on a regular
basis and also when ordering something. I have written you personally several times and you have never sent me
any contribution, just so we have it in
proper order. When and if you stop trying to compete with the churches on
nuclear issues, stop trying to woo
queers and lesbians, stop fighting for
women's lib (women have more rights
than men as it is), I'll start sending
money again. The only issue should be
separation of church and state totally.
That alone will solve most of the rest of
the problems of the country.
If you print this, I'll give $20.00 for a
copy!
M. Rhea
California
Your offer to bribe the editor with $20
to print your letter is, of course, insulting_In no way does it affect our decisionmaking processes.
You feel that an Atheist organization
should speak only to state/church separation. The basic weltanschauung of
Atheism, however, goes much beyond
that. The low position of women in
Western culture, for example, is based
in the Judeo-Christian premises that
women are personifications of evil and
sin. Both men and women are debased
in such a distorted value system. It is the
duty of American Atheists to remove
this false premise by exposing its
fallacies.
You lash out at "queers and lesbiens." American Atheists accepts the
obvious. No institution - church, state,
parents, or schools - has ever been
able to supervise what goes on in a bedroom. The dominant person, when the
sexual situation arises, dictates what
shall occur. Women, for example, are
Page 10

basically at the mercy of the physically that. the tax-exempt privileges can be
more powerful male and usually submit withdrawn from a religious institution if
to sexual congress whether they desire it proves to be "partisan" where political
activity is concerned.
to do so or not. Intellectual, emotional,
Please see the enclosed "letter to the
and physical rape goes on in the marriage
bed apace. American Atheists can editor." Doesn't the church's activity re
hardly put out rules and regulations, for abortion smack of "partisanship," and is
there any way to proceed thru legal
example, that only the missionary
position of fornication is acceptable. It means to have their tax-exempt status
removed?
cannot dictate that only male/female
copulation may occur. Hedda Nussbaum, recently much in the news, well
Mildred Fischer
illustrates what may well be the norm
Arizona
for all that any of us know. How then
can American Atheists say that it will
The tax exemption of the Roman
accept as members only those who are
male/female couplers with "proper sex Catholic church has been challenged
by the National Abortion Rights Action
lives"?
In respect to the "nuclear issues" League (NARAL) which is headed by
which you do not properly identify in Lawrence Lader. With more than adeyour query, nuclear wars of annihilation quate proof that this church has interfit neatly into the religious idea that vened politically by supporting candideath is better than life_American Athe- dates who opposed abortion and
ists has an obligation to meet such an opposing candidates who supported
abortion, NARAL filed suit in the federal
irrational idea head-on.
American Atheism speaks to the use district courts of New York, asking that
the Internal Revenue Service deny
of education and the scientific method
of inquiry to evaluate all of our cultural further tax exemption to the Roman
concerns. Those aspects of the culture Catholic Church. The case has been in
litigation for over half a decade with
which are based on irrational concepts
must be challenged. Reason must come church and state attempting every deto the fore. Our nation's culture is rid- laying tactic and NARAL fighting to
push it along to a conclusion. Here, as
dled with false values, inappropriate
solutions, anti-human remedies which often, the church combines with the
only convolute the problems inherent in state to attempt to defeat private persons or organizations who see a constithe system we have.
American Atheism intends to be a tutional violation and attempt to correct
part of the solution. As it increases in it.
A lengthy review of the litigation will
strength of numbers, financing, and
political power, it willintrude even more be had in an upcoming issue of the
American Atheist magazine. The dilatory
often into the public arena to champion
procedural maneuvers of state and
or to denounce intolerable situations,
church are too convoluted to be adenot less.
Meanwhile, rest assured that we quately described in just several paracannot be bribed, cajoled, or threat- graphs in this column.
Suffice it to say that your perceptions
ened into any other positions than
those to which logic and reason lead are absolutely on target: this is more
than partisanship; it is interference in
American Atheism.
the political system by an organization
(the Roman Catholic church) which is
Politics and tax exemption
In a recent discussion with a Roman subsidized by the state in the form of its
Catholic lawyer, I heard him mention tax exemption_~
April 1989

American Atheist

I

./

/

American Atheists

Convention '89
EDUCATION & ENLIGHTENMENT

f GOD IS

f

~tlH\

,,/

The theme was
"Education and Enlightenment,"
the mascot was San Diego's very
own pink flamingo and the result of the Nineteenth
Annual National Convention of
American Atheists was that
hundreds of Atheists returned to
their communities armed with the
ultimate weapon against religion:
information.
The American Atheist brings you
the speeches, photographs,
and memories
of the most successful convention
American Atheists ever had.

//'-~"'"
-,

/

\

-. /

Page 11

~n~)

The late great Nineteenth Annual
National Convention of American Atheists
'T"

he Nineteenth Annual National
of American Atheists
was held in San Diego, California, on
March 24, 25, and 26, 1989. San Diego
was selected as the annual convention
site for 1989 principally because of the
demography of the national membership of American Atheists. Since the inception of the organization, California
has been the state with the greatest
number of members; currently 16.7percent of the members of American Atheists reside there. The next largest states
for American Atheists, in terms of membership, are Texas (7.5 percent), New
York (7.5 percent), Florida (6.0 percent),
Ohio (5.0 percent), Illinois(4.0 percent),
Pennsylvania (3.8 percent), and Minnesota (3.4 percent). Thus we have 53.9
percent, over half, of the membership of
American Atheists concentrated
in
eight states, with the remaining 46.1 percent scattered all over the other fortytwo states. You can see then why American Atheists has now held four of its
nineteen annual conventions so far in
California (Hollywood in 1975,San Francisco in 1978 and 1983, San Diego in
1989).Five of the annual meetings have
been held in Texas (1970, 1971, 1972,
1979,1985).Two conventions have been
held in the New York City metropolitan
area (1976and 1986).The 1990 convention of American Atheists has therefore
been scheduled to be held in Florida, as
the next largest membership state behind New York. The only convention
held in Florida was in 1974.It is now time
to hold a second convention there.
It has been obvious throughout the
history of these Atheist conventions
that attendance depends in part on
bringing the convention to the members
rather than the members to the convention. The national officers of American
Atheists also know that the convention
must be a weekend affair. Atheists, like
millions of other Americans, work for a
livingand cannot take days off to attend

.I. Convention

Page 12

a convention. Therefore, the conventions have always been held over a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, that is, a
three-day "weekend." It also quickly
came to the attention of the convention

American Atheists

Convention '89~·
EDUCATION & ENLIGHTENMENT

Jon G.Murray
The current president of American
Atheists, Jon G. Murray has been responsible during the past ten years for
all planning and coordination which
bring the annual conventions to life.
From choosing speakers, contracting
with hotels, managing transporation
(both international and domestic) to
handling caterers, the entire extravaganza rests upon him. By some magic,
each convention each year is better than
the last - and 1989was simply "Great!"

planners that the Easter and Christmas
weekends are the statistically slowest
weekends of the year in the hotel industry. That means hotels have more empty rooms on those weekends, though
that varies with location, than any other
throughout the year. In order to filltheir
rooms, therefore, hotels are then usually
willingto offer lower room rates or package deals at better prices. Hotels survive
on being able to keep a certain percentage of rooms fulleach night, just as airApril 1989

lines must filla certain percentage of the
seats on each flight for any particular
flight to pay for itself on a given run.
Thus the decision to hold the American Atheist Convention over an Easter
weekend is a monetary and business decision of the convention planners and
has nothing to do with its being a religious holiday period. In fact, for years,
some employers gave "Good Friday" or
"Easter Monday" off to their employees.
Some stilldo. Since "Easter" is meaningless to Atheists, it usually does not
bother them a bit to attend a convention
during that period of time. Most public
schools, colleges, universities are on
spring break at that season, so that parents can bring their children to the convention if they so desire.
Once a city has been determined, the
process of selecting a convention hotel
site is an arduous one. It requires the
convention planner to travel to the designated city and spend two or three days
doing site inspections of potential properties and gathering information on the
geographical area. The factors of price,
location, service, convenience, and accessibility are essential, as they would
be for any convention, but with an Atheist convention there is also the consideration of prejudice. There are still managers of commercial properties who do
not desire to be associated with what
they perceive as the negative image of
Atheism. They fear the loss of future
business. This has been much less of a
factor during the last seven years of the
convention than in its early years, but it
still, unfortunately, must be taken into
consideration.

The 1989 Convention

Site

In 1989 in San Diego the convention
was held in a Marriott hotel for the first
time. The chairman of the board and
president of Marriott Corporation, J. W
Marriott, Jr., is a practicing Mormon
and tithes to the church. The Marriott
American Atheist

DESERT INCOME TAX SERVICE
WILL BE CLOSED FRIDAY, SATURDAY, 8&
SUNDAY, MARCH 24, 25 1& 26, 1989 FOR
THE AMERICAN ATHEISTS NATIONAL
CONVENTION IN SAN DIEGO
Oscar Shoop
Corporation gives generously of its profits to the Mormon church. On the other
hand, the majority stockholder in the
Hilton hotel chain supports the Roman
Catholic church. With the Holiday Inn
chain, it is the Southern Baptist church.
It is difficult then for.an Atheist group to
boycott a particular brand of hotel in
order to keep the money from its conventioneers from financing religion.
This is why the decision on a hotel site
is based on a business and not a "social
or organizational responsibility" basis. If
more can be learned about the investment pattern of major churches in the
hotel industry, then perhaps a policy to
avoid those corporations
in which
churches invest heavily can be established for future conventions.

In that spirit Mr. Murray, taking a suggestion from Dr. Maurice LaBelle of
Drake University in Iowa, planned a
convention for San Diego that would
consist of both individual speakers and
panel discussions. These two types of
presentations would alternate throughout the three-day schedule.
The official prepaid attendance for
Convention XIX was 429. This was up
131 from the year before in Minneapolis,
where a smaller convention drew 298 to
a cold, rainy city.
American Atheists placed paid advertising for the convention in the form of
a quarter-page ad in the Reader, San
Diego's weekly (section 2, page 10,
March 23, 1989) and a smaller ad in the
entertainment section of The San Diego
Union daily newspaper.

The new convention format
The San Diego convention was different for another, more important reason
than the identity of the hotel chain in
which it was held. Prior conventions had
mainly consisted of conventioneers sitting and listening to a series of speakers,
some good, some mediocre, and some
not so good. In Minneapolis, at the time
of the Eighteenth Annual National Convention of American Atheists, Jon Murray, president of American Atheists, decided that the time had come for a
change of format. Mr. Murray has been
responsible for the arrangements and
coordination of the annual meetings
since 1978.
Basically Mr. Murray got bored of the
same old thing. So in San Diego the
theme of the convention was "education and enlightenment." Mr. Murray
felt that the convention should be a
learning experience for the conventioneers, but not in a way similar to taking
exams. The education should be contemporary and pragmatic, facing everyday Atheist concerns with a mixture of
the needed background of history. Conventioneers also need to have a chance
to let their hair down and have some
fun. Atheists are not automatons, despite
their public image as stuffy intellectuals.
Austin, Texas

The excitement begins
The first day of the convention, Friday, pretty much remained the same as
in years before: a day of business sessions with a press conference, a meeting
of the national board of directors, and a
Chapter officers' meeting. Even those
meetings, however, were different. The
Chapter officers' meeting was set in a
hollow-square style so that the officers
could look one another in the eye and
get a back and forth exchange of ideas.
That was a radical departure from the
rank and file Chapter officers' meetings
of the past with national officers lecturing the Chapter representatives.
For the first time, an important educational presentment was placed in the
Friday evening schedule. Conrad Goeringer, founder of the Tucson Chapter of
American Atheists, told the convention
about "Bimbos for Satan." It was a brilliant presentation in the inimical Goeringer style, fullof humor and wit, but laced
with revealing information.
As in previous years, life members of
American Atheists had a private reception and dinner; seventy-five tried-andtrue "lifers" attended this year. An open
reception for all the conventioneers followed.
April 1989

One individual entrepreneur was bold
enough to advertise in the newspaper to
let aU his clients know why his business
was closed for the weekend.

The pope arrives
On the second day, Saturday, the
action really stepped up. After all of the
introductions and opening remarks of
President Murray and Stephen Thorne,
director of the San Diego Chapter of
American Atheists, conventioneers
were paid a surprise visit by the pope.
He just happened to be in town for a
Padre's game (his kind of people) and
dropped by to sing an early "Happy
Birthday" to American Atheists' founder, Dr. Madalyn O'Hair (born April 13,
1919), and to present her with the keys
to the Vatican. Complete with his Secret
Service escort (San Diego members Ed
McWilliams and Don Childs in disguise)
and Polish accent, the pope drew a lot
of laughs. In reality it was all a grand
joke, the brainchild of Stephen Thorne.
The pope was actually a pope look-alike
by the name of Abe Bokow, who in real
life is Jewish and makes his living as a
plumber. He does San Diego area parties and events playing the pope and
doing a damn convincing job of it.
Once the crowd settled down from
that lighthearted beginning, the first
speaker was Dr. John E Higdon, a clinical psychologist from Columbia, Missouri, who talked about "What Makes
Religionists Tick." Dr. Higdon's speech
was captivating and enlightening. A
pause is in order here to say that several of the convention's presentations, including Dr. Higdon's, are included in this
issue. Due to a lack of space, others are
scheduled for future issues of the American Atheist.
Next up was the first discussion panel
of the convention. The topic was "Atheism and Children" and the panelists
were Angeline Bennett (one of the
founders of the Puget Sound [Seattle]
Chapter of American Atheists), grandmother and matriarch of a family of
three generations of Atheists; James
Brodhead (an actor and journalist from
Los Angeles), father of two sons, Dan
and Will, both art students and both
Atheists; Caroline Gilman (a legal assistant in a large international law firm
Page 13

headquartered in New York), a second
generation Atheist born to and reared
by communist parents; and Stephen
Thorne (a mental health specialist for
the county of San Diego) who has been
happily married to an Atheist wife for
fifteen years and who has reared two
Atheist sons, ages eight and twelve. The
panel format consisted of each panelist's giving a five-minute opening statement and then the entire panel's fielding
questions from the audience for forty
minutes, for a total presentation length
of one hour. In the case of the "Atheism
and Children" panel, the audience participation portion of the hour was a real
heart to heart discussion of the problems of growing up Atheist in a religious
world.
American Gay Atheists, an affiliated
group headquartered in Houston, took
the opportunity during the "Atheism
and Children" panel to have a separate
discussion group of its own in a breakout room.
The next solo speaker was Anton
Neureiter of Salzburg, Austria, on the
topic of blasphemy charges faced by
him and other founding members of Antiklerikaler Arbeitskreis in their country.
The background provided in the article
on his organization in the last issue on
blasphemy willprepare you for his convention remarks reproduced in this issue of the American Atheist.
At this point the convention broke for
lunch. During the lunch break, volunteers from the San Diego Chapter, and
even the hotel director of sales, filled
hundreds of pink "God is Make-Believe"
sloganed balloons with helium and tied
one to the back of every conventioneer's chair. The ballroom was a surprise
package of floating Atheist expression
for the returning conventioneers.
A pause for the history of Atheism
The "Birth of Modern Atheism" panel
followedlunch, with panelists Dr. Maurice
LaBelle, Dr. Arthur Frederick Ide, and
Frank Zindler. Dr. LaBelle is a professor
in the Department of English at Drake
Page 14

University. Dr. Ide is the author of more
than two hundred books, including Unzipped: The Popes Bare All and Robertson: The Pulpit and the Power, both
published by American Atheist Press.

American Atheists
convention '89
Sanmego

EDUCATION
&

ENLIGHTENMENT

Each year convention folders are works
of art, souvenirs to keep memories fresh
- and 1989'swas superb.
Frank Zindler, a science writer, is the
director of the Central Ohio Chapter of
American Atheists; he taught biology
and geology for over seventeen years at
State University of New York. This
panel explored the philosophical basis
for Atheism among some of the major
contributors to the Enlightenment of
the eighteenth century.
Attorney Gottfried Niemietz of Freiburg, West Germany, presented "Germany and Atheist Rights." Mr. Niemietz,
who is one of the founders of Bunte
Liste Freiburg, a German Atheist organization, led the audience through a
picture of civil rights abuses in modern
Germany, including those centered
around blasphemy, that astonished one
and all. At the end of his speech, he presented a petition (reprinted at the end of
his speech) to the conventioneers for
their signatures in support of Atheists
April 1989

charged with blasphemy in Germany.
Some 235 conventioneers signed the
document, which was to be presented
to German government officials by Mr.
Niemietz.
The Question Bee
A truly unique part of the San Diego
convention came next in the form of a
Question Bee. Dr. Madalyn O'Hair, remembering the spelling bees of her
school days, had the idea of asking
every Chapter director and officer in attendance at the convention to line up
and come forward one at a time t6 be
asked a question typically asked of
Atheist spokespersons on radio or television talk shows around the country.
The Chapter representative would have
one minute to answer the question, as
one minute or less is often all one has on
major media programs. The answers
were judged by a panel consisting of Dr.
O'Hair, founder of American Atheists;
Jon Murray, president of American
Atheists; and Robin Murray-O'Hair,
editor of the American Atheist magazine. Following each question and the
answer, each judge would hold up a
number, from 1 to 10(ten being a perfect
score), as is done by judges in the Olympics. Robert Sherman, national media
spokesperson for American Atheists,
moderated the event and a good time
was had by the audience, judges, and
participants alike while everyone came
out a winner in the end with the knowledge they gained from hearing the correct answers and seeing the not-so-correct go down the drain. The winner of
this First Annual Question Bee was
Robert (Bob) Kennedy of the Puget
Sound (Seattle) Chapter, who received
a trophy cup engraved with "Champion,
First Annual Question Bee, American
Atheists Convention XIX, San Diego,
California, 25 March 1989."
It was then time for a coffee and
stretch break and then back to hear Dr.
Madalyn O'Hair.
Dr. O'Hair, in the thick of state/
church separation legal battles for
American

Atheist

1
r

The Question Bee
years, has slowly been coming to the realization that there are no laws in the
United States to protect the interests
and life-style of American Atheists. The
only persons protected are those who
are engaged in the "free exercise" of religion. The American political and legal
culture is structured to suit religious
needs only.
At this convention, as she struggled
to formulate an Atheist modus operandi
to obtain relief from the overweaning
suffocation of the culture by religion,
she fashioned a short hard-hitting speech
in which she solicited American Atheists
to "just say no" to religion every time
they were confronted with it, as an interim battle mode until other strategies,
legal and social, could be put together
and could be utilized as a solution to the
problem.
An hour-long break from a long day
was then in order before a members' reception and dinner. The annual members' dinner was well attended; 210 persons in formal and semi-formal attire set
a new convention record for that event.
Jon Murray, president of American
Atheists, was the featured dinner speaker. He presented quite a jocular discourse on the need to face a hostile religious world as an activist Atheist.
Mobile disc jockey Jeff A. Braverman
of San Diego provided selected music
for dancing after dinner.
The last day
On Sunday morning the day started
early with an 8:00 A.M.annual members'
business meeting. Once that business
session was concluded, a record 160
conventioneers gathered for a fabulous
brunch buffet. At high noon, after the
brunch, Robin Murray-O'Hair, editor of
the American Atheist, presented "Freethought Publications: A History." Ms.
Murray-O'Hair, besides her many and
varied editorial duties, has taken on the
task of being curator of the Charles E.
Stevens American Atheist Library and
Archives housed in the American Atheist
General Headquarters in Austin, Texas.
Austin, Texas

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The idea of the Question Bee was simple: Rob Sherman (far left) would ask a Chapter officer like Christos T zanetakos (left) a "typical" question and judges Jon Murray, Madalyn O'Hair, and R. Murray-O'Hair (not shown) would score the answer.

Deborah Clark, the director of the
Washington, D.C., Chapter of American
Atheists, gets quizzed.

Rob Sherman holds the mike for Question Bee champion Bob Kennedy, who
represented the Puget Sound Chapter.

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Rob Sherman tried to deliver the questions in the same tone that Christians usually
use. From the expressions on his and former Houston Director Scott Kerns' face,
this question must have surprised them both.
April 1989

Page 15

As curator of the library, she has learned
a great deal about the history of Atheism
in print, of which knowledge she imparted many savory bits during her
allotted time at the podium.
The "Grass Roots Atheist Activism"
panel was next on the schedule. The
panelists were David Chris Allen (a programmer/analyst at Unisys in Salt Lake
City), director of the Utah Chapter of
American Atheists since 1982; Richard
Andrews, founder and co-director of
the Utah Chapter and 1980Chapter Director of the Year; Mark Franceschini (a
radiopharmaceutical production manager at the Positron Diagnostic and Research Center Cyclotron Facility at the
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston), a member of the board
of directors of American Gay Atheists
and its national secretary since 1987;
and Don Sanders (owner of Texas West
Communications which operates Dialinfo lines in New York City, Los Angeles,
and Houston), who with Dominic Florio
of New York founded American Gay
Atheists in 1983. The panel gave concrete examples of what determined and
educated Atheists can do at a grass
roots level in their communities for separation of state and church and the civil
rights of Atheists.
Last up on Sunday were William M.
Thwaites and Frank Awbrey. Dr. Awbrey
is on the faculty of the Department of
Biology at San Diego State University.
Dr. Thwaites is an associate professor of
biology at San Diego State University,
with his Ph.D. in genetics. Both men
have had articles published in the Creation/Evolution Journal and have been
active in debating creationists. They
gave the audience a stimulating overview of the current battle against creationism on several fronts.
A feature of every annual convention
is a large book and product display area
that contains not only items published
or produced by American Atheist Press
but specialty items produced on a local
level by Chapters of American Atheists.
The display area also had continuously
Page 16

running video selections from the "American Atheist Forum" cable television
series. The San Diego Chapter of American Atheists provided a hospitality suite
for conventioneers
throughout the
weekend.
At the convention each year a series
of award presentations are made to
publicly acknowledge and congratulate
those who have made outstanding contributions to the development of the
Atheist movement here or abroad during the year that has elapsed since the
last convention. All of the awards are
presented as being "from Grateful
American Atheists."
The award winners in San Diego were:
Outstanding Chapter Award
1988,to the Puget Sound Chapter of
American Atheists for teamwork in activist Atheist outreach in the Seattle,
Washington, area. (An article on the
Chapter's award-winning activism is
scheduled for an upcoming issue of the
American Atheist.)
Atheist Spokesman of the Year
1988,Robert I. Sherman for his representation of Atheism in deeds and in
words that are understood by "the man
in the street."

Dedication Award
1959-1989,George B. Tanner, Heward,
Saskatchewan, Canada, for thirty years
of continuous support of state/church
separation and of American Atheism.
(Mr. Tanner has been a continuous
member of American Atheists since
1959.)
Outstanding Member
1988, Irving J. Yablon, Bronx, New
York, for loyal and continuous service
for American Atheism in New York City,
New York, and Austin, Texas. (Mr.
Yablon is the national liaison officer for
the New York City Chapter of American
Atheists. He spends one month each
year volunteering his services in Austin,
Texas, to the American Atheist General
Headquarters as well as doing much
"footwork" and research in New York
City for the General Headquarters.)
Outstanding Chapter Director
1988, Walter G. Wilkinson, Phoenix,
Arizona, for his leadership in rousing
Arizona Atheists to the need for organization. (Mr. Wilkinson is a postal worker
in Phoenix and director of the Phoenix
Chapter of American Atheists.)

Outstanding Chapter
Worker Award
1988, Gipson Arnold for his services
to the Houston Chapter and the National Office of American Atheists. (Mr.
Arnold drives the 180miles, one-way, to
Austin monthly to volunteer at the General Headquarters as well as putting in
countless hours of his free time in service to the Houston Chapter of American Atheists.)

Atheist of the Year
1988, Richard H. "Ricky" Sherman,
primary litigant in Sherman u, Community Consolidated School District 21. An
Atheist is never too young to fight for his
rights since "God is Make-Believe."
(Richard is the six-year-old son of Robert I. Sherman, national spokesperson
for American Atheists. He is the litigant
in a case challenging the inclusion of the
phrase "under God" in the Pledge of
Allegiance. See "A Pledge Too Far,"
American Atheist, November 1988.)

Arrested Atheist Award
1988, Don Sanders, Houston, Texas,
Arrested on September 30, 1988, for
challenging a Bible display at the Harris
County, Texas, Civil Courts Building.
(He is now on probation for his alleged
offense.)

Freedom of Speech Award
1989,Gottfried Niemietz of Freiburg,
West Germany, for his courageous legal
defense of Atheists arrested for blasphemy in West Germany and for his championing of their cause at peril of losing
his profession. (See Mr. Niemietz's

April1989

American Atheist

\

l

At the convention, Puget Sound Chapter
officers proudly displayed the signs they
had put on buses in Washington state.

article in the March 1989 issue of the
American Atheist.}
A special award was also presented to
Anton Neureiter for the Austrian anticlerical organization, to wit:
American Atheists assembled
in San Diego, California, at their
Nineteenth Annual National Convention 1989 pays honor to Antiklerikaler Arbeitskreis, Salzburg,
Austria, as benefactors of humankind in challenging both Austrian
state and Roman Catholic church
bigotry and intolerance with their
noble anticlerical activity.
Allen McManus, an octogenarian and
member of American Atheists from
Arizona, was honored at the convention
for a gift to American Atheists made
during the convention weekend in the
amount of $25,000.
George Carlin, the famous comedian
based out of Los Angeles, called Dr.
O'Hair several times prior to the convention indicating that he might be able
to be in attendance as an ordinary conventioneer. He was not able to actually
make it to San Diego for the convention
weekend. Maybe next year, George; the
invitation is still open.

Thank you, thank you, thank you
American Atheists wishes to thank
the following persons without whom
Convention XIX could not have been
conducted in the smooth and profesAustin, Texas

sional manner in which it was:
• Arnold Via of Virginia and Ralph Shirley of the General Headquarters staff
for driving a van and stationwagon
loaded with convention supplies from
Austin, Texas, to San Diego, California.
• Gipson Arnold of Houston and Jay
Campbell of Dallas, for travelling to
the General Headquarters to collate
and perform other volunteer service
to prepare convention materials. • Allthe directors and officers of Chapters of American Atheists without
whose good-natured participation
the Question Bee at the convention
would not have been possible.
• The foreign guest speakers, Anton
Neureiter and Gottfried Niemietz,
who traveled so far to share their experiences and insights with fellow
Atheists in San Diego.
• All of the speakers from the United
States.
• All of the panel participants.
• Dave Evans of Oregon, who was the
official convention video cameraperson. He shot expert video footage
of the entire convention, some of
which was used for "American Atheist
Forum" programming.
• Ken Walczak, the official convention
still photographer.
• A very special thanks to the entire
membership of the San Diego Chapter of American Atheists for being
host to Convention XIX, but particuApril 1989

lar thank yous to:
Stephen Thorne, director, San
Diego Chapter.
Julie Thorne and Eunice Whitlock,
who staffed the Registration Table.
Thomas Brown, who not only
staffed the convention Registration
Table but volunteered the use of his
computer hardware for the registration process.
Jerry Galiley, who staffed the Book
and Product Display room for the
entire weekend. His dedication to
duty is most appreciated.
Jeanne Fowler for her efforts as a
ticket-taker at meal functions.
Bill and Claire Axelrod for their
special assistance in arranging for the
floral displays for meal functions and
to dress up the podium.
A particular thank you to Lauren
Peck for bringing a Lark electric cycle
cart to the convention for the use of
Dr. O'Hair, who was recovering from
hip surgery at the time. Without that
device she simply could not have
attended as many functions as she
was able to.
Thor Eiberman sang musical
parodies on religion written by twins
Kathleen Reinert and Jennifer Herron
(well known in San Diego for writing
that city's Dial-An-Atheist) as Jennifer
accompanied him on the piano. Special
thanks to all three for their funny and
blasphemous antics.
Special thanks to Packard Roundtree, who made and provided all the
signage for the convention.
And a hearty "thank you" to Robin
Shelley, Howard Kreisner, Thor Biberman, Jennifer Herron, Rich Adams,
Steve Last, Kathleen and Ted Reinert,
and Bob Margulies for being there
over a long weekend to help how and
when they could as called upon.
Altogether, Convention XIX was a
smashing success and American Atheists looks forward to a new and expanded
Convention XX to be held in the Tampa
Bay area of Florida in April of 1990. ~
Page 17

What makes religionists tick?
Tn the far north there was a Native
Eskimo who was out hunting one day, and he was attacked by a
polar bear. The man was wearing large,
furry, elbow-length mittens and as he
grappled with the polar bear he stuck
one of his hands down the polar bear's
throat. When he pulled his hand out, the
mitten stayed in the bear's throat and
the bear gagged to death.
The Eskimo butchered and ate part of
the polar bear, including the bear's liver.
He was in delirium after this near-death
incident and developed a belief that he
was inhabited by, or "possessed" by, the
spirit of the now-dead polar bear and he
was now "King of the Polar Bears." Adding to this possession-delusion,
the
man's hair turned white at this time.
If you were a member of a developing
culture or ifyou lacked much formal education, you might well think that spirit
possession, such as possession by a
dead polar bear, makes some sense.
Such an explanation appears to fit with
the events as observed and may seem a
coherent enough explanation to account for the events if you happen not
to be aware of some other concepts.
When we lack necessary data to properly explain events we may fillin gaps in
our knowledge, perhaps by superstitions or unnecessary concepts such as
the entity of a personified polar bear
spirit which can exist after the animal is
dead and can inhabit a human being. We
may benefit by using scientific methods
to gradually gain more knowledge and
refine our explanations to more closely
approximate reality. In the polar bear example it seems most useful to be aware
of a few more pieces of information.
For example, ifhuman beings are confronted with life-threatening stress, they
willtend to make use of a psychological
defense mechanism known as dissociation, as I described in my article in the
American Atheist in February 1988.1
Most of us are aware of the Freudian/
defense known as repression, in which
subconscious urges are considered as if
they are below a level of our awareness

.6. American

Page 18

by a repressive mechanism which is
thought of as being horizontal (see figure 1).Dissociation, described by Kohut,"
may be considered a vertical defense
mechanism which splits off entire as-

American Atheists

Convention '89
EDUCATION & ENLIGHTENMENT

John E Higdon
John E Higdon, Ph.D., is on the staff of
Truman Veterans Hospital and is an
assistant professor of psychiatry in the
School of Medicine, University of Missouri, Columbia.
In this speech, presented Saturday,
March 25, 1989, Dr. Higdon argues that
religion is a method of social control
used by men to dominate women.

pects of one's personality in a vertical
fashion, which is what happens when
severe child abuse leads to dissociative
splits and resultant multiple personality
disorder.
In the incident of the Eskimo with the
polar bear, the life-threatening trauma of
the bear's attack likely resulted in a vertical splitting or the psychological de-

1John Higdon, "Dissociation: Natural Explanation for 'Supernatural'
Phenomena,"
American Atheist, February 1988, pp. 9-12.
2Sigmund Freud, A General Introduction to
Psychoanalysis (New York: Washington
Press, 1952).
.
3H. Kohut, The Analysis of the Self (New
York: International Universities Press, 1971).
April 1989

fense of dissociation, as the man split off
a part of himself and introjected, that is,
identified with the concept of the polar
bear, the agent of the attack. Freudians
might choose to call this an "identification with an aggressor."
It is also useful to be aware that apparently a polar bear's liver is a source for
an exceedingly high dose of vitamin A,
a fat-soluble vitamin which is toxic in excessive quantities and causes delirium,
or mental confusion, perhaps increasing
the likelihood of the dissociative splitting.
Therefore, the concept that a polar
bear or any other animal's, or person's,
spirit can survive and possess someone
after death, seems a less viable concept
than it might have seemed initially. To
paraphrase Dr. Albert Ellis, there are no
personified demons, devils, spirits,
gods, or tooth fairies. Furthermore,
"any serious attempt to study religion
[superstition] must be a threat to it."4
This concept of dissociative splitting
helps account for a number of other
mystical-looking phenomena, as described in my earlier American Atheist
article.> For instance, if you treat people
who have alcohol problems, they will
often report that when they were desperate, distressed, and confused, they
asked "god" to save them. When they
have a feeling of peace and serenity
come over them they may attribute this
to a personified concept of "god." More
likelythe subjective experience they feel
is due to their resolving some tension
created by their inner conflict of whether they can indulge safely in alcohol
(there's presumably evidence to the
contrary), or not. By stopping the fight
within themselves, they seem to "surrender" to the idea that they in fact
cannot indulge safely, and tension is reduced because they are no longer fighting this stubborn dissociative element of

4L. B. Brown, The Psychology of Religious
Belief (New York: Academic Press, 1987).
sJohn Higdon, "Dissociation."
American Atheist

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Repression (horizontal)

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Dissociation

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Figure 1.

themselves. This seems more parsimonious and requires less excess baggage
of superstition than does the concept of
a personified "god," who presumably
could have "saved" the patient earlier if
he had taken the trouble.
It seems useful to consider claims
made about the apparent effectiveness
of prayer in healing medical conditions,
and to do this we need to evaluate any
scientific study on its own merits.
If a patient with a medical problem is
the person doing the praying, it seems
clear that any apparent benefits can
derive, not from any personified deity
but rather from the patient's own state
of relaxation. When we relax there are
certain definite, measurable physical
changes which occur: a slowing of
breathing and heart rate, reduced galvanic skin response, etc.; all these effects constituting what Benson refers to
as the relaxation response.» This relaxation response will undoubtedly produce any number of real medical and
psychological benefits without any personified higher entity having to act as an
intermediary.
If research involves a patient being
prayed for by someone else and the
patient knows about it, he or she may
likelygain some placebo effect from the
fact that someone is paying attention to
him or her, and thus improve. When
other people's attentions seem to invigorate a research subject, we refer to this
as a Hawthorne Effect.
If prayer research is even better controlled and is conducted blindly, that is,
without the patient or investigators
knowing who is being prayed for and
who is not, they will still not have controlled for the possible effects of telepathy. While I am skeptical about telepathy and explain my skepticism in my article on dissociation, there seems to be
some evidence that the phenomenon
may occur in some people, and thus

6H. Benson, The Relaxation Response
York: Avon, 1975).
Austin, Texas

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produce some of the same apparent
benefits as more obvious and direct attention.
In evaluating all of these issues regarding prayer research, however, there
is an important bottom line to keep in
mind: when we consider alternative explanations we need to adhere to the
Principle of Parsimony, which says to
place our greatest trust in the simplest
explanation, and this willhardly ever include the idea of a personified deity who
takes the time and trouble to take an interest in us. The burden of proof is always, ultimately, on the party presenting a more complex or a less observable
explanation. Since we cannot ever
prove a lack of existence of any personified entity, in other words one cannot
prove a negative, we must remember
that such proof is not our duty, rather it
is the duty of the religionist to prove his
contention.
We need to make some of our definitions more precise.
Religion can best be defined as a belief
in a personified supreme being who presumably takes some interest in us, a belief which implies some kind of dependence on that supreme being.
It seems desirable to distinguish this
broad concept, religion, from a narrower subcategory of religious fundamentalism, which is more pernicious. Fundamentalism is a form of religiosity
which insists on a literal interpretation of
biblical Scriptures and implies a need for
adherence to those Scriptures' mandates.
Ethics can be defined as a discipline
dealing with what is good and bad, or
right and wrong, or with duty and obligation.
A clearer distinction between religion
and ethics is important because too
many people too often take the two concepts to be synonymous, assuming that
religious or even fundamentally religious
people are inherently ethical. This ignores the fact that many or most Atheists adhere to ethical principles which
are more empirically based as to their
April 1989

benefit to society, and hold to their ethical system more rigorously than do the
religionists.
While humanity's tendency toward
religion and fundamentalist religion is
highly complex, what scientists refer to
as "multiply-determined," I willtry to describe some ideas from feminist and anthropological sources. I consider religious institutions to be social control
mechanisms which exist to gain and use
power in at least three areas. Dr. Howard
Wolowitz at the University of Michigan
has divided the concept of power into
six categories: Social, Sexual, Financial,
Intellectual, Physical, and Spiritual
(what I prefer to call Ethical). These six
categories of power are interrelated. I
suggest that religionists and especially
fundamentalists try to use what they
claim is a greater spiritual (ethical) power by making a virtue of blind faith which is a manifestation of ignorance.
They use their supposed spiritual power
to grasp for power in the social, sexual,
and financial areas, and do so by undermining intellectual power such as science
which would get in the way of the ignorant faith on which religionists depend.
An important point involves fundamentalism defined as the literal and concrete interpretation of Scriptures such
as Matthew 5:28, or "... Whosoever
looketh on a woman to lust after her
hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." This passage seems
especially significant because, if taken
literally to mean thinking something is
the same as, or as bad as, doing it, the
passage becomes a powerful social
mechanism which fundamentalists use
to keep people out of control of their
own urges and behavior. If you cannot
allow yourself to think something, you
will suppress or repress it, act out the
urge, and thus require the churches to
(for a fee). supply external control to
you, consisting of group prayer, confessions, and other rituals. If an urge such
as sex or aggression is defended against
psychologically and thus gets out of
control, you would presumably need rePage 19

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John Higdon (left) addressed a hall
packed with Atheists on March 25, 1989.

ligious rituals. If, however, you recognize an urge and reject acting on it because of rational ethics such as the
Atheist ethical system, you will control
your various urges without the need for
external religious mechanisms.
Cultural anthropologist-Marvin Harris
gives us valuable insights into some origins of religion. Harris, in his book Cannibals and Kings: The Origin of Cultures,' notes that throughout human
prehistory and early history we have
had constant population pressures in
various areas of the world, more recent1ypressuring us on a worldwide basis.
Population pressures have led to several related events:
1. Men have felt a need to own and con-

trol women because of the fear of females' reproductive capacity.
2. Wars have occurred because of the
need to fight over limited land and resources; also wars reduce population.
3. There has been an ongoing practice
in many cultures of killing female infants, again to control population by
controlling the number of females
who survive to reproduce.
4. Men gradually created religions to
rationalize male dominance of women
and to justify warfare.
All of the above require us to understand that, since one man could keep
ten women pregnant as well as ten men
could, the male role in reproduction and
increasing population-is a rather superfluous one. Therefore, before safe contraception and abortion were developed, the perceived need was to control, specifically, the female reproductive capacity.
In order to do so, especially from the
time of the industrial revolution and
capitalism, men have had to foster the

7M. Harris, Cannibals and Kings: The
Origins 0/ Cultures (New York: Random
House, 1977).
Page 20

idea of male ownership of both children
and women. Men have symbolically
owned women as evidenced by (always
religious) rituals of a father turning his
daughter over to a husband, the woman's
traditional name (identity) change at
marriage, obvious double standards in
regard to adultery, etc. These traditions
are nicely described by Bertrand Russell
in his book Marriage and Morals»
In order to rationalize men's ownership of and control over women, religions had to be created to rationalize
male dominance, or sexism. Because
the female reproductive capacity and
resultant population pressures were the
continuing source of threat to humanity's survival and quality of life, men created religious rituals to usurp women's
biological uniqueness, namely their capacity for childbearing. Some feminists
have labeled this "pelvic envy" as analogous to Freud's idea of "penis envy."
Gloria Stein em and other feminists have
pointed out that when we hear religious
fundamentalists talk about being "born
again," or "baptized," we are witnessing
ritualized attempts by men to take over
the birth function, the reproductive
function which is gender-unique to
women.
In essence, "it is not good enough that
you were born from your mother; we
men have to control you by validating
your worth by doing it over again: you
must be born again!"
The symbolic implications of marriage, baptism, conversions, and other
"born again" rituals become almost
absurdly simple when understood in the
context which we gain from feminist understandings.
The usurping of women's birth function, controlling explicitly female reproduction, in previous time periods was
done by killingfemale infants by "laying
over" on them, smothering them, or
systematically neglecting them. In the
early periods referred to in biblical
8(New York: Liveright, 1970).
April 1989

Scriptures, births in early Jewish tribes
presumably needed to be increased
because these early tribes felt underpopulated. Therefore the earliest biblical Scriptures which said to "be fruitful
and multiply," which prohibited any
non-procreative sexual practices such
as birth control, masturbation, coitus interruptus, homosexuality, and adultery
(especially by females), seemed necessary. Later, male ownership of women
came more into play to control the specifically female reproduction, and religious institutions still preoccupy themselves with this male sexual dominance
and with vicious prohibitions against
non-procreative sex, even when safe
and effective birth control and abortion
make the rationale for male dominance
obsolete.
It seems exceedingly ironic that now
that we have safe contraception and
abortion which could be controlling our
population, we still have Roman Catholic and other primitive churches continuing to be enraged against these safe
procedures. While much of this may be
due to cultural lag, it is more due to male
sexism and a holding onto political
power in the social, financial, and sexual
areas by the Roman Catholic and other
churches. With the most crass political
motives, the church says, "the more
people we have, the more people we politically control and get money from,"
even as overpopulation causes overwhelming human misery. The pope and
countless missionaries go from country
to underdeveloped country and tell
people it is a sin to control their reproduction. Such teaching causes a reduction in the quality of life and a possible
threat to the survival of these people
and their present children.
This tragic overpopulation, which
may well eventually bring on World War
III, will have been caused originally by
churches which were substantially created to justify male dominance of women, originally thought to be necessary
because of original population pressures.
American Atheist

How You Can Help
Keep The Public Schools
Secular
Therefore:
(Original)
Overpopulation
1

Gaining political
power by increasing population
4
~

Warfare
and infanticide
2

\

Religions as so·
cial control mechanisms, especially of women
3

This classic vicious circle is what
makes it difficult to get rid of major related evils: religion, warfare, excess population, and sexism.
I deplore health professionals' intellectual cowardice in dealing with the
above issues. Although many or most
people in health professions are Atheists, most seem unwilling to tackle or
even consider the above issues. The feeble excuse is that as scientists we should
not, or dare not, use our science to
undermine anyone's superstition. This
seems to mandate the ultimate intellectual retreat; we have the accumulating
data to undermine institutionalized
mental disorders, yet it is somehow improper to use those data. We seem to be
intimidated by people who simply declare, "My religion is above criticism,
and if you try to question even the eraziest portion of it, I will simply declare
you to be an antireligious bigot."
We need to stand up to the religionists and do it now. We should recall the
words of Robert Green Ingersoll:
Reason, observation, and experience, the Holy Trinity of Science,
have taught us that happiness is
the only good, that the time to be
happy is now, and that the way to
be happy is to make others so. In
this belief we are content to live
and die. If by any possibility the
existence of a power superior to
and independent of nature shall be
demonstrated, there will then be
time enough to kneel. Until then,
let us stand erect. ~
Austin, Texas

1. Every school district in the United States has a procedure
through which parents, or other concerned citizens who are
paying taxes to support our public schools, can review the
books which are being used in the public schools. Also, a similar review of the video lessons used by the schools is open to
you.
All you will need to do is to call the office of your local prtmary or secondary school and state that you would appreciate
being accommodated with time and the materials which you
want to inspect. We would suggest that you first ask to review
the science, the history, and the social science books. Ask to
see those which are required in the classroom as text and
those which are in the library for reference.
Then; go to the school, get the books, and flip through them.
You will be astonished at what you find.
2. The schools will not alone make an appointment for you
and provide the books you desire to review, but if you find
them objectionable, the school will furnish to you forms on
which you may register your complaint about either the
curriculum or instructional matter.

3. At your request the form you have filled out is given to the
principal or the superintendent of the school. These persons
are required to review your complaint. It will then be passed
on to the person responsible for the selection of the material in
the first place.
4. If you do not like the result of this review, you may then
appeal any decision made on it to the school board.
5. American Atheists requests that you specifically check with
your local public schools to see if they are utilizing "Moody
Institute of Science films and video." All of this is really a
branch of "Moody Bible Institute," operating out of Whittier,
California, and pumping its films into the public school systerns across the nation.
Typically, films being used will have innocent titles, such as
"Spider Engineers," "Mathematics' of the Honeycomb," or
"Language of the Bee." You will be surprised to find objectionable religtous references in such "science" films. For example,
in describing spiders, one video shows that a spider works
" ... without any tool except those which God has fashioned
as part of her body." Later, the spider, "reflects not its own wisdom but 'that of God, the great planner and engineer who
created the spider."
6. pjy<;isereport the results of your efforts to American Atheists
(P. O. aox 140195, Austin, TX, 78714·0195) so that a national
overview of the religious intrusion into the schools can be
made.
.

April 1989

Page 21

Blasphemy in Austria
L

adiesand Gentlemen, dear friends:
First of all, I would like to thank
American Atheists for the invitation to
the "Antiklerikaler Arbeitskreis" of
Salzburg to take part at the nineteenth
convention here in San Diego. I know
that I am invited to a country that, historically seen, was the first to practice
the ideals and aims of the Age of Enlightenment.
From our point of view, the United
States is a country that, despite a lot of
fundamentalist and Christian groups,
despite often extremely conservative
and reactionary foreign and domestic
politics, continues the Enlightenment in
science and culture. One example is the
historian Henry Charles Lea, who wrote
an impressive history about the cruelties
of the Inquisition. Another is the scientist and professor John William Draper.
As early as at the end of the nineteenth
century, he published a description and
critical analysis of the development of
the conflicts between religion and science. It should also be considered that
the United States provided refuge for
many artists and scientists during the
Nazi terror in Europe - although many
of them were physically and mentally
broken during the Cold War and the
McCarthy era or they went back to
Europe again.
In relation to the relatively short history of the United States, Austria is a
country which for nearly two thousand
years has been marked by Christian
barbarism and still is. Inquisition, persecution mania against so-called "witches,"
Roman Catholic counter-reformation,
expulsion of non-Catholics, persecution
of scientists, and persecution and liquidation of Atheists has set marks in the
history of Austria and all Europe.
When I say Christian barbarism or
Christian terror, I almost always refer to
the politics and ideology of the Roman
Catholic church and its leaders, officials, and members. Other confessions
[denominations] - Protestants, Mormons, Adventists, Baptists, Muslims as well as Atheists - are almost negligiPage 22

ble minorities in Austria.
Officially, church and state are separated in Austria in accordance with the
constitution of 1867. But, as in a lot of
countries and perhaps also in the United

American Atheists

Convention '89
EDUCATION & ENLIGHTENMENT

Anton Neureiter
In 1985, Anton Neureiter helped to
found the Antiklerikaler Arbeitskreis,
an Atheist and anticlerical organization
headquartered in Salzburg, Austria. A
member of the central committee of
that organization, he is currently under
investigation under Section' 188 of the
Austrian Penal Code for publishing
posters and leaflets for the "Second
Anticlerical Week of Salzburg" in June
1988.
In this speech, presented to the Nineteenth Annual National Convention of
American Atheists on March 25, 1989,
Magistar Neureiter outlines the growing
oppression of Atheists in Austria.

States, in reality even the best constitution is only a sheet of paper!
The real situation is the following:The
state supports the church massively;
the church, on the other hand, intervenes in state affairs and in society
wherever and whenever this is possible.
The atmosphere of social life is marked
by the church. In short, there is no separation between state and church.
Next, I would like to mention a few of
the most important privileges the church
April 1989

has in Austria:
• compulsory confessional religious
education in Austrian schools, paid for
by the state.
• departments of theology at state
universities, the professors being paid
by the state.
• payment of all costs for teachers of
confessional schools, especially of Roman Catholic private schools by, of
course, the Republic of Austria.
• payment of military chaplains by the
Austrian Republic.
• subsidies by the state to finance the
salaries of high-ranking church officials
and an additional financial gift to the
church in the amount of more than 100
million schillings ($8 million) annually.
Those and other privileges of the
Roman Catholic church originate from
a treaty between Austria and the Vatican, which was signed in 1933/1934.
Such treaties are called "concordances," which translates as "cordial agreements." This agreement was signed by
the church and the Austrian fascist dictator Engelbert DollfuB. DollfuB·stands
out in Austrian history for, of course
with the blessing of the church, ordering
army, police, and fascist groups to shoot
at Austrian workers who tried to reestablish democracy in February 1934.
DollfuB was especially popular with the
Roman Catholic church because of his
political aims. He wanted to turn Austria
into a Christian state based on the ideas
and aims of the Roman popes. This secured the church's support whenever
he needed it. After his death, DollfuBgot
his deserved reward: he was beatified by
the pope - the first step to holiness.
And indeed, he performed a miracle: he
destroyed the Austrian workers' movement, although in secular ways - with
canons, guns, and terror.
The treaty with the Roman Catholic
church was not cancelled at the founding of the Second Republic of Austria
after the Second World War. None of
the democratic parties tried to touch
American

Atheist

Anton Neureiter emphasized the political
weapons the Roman Catholic church
has at its disposal in Austria.

the contents of the treaty. On the contrary, the privileges of the church were
even extended.
Austria also has a law providing the
state's help in imposing the so-called
"church-tax." The law was initiated by
the Nazis and adopted unchanged by
the Republic in 1945. To this I have to
add that in 1945 all Austrofascist and
national-socialist laws were declared
null and void - except all laws and
treaties with the Roman Catholic church,
which are still effective.
On top of these privileges, the officially acknowledged confessions [denominations], especially the Roman Catholic
church, have free prime time on television and radio. They also have trustees
and representatives in all important
public institutions of Austria. The church
has great influence on the editing of
schoolbooks used in public schools. In
numerous cases they have enforced
changes in history schoolbooks and
have always assisted these "corrections"
with aggressive campaigns.
There is no need to tell you that the
church also has a number of newspapers, their existence being guaranteed by state money. With the financial
aids of the state, the church subsidizes
campaigns against abortion, against sex
instruction, against the constitutional
right of freedom of speech, thought, and
press.
The propaganda indirectly influences
legislation in the Austrian parliament.
Should a political party dare to oppose
clerical statements, immediate sermons
from pulpit-orators in churches against
this party, especially in times ofelections, are certain to follow.
The Austrian Penal Code guarantees
additional protection of the church
through paragraph 188 ("Abasement of
religious doctrines"). It threatens critics
of church and religion with prison
terms. This paragraph is actually a remnant of inquisitional legislation from the
Middle Ages. As you already know, in
the past few years this paragraph has
been used more and more often - esAustin, Texas

pecially against films, books, and other
works of art, scientific lectures like the
ones we organize - all in all, mainly
against Atheists. By these means, the
Roman Catholic church tries to prevent
criticism of itself and its statements from
the beginning and, at the same time,
threatens the professional and social
existence of its critics.
In West Germany a similar paragraph
is in operation which is used in a similar
way too. As of late, this has been the
case in more than six German cities.
These examples make one thing
clear: in Austria, the separation of
church and state is nonexistent; there is
not even freedom of religion. This, however, does not mean that, for example,
Protestants are persecuted. They and a
few other religious communities are socalled legally approved confessions [denominations]. They are tolerated, as
they are too small in size to be of importance.
The so-called sects, on the other
hand, are treated as serious opponents
and are viciously attacked as they have
no legal protection. The difference between a legally approved confession
[denomination] and a sect appears to be
more in exertion of power and in size
than in the abstrusity of points of view
taken.
All of this being the case, there is no
doubt about the endangerment that lies
in Atheist actions in Austria.
The church not only profits by all
sorts of grants, it actively interferes with
politics and society. Slowly but steadily,
irrationalism, counter-enlightenment,
religious stupidity, and conservatism
April 1989

make headway. In a growing number of
social domains the neo-missionization
of Europe, called for by Pope Wojtyla, is
put into practice. We know from history
how these Christianizations were executed: conversions by force and massacres - terror that reaches far into the
twentieth century, as we know from
Roman Catholic activities in Yugoslavia
during the Second World War.
Just a few examples of recent activities of Austria's Roman Catholic church:
• At the beginning of this year, my
hometown Salzburg got a new archbishop, a minister from the Alps. In his sermons, he inveighs against "atheist Bolshevism," which he regards as the biggest threat to the world. In his opinion,
AIDS is god's punishment for this world's
vice, and he thinks that democracy only
brings a "terrible strive for freedom" to
the people. This man is decorated with
the title "Primas Germaniae," which
means he is the most important of all
German-speaking ministers. Observing
him and his colleagues, one cannot help
but get the impression that the inquisitors of the Middle Ages are being born
again. A new counter-reformation is definitely in full swing.
• Another recently appointed bishop
is the leader of Opus Dei's Austrian section, an order that was founded by a
Spanish Catholic fanatic in the 1920s
and gained power under the protection
of fascist dictator General [Francisco]
Franco. The present pope uses the
Opus Dei people as his elite troops, as
a sort of Roman Catholic marines for his
goals. Opus Dei supports the pope unquestioningly and is rewarded by important clerical positions. The Austrian
Opus Dei bishop is worth mentioning as
he is the first member of this group to be
made bishop in Europe.
• Along with reactionary official
church politics, Roman Catholic fundamentalists are gaining influence. These
neurotics protest, as does the official
church, against cultural and sexual
progress. First noticeable results are
Page 23

bans on films and books followed by
lawsuits.
The bishops and fundamentalists
want to impose their restricted view of
things and their misanthropic morality
on all Austrians. The preferred battlefield for clerics is sexual politics, as they
by intuition know that the suppression
of sexuality is an excellent way to raise
the desired immature flock of sheep.
A few examples on this point:
Compared with other European countries, Austria's law concerning abortion
is relatively liberal. Within the first three
months abortion is legal, but the Austrian government, led by the SocialDemocrats, has up to now been too
afraid of the church's reaction to issue
implementing regulations. These regulations would be crucial, as public health
comes under the jurisdiction of the federal states, whose majority is governed
by the Conservative party. Accordingly,
abortions have to be paid for by the
women themselves and can only be performed in the capital (Vienna) in a very
few clinics and in some very expensive
private hospitals, whose doctors make
loads of money. In western Austria it is
practically impossible to get an abortion.
The church and affiliated organizations try to weaken and finally abolish
the abortion law. Conservative government officials support them strongly.
Their unified propaganda cry of "Abortion is murder," of course, influences
women who consider an abortion. After
all, who wants to be a murderer?
Another point is sex education in
schools, which at the moment is mainly
taught by teachers of religious knowledge lessons. For two years now a controversy about instruction material for
sex education has been going on. Its relatively liberal contents caused an uproar within clerical and conservative
circles, followed by an immediate withdrawal of the material by the SocialDemocratic minister of education. It has
been reedited and now tells us stories
about the birds and the bees and that
Page 24

~
I

Anton Neureiter spent several days at the American Atheist GHQ in Austin before
he and Jon Murray drove to the convention. There was even time for a "photo
opportunity" with Robin Murray-O'Hair, Jon Murray, and Madalyn O'Hair.

the only purpose of sexuality is to give
birth in wedlock.
The church's position on sex education is best summarized in the words of
the previously mentioned archbishop of
Salzburg, Eder: "Sex education is just
another way to a communist overthrow."
The following example perfectly illustrates the growing pressure on the right
of freedom of speech. I have already
mentioned that the current bishops, including their boss in Rome, are nothing
short of reincarnations of inquisitorial
creatures. At the beginning of this year
our organization started a poster campaign with the title "The sleep of reason
gives birth to ... (. .. monsters!)" in
Salzburg and other federal states in
Austria. Its motif was a famous print by
the Spanish artist Francisco Goya,
which we altered a bit. On the poster
were the following demands:
- "Stop federal grants to the Catholic
church."
- "Terminate the DollfuB treaty."
It also urged people to leave the
church. Only with considerable difficulties did we manage to print and publish
this poster, which contains nothing but
perfectly liberal demands. Three printers flatly refused to print it due to the
Austrian climate of subliminal fear. We,
as an anticlerical organization, as advocates of a militant Atheism, must adjust
to the fact that in the future it may be
April 1989

almost impossible to publicly stand up
for our aims and interests - a new era
of the Middle Ages is dawning.
Our situation has become even more
difficult because of the fact that all opposition to the church, religion, and irrationalism - which did exist in the time
between the two world wars - was destroyed completely by the Nazis. And
although all this happened more than
fifty years ago, it has up to now been
almost impossible to build up a new
powerful Atheist movement.
All this is even more saddening when
one considers that Austria also is the
homeland of Sigmund Freud and Wilhelm
Reich who founded a science that is an
excellent weapon against religion and irrationalism, namely psychoanalysis.
But this science and its supporters was
also physically and in its contents liquidated by the Nazis.
Nevertheless, for us as an anticlerical
organization, the discoveries by psychoanalysis are a cardinal point with
which to fight religion and solve its mysteries. It is not without reason that the
main activities of reactionaries and clericals of all shades are levelled at sexual
liberalization and the right of selfdetermination. They realize intuitively
what psychoanalysis has proven scientifically:
Oppression of sexuality in the form of
forcible institutions like marriage, the
abolishing of the right of self-determiAmerican

Atheist

The day before the convention, Anton
Neureiter had a chance to visit the
famous San Diego Zoo. While there, he
saw the pink flamingos which serve as
an unofficial mascot for San Diego.

nation of man and woman of their own
bodies, of their desires and feelings by
enforced family education of children is
the best hotbed to create dull subjects
for the country and submissive followers for religious irrationalists. Anticlerical and Atheist work to us therefore
means to fight against the narrowing
down of the right of sexual selfdetermination, to fight against antiabortion campaigns, against the religious knowledge lessons at public
schools, against the sole support and
advancement of livingin traditional families and with that the discrimination of
all other forms of living.
At the same time, we feel obliged to
the other progressive traditions of
Europe and particularly Austria: the
Russian Revolution, the Age of Enlightenment, and the French Revolution. Its
two hundredth anniversary being celebrated this year, while we suddenly face
neo-mystics and so-called intellectuals
of post-modernism who only seem to
see the Fall of Man in the French Revolution and would prefer the safe and
sound cage of the Middle Ages instead.
Today, the challenge is to defend elementary civil rights that were gained by
the French Revolution and were embodied in the Austrian constitution as
late as in 1918:the right of freedom of
speech, freedom of arts, freedom of
thought, the freedom of scientific research, and the abolishing of all censorship.
You will take it from my statements
that our group acts mainly on the defensive. This actually is the case; at the
moment, we are facing a worldwide,
massive rollback from the side of the
church and irrationalism against the
achievements of the relatively liberal
time of the 1970s.
Proof for the rollback into the Middle
Ages can at the moment be found
worldwide. This is a development not
only in Christian countries. I am sure
you know of the order of Ayatollah
Khomeini to murder the Indian/British
poet Salman Rushdie. These are horriAustin, Texas

ble medieval methods. But also the
Roman Catholic church reacted to this
order. And its reaction showed that its
thinking is similar to that of Islam, and it
would, if it could, apply the same methods. The Vatican agreed with Khomeini
to fight blasphemy - only the order to
kill Rushdie was a bit too harsh to the
Roman Catholics.
I admit it, the approach of our organization implies high standards and demands which will be - this has to be
said too - hard to put into practice.
Our funds are very limited and we are an
organization small in size and only recently founded. Last but not least, our
work endangers our members, that is,
in their professional careers and in their
personal and political environments.
The best thing that can happen to a declared Atheist is being smiled and peered
at, but in a climate of oppressive piety
and ignorance what is more likely to
happen is discrimination and prosecution.
In spite of our restricted possibilities,
the "Antiklerikaler Arbeitskreis" does
appear in public in several ways: with
scientific lectures, leaflets, posters,
bookstands, that is, through information and propaganda. The first step is
April 1989

always to urge people to leave the
church. We also cooperate with other
Atheist groups such as the Austrian
section of the worldwide Freethinkers
organization, with critical organizations
in general, and with cultural centers.
Our aim is to slowly but steadily build
up a net against the church and religion
and their misanthropic activities and
goals. We also feel it important to convey the feeling that Atheists and people
fighting for the aims of enlightenment do
not fight in single combat, although ridiculed or persecuted.
As we gather from the American
Atheists' publications and magazines,
your organization pursues the same
goals with very similar starting points.
This reason also makes us glad to have
been invited to your congress, to exchange information, to learn from each
other, and also to demonstrate mutual
solidarity. We are looking forward to
intensifying this first contact with American Atheists.
Thank you for your attention.
Please send your letters of support
to: Anticklerikaler
Arbeitskreis,
Post/ach 89, A-5027 Salzburg, Austria.~
Page 25

Germany and Atheist rights
L

adies and Gentlemen, dear Friends!

First of all Ishould like to thank the
organizers of this convention in the
name of my organization, the Bunte
Liste Freiburg, for the kind invitation.
What I appreciate particularly is that I
am given the opportunity to tell you
here and today about the situation to
which Atheists in West Germany are exposed currently: that for them the basic
rights of freedom of speech and freedom of confession [religion] are de facto
not valid, thus they are more or less second class citizens. I appreciate this opportunity especially since I think that
what I have to tell to you willbe unknown
to most of you. One of the reasons for
this is that the German mass media,
radio, television, and press usually do
not report about the persecution of
Atheists based on the so-called blasphemy article. This is why it is particularly
important that the foreign public should
know about it and that the foreign media
report about it. This is not only the most
efficient, but it is the only way to counter this persecution, which has been increasing in recent years. For my experience in the last years has shown over
and over again that acquittals in blasphemy procedures could be achieved
only when the foreign public was informed about these procedures and
protested against them. I think that I,
who was the defence lawyer in many of
these procedures, can judge this best.
Without wanting to diminish my own impact, I must say that without the protests of our foreign friends, especially
from the United States, at the German
embassies and the German government, the best defence would have reo
mained unsuccessful, just as a most fertile grain thrown on a concrete floor. Unfortunately in my country there is no
democratic public that the judiciary has
to fear, as the tradition of the German
people - the people of thinkers and
poets - received a blow by the Nazis
from which it has never - or let's better
say not yet - recovered.
First of all, I want to give you a brief
Page 26

description of how state and church is
observed by the authorities in my country. In West Germany a separation of
state and church is fixed in the constitution. Reality, however, is character-

American Atheists

Convention '89
EDUCATION & ENLIGHTENMENT

Gottfried Niemietz
Gottfried Niemietz, a lawyer, has
become well-known throughout West
Germany for his defense of Atheist and
church critics charged with blasphemy
by the state. He is the legal representative
for Bunte Liste Freiburg, an Atheist and
anticlerical organization.
In this speech, presented on March 25,
1989,to the Nineteenth Annual National
Convention of American Atheists, Mr.
Niemietz gives an update on the abuses
Atheists have suffered in West Germany.

ized by the contrary. Thus the state collects church taxes for the two big
churches, the Protestant and the Roman
Catholic church. In my country there
are not, as in yours, other important reo
ligious groups. Therefore, the two big
churches clearly rule the field. As this
phenomenon of the state collecting
church taxes is unknown to most of
you, .I should like to briefly explain it.
The difference between the statesubsidized organized church and a
sports club is, firstly, that the fees are
much higher and, secondly, that one involuntarily becomes a member by being
baptized, thus becoming a member
April 1989

compulsorily. Later when former babies
grow up and become employed, automatically a certain percentage of their
incomes is collected by the state which
then transfers it to the churches.
By this procedure the state gives the
churches one of their bases, the not to
be underestimated financial basis, from
which they can do their disastrous
work. This brings me to the next topic:
According to the subsidiary principle,
the church enjoys the prior right to run
social institutions such as senior homes,
hospitals, or kindergartens rather than
the state. The result of this is that 80 percent of these institutions, if not more,
are in the hands of the church. The tremendous influence churches have by
this becomes apparent particularly in
the case of kindergartens, for defenseless children are exposed to religious indoctrination - or, let us better say, their
minds are raped. Everybody knows how
very much little children love fairy tales.
Because of this they are very receptive
to Bible stories, as they are eager to
learn and they absorb everything told to
them by grown-ups. I certainly need not
emphasize how disgusting this taking
advantage of the child's defenselessness
is. It is more nauseating that the state
obediently gives its helping hand to the
church.
But this is not enough. In all institutions run by the church, any influence,
particularly that of the state, is ruled out.
This not only means that the church
may indoctrinate as it likes, as is shown
by the example of the kindergartens,
but that in some cases even state law is
not valid, only the church law. Yes, you
have heard quite rightly: it is Canon Law
that rules. What is illegaland prohibited
in a private company may very well be
allowed in one run by the church. As
one can see in this case, the separation
of state and church is, in a backward exception, reality: the state cannot interfere with affairs of the church; and
decisions as to what is right and what is
not is solely left to the church!
(Continued on page 35.)
American Atheist

Out of the closet

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Christina Ditter and R. Murray-O'Hair chat with veteran
conventioneer Freda Kernes at the Registration Table.

An electronic sign furnished by Rob Sherman flashed a welcome to everyone at the Registration Table.

American Atheists

Convention '89
EDUCATION & ENLIGHTENMENT

The Book and Product Display Room
attracted both purchases and chats.

Virginian Arnold Via is always ready to
make a new Atheist friend .
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Pink balloons with the slogan "God is Make-Believe" added a cheerful note to a packed convention hall on Saturday.
Austin, Texas

April 1989

Madalyn O'Hair had a good laugh when the "pope"
presented her with the keys to the Vatican.
Page 27

Into the bustle of convention camaraderie
"And a wonderful time was had by all"
is the only way to explain the good times and revelry,
making friends, swapping stories, meeting not alone
the Grande Dame of Atheism but all of the clan,
and boogeying through the night with sexy nonbelievers.

Between lectures and panel discussions, conventioneers gathered
wherever they could to have refreshing conversations.

Madalyn O'Hair, founder of American Atheists, makes it a point to
meet every conventioneer.
April 1989

Page 28

••

After the Members' Dinner on Saturday, conventioneers got a chance to dance the night away.
American Atheist

Chapter Directors Frank Zindler (Ohio) and Deborah Clark (Washington, D.C.) exchanged state/church separation strategies.

Two members of American Atheists had a chance
to whisper blasphemies to one another .

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Merrill Holste (left) has been in the Atheist movement for at least fifty
years - but flanked by Virginia and Shirley Nelson, he still found the
San Diego meeting interesting.
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The Sunday Brunch was serenaded by San Diego
members who had made parodies of religious songs.

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Left: A happy member gets his photo taken with Robin Murray-O'Hair, Madalyn O'Hair, and a U.S. currency note that doesn't
have "In God We Trust." Right: Members get ready to break bread - but there will be no grace at this meal.
Austin, Texas

April 1989

Page 29

Free speech, f
at 1,

Angeline Bennett, Stephen Thorne, Caroline Gilman, and James Brodhead gave
their insights on bringing up Atheist kids.

Hearing your ideas
in shocking speeches and bl
delivered by informed, j
and openly committed Atheistf was almost to?, I
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A lively question and answer session followed Dr. John Higdon's presentation on the sickness of religion.

The "Grass Roots Atheist Activism" panel: C.
Allen (not shown), R. Andrews, M. Franceschini, and D. Sanders .

From six to eighty-s
there.

Stephen Thorne, the director of the San Diego
Chapter, had a laugh or two at the podium.

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Madalyn O'Hair was her usually feisty self, as she spoke on
the need for aggressive Atheism.
April 1989

Page 30

••

American

Atheist

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Maurice LaBelle, Frank Zindler, and Arthur Frederick Ide exploring the intellectual
roots of Atheism captured the attention of all,

Conrad Goeringer gave an enlightening presentation on satanism.

was

Jon G. Murray displays a California license plate recently acquired by a member.
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Atheist, faces a questioner.
Austin, Texas

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Gottfried Niemietz, Stephen Thorne, Beatrix Steinebrunner,
and a blasphemous poster.
April 1989

Page 31

The Atheist of the Year
The Atheist of the Year for 1988
didn't celebrate his award with champagne - he's twelve years too young for
that - but he sure did make his papa (and every other Atheist) proud.
It was six -year-old Ricky Sherman.

Ricky himself made up the message;
the balloons only repeated it.

Ricky Sherman got a bit of help holding his
award from his father Rob.

Rob and Ricky Sherman: about six
hundred pink balloons emphasized
their message.

Did Rob get some advice from the
Atheist of the Year?

Jon Murray presented Ricky Sherman with a
Life Membership in American Atheists.

Ricky and Rob Sherman showed off
their light-hearted gifts.

Page 32

April 1989

American

Atheist

Free to speak your thoughts aloud
Atheists were quick to catch on:
they could talk forbidden thoughts; they could exchange forbidden
ideas; they suddenly knew the meaning of freedom.
And they could even show off a bit .

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Austrian Anton Neureiter shook hands with Jon Murray
after receiving a Life Membership in American Atheists.
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Even papa took home an award! Rob Sherman was named
"Atheist Spokesperson of the Year."
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Jon Murray was delighted to present Irv Yablon with the
"Outstanding Member" award.
Austin, Texas

Jon Murray presented the "Outstanding Chapter Worker"
award to Houston's Gipson Arnold.
April 1989

Page 33

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George Tanner said a few words after receiving the
"Dedication Award" for thirty years of support.

Jon Murray handed the "Outstanding
award to Phoenix's Walt Wilkinson.

Officers of the Puget Sound Chapter were as proud as Punch to
have earned the "Outstanding Chapter" award.

Chapter Director"

Howard Kreisner and Stephen Thorne both received "Most
Hated Atheist" awards from Arnold Via (center) this year .

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Gottfried Niemietz received a commemorative book from Stephen Thorne.

Frank Zindler paused after a long but
exciting day.
April 1989

Page 34

••

A happy Madalyn O'Hair left the podium at the end of the convention.
American

Atheist

(Continued from page 26.)

The result of this is, for instance, that
a hospital has the right to discharge any
doctor who is not a member of the
church. This means that one is forced,
against the German constitution, which
guarantees the freedom of confession
[religion], and against one's own convictions, to be a member of the church, to
support with one's hard-earned money
this institution which has more deaths
on its record than Adolf Hitler. Otherwise one may lose one's job and possibly have to depend on public welfare in this instance, being a doctor out of
work. The same goes, by the way, for
nursery school teachers, nurses, accountants, painters, and so on working
in church institutions. One's divorce
may serve as a reason for dismissal, as
may one's publicly uttered opinion, if it
contradicts the doctrines of the church
on abortion or contraceptives. Considering this, one always has to keep in
mind that the church is not only the
biggest stock- and landowner of the
world - but also the biggest employer
in West Germany. And what must also
not be forgotten: not only may the
church decide who has the right to exist and who not - because without
work there is no money and without
money, there is no existence - but it
may also decide whether one has to give
birth to a child or not. It decides whether a mother has to die or may live on:
because in its hospitals no abortions
may be carried out, even if abortion is
legal and medically necessary - for example, to save the life of the mother or
to prevent the birth of a cripple. And
once again: 80 percent of all hospitals
are in the hands of the church! And in
addition to that, the state functions as
the money-collector for the church: all
these social institutions - which in
reality are anything but social, as you
see - are subsidized with billions of our
direct tax money grants, not to mention
the additional tax advantages the church
enjoys.
With all this, however, the church's
Austin, Texas

influence is not exhausted by far. The
church has representatives entitled to
vote in all control committees of radio
and television, and thus the church influences the programs decisively. And
as the church does not lack the necessary wherewithal, it goes without saying
that it holds shares of one or another
German newspapers, so that here also
its Argus eye watches that everything is
reported to its needs and advantage.
One thing of utter importance one
may not forget: everyone was and is exposed to the influence of the church,
and thus the influence of religion, day by
day from morning to night - in, as you
see, a multitude of different ways - with
the result that religion is deeply embedded in the minds of the majority and
plays its evil game there. Put differently,
even where the church has no direct influence, as in its hospitals or kindergartens, it thus has an indirect one; the
Roman Catholic senior doctor of a state
hospital will more likely prefer a Christian over an Atheist for a doctor's vacancy. For the same reason the basic attitude of 99 percent of all newspapers is
Christian. And the believing judge will
feel offended by a blasphemy on which
he has to pass sentence, just as well as
the Christian denouncer, which of
course has its influence on the legal
practice.
In case anyone nevertheless succeeds in escaping this almost inescapable net and keeps one's common sense
- and fortunately there are still some
who do so, although they have become
fewer in recent years - there is a final
catch to prevent reason from burgeoning: the blasphemy paragraph, Article
166of our Criminal Code. By the threat
of a prison term of up to three years, it
prevents any criticism of church and religion. The church knows one thing very
well: its entire power is only founded on
the stupidity of its believers. On the level
of equal arms, that is, under the rule of
freedom of speech, it could not survive
one generation. As the vampire needs
human blood, the church needs gagging
April 1989

and violence to survive. Article 166 is
one means for the upkeep of its power.
In the following I should like to give a
brief overview of the persecution to
which Atheists are exposed when they
do not practice their Atheism secretly in
a back room but instead make use of
their constitutional rights of freedom of
confession [religion] and speech, and
when they insist on these rights, which
are cited in the constitution.
Article 166 does not exist only since
yesterday. If one follows its history, one
will find that it goes back to the laws of
Emperor Justinian in the sixth century
of our calendar. Whereas blasphemy, up
to the eighteenth century - following
the example of the Bible - was punished
by death, it is now, thanks to the bourgeois revolution in France, only punished with three years of prison, whereby it should be understood that the expression "thanks to" is used in an ironical sense. Today's draft of Article 166
goes back to the year 1871,and is thus
more than one hundred years old. This
law, that has always pestered art and
science, not even shying away from the
greatest of German culture, has been
applied increasingly over five recent
years. In view of the great number of
cases, I can, in order to give you at least
an impression, only present some few.
The increased prosecution of church
opponents began in the years 1983/84
with the case of Birgit Romerrnann, the
president of the "International Society
for the Development of Joie de Vivre."
In 1984, Birgit Romermann wrote the
following in an enlightening brochure
about the church:
Looking back at the history of
the church you find you are a
member of one of the world's
greatest criminal organizations.
Witch-hunts, six million women
burnt, genocide, religious wars,
crusades, oppression and conning
the people throughout every century, the persecution of the Jews,
the blessing of weapons, the conPage 35

Gottfried Niemietz exploded the myth
that West Germany is a land of intellectualliberty.

demnation of desire and so forth,
and so forth, to give just a few examples.
Because of this statement she was sentenced to a fine of twenty rates or
twenty days of prison. The Appeal
Court of Celle finallydecided that it was
a criminal act to publicly draw this conclusion from the murderous record of
the church - that it is one of the greatest criminal organizations of the world.
But that was not all. The pastoral arm
of the church not only enfolded her in
the judiciary, but other tentacles joined
in: the city of G6ttingen prohibited her
setting up her anticlerical information
stand, which she had run for more than
two years, because she "obviously had
lost allfeelings of decency and morality."
The Inland Revenue cancelled the charitable status of her "International Society for the Development of Joie de
Vivre," which is important for tax reasons. Several house searches were carried out, and, last but not least, the local
priest called upon the public to boycott
the business run by her and a friend.
Based on blasphemy Article 166CC
Frau R6mermann was finally accused
once more - this time for her defense
speech in court. Instead of kowtowing
to the cross and recanting, she insisted
on her right to freedom of speech and
referred once again to the slaughter of
more than 100 million people - most
part bestially - by the church, which
completely justified the expression
"greatest criminal organization of the
world." That it cannot be a criminal act
to defend oneself in court should go
without saying to anyone, legallytrained
or not, since a legal defense would
otherwise become a farce.
The new proceedings were closed
after two years, but only after several
protests, particularly from abroad, had
been registered with the court, thus
making it impossible for the court to
pass sentence in silence in good old inquisitional style.
The Birgit R6mermann case may be
Page 36

called a historical mark in the development of the Federal Republic of Germany, for this was to be the beginning of a
systematical campaign of persecution of
West German Atheists. Atheists were
prosecuted in every part of West Germany for having informed the public
about the proceedings against Atheists
in G6ttingen, or - as in the case of the
Bunte Liste Freiburg - for daring to be
unintimidated by Miss Rornermann's
condemnation and continuing their anticlerical information campaign already
begun in 1975.Because of this the Bunte
Liste Freiburg very soon became the
main target of the prosecution campaign. Church and judiciary particularly dislike the fact that the Bunte Liste
Freiburg organized the first Anticlerical
Week in the history of West Germany.
During this event a series of lectures
were held on issues of religion and
church history. The lectures were very
well attended, although the local press
had - with its usual Christian attitude
- refused to inform the public.
The public, however, was informed
about the Anticlerical Week by this
poster [holding aloft a poster]. As you
can see, it shows a cleric holding a puppet in his right hand. On top of the head
of the puppet one can see the lord's
trademark, the triangle with an eye in its
center - the eye which sees and knows
everything. The long-beard is the almighty himself in his traditional outfit.
The priest is wearing a button on his
collar saying: "Konkordat 1933."Let me
briefly explain this, as the background
might not be known to everyone in the
audience.
In 1933the Vatican, that is, the Roman
April 1989

Catholic church, which legally represents a sovereign state, was the first
state in the world to give the Nazi regime
under Hitler diplomatic recognition as
the legitimate government of the German Reich. All the privileges I had mentioned before, which are still valid today,
were granted to the Roman Catholic
church in return. This button was intended to bring this undeniable historical fact back to people's memory. The
priest has a book in his hand resembling
the Bible but with the title Article 166
Criminal Code, which, as I mentioned
before, is the blasphemy paragraph, on
which the prosecution of Atheists is
based.
Because of this poster, the meaning of
which I assume needs no further explanation, the Roman Catholic church,
that is, the archbishop's office, informed
against the Bunte Liste. The public prosecutor's office instituted legal proceedings and had all posters removed and
confiscated. Four members of the Bunte
Liste were charged with the offence of
blasphemy. In the following I quote from
the explanation of this charge:
God, who is to be seen as an
almighty being, standing behind all
appearances as an absolute value,
is said "to have been insulted" by
the illustration on this poster, because "to the reasonable observer
God must look like a kind of hippie from the sixties, standing in a
slightly bent attitude, his hair
hanging down to his shoulders,
with a long beard, wearing a baggy
gown reaching down to the floor.
On the other hand, God is shown
as a fanatic magician with his arms
extended, his fingers splayed and
the head with its excessively long
nose stretched forward. Both impressions contradict in a crude
manner to the vision of God as the
Almighty and present him as a
helpless being, even as a puppet,
manipulated by the hand of the
priest.
American

Atheist

:.NTIKLERIKALE
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Four persons were charged with blasphemy because they helped distribute
this poster.

Furthermore, the Roman Catholic church was again reproached
for disgraceful conduct in a very
offending way: This becomes evident from the statement, that the
inscription "Konkordat 1933" in
the picture is supposed to associate the Vatican with Hitler's
fascism.

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It is a historical fact that Pope Pius XI
concluded the Concordat with Hitler in
1933,making the Vatican the first state
in the world to give the Nazis diplomatic recognition as a legitimate government. Cardinal Faulhaber even called
the pope the best friend of the German
Reich and the only one in its beginnings.
It is quite true that this is, to put it very,
very politely, a disgraceful conduct - I
could easily think of quite different expressions. But just as the murderer
does not have the right to complain ifhe
is called a criminal, the church may not
cry out like a wounded fawn and claim
nature conservancy.
The legal authorities, who had expected to sentence the Bunte Liste in
silence, soon had to realize that they
had been mistaken. The inquisitors met
with a stubborn resistance they had not
expected: the Bunte Liste, although cut
off from the West German public by a
press embargo, informed mass media
and organizations abroad. As a result,
newspapers, radio, and television stations all over the world, from France,
Italy,and Greece to the United States of
America and Australia published reports on the inquisitional trial in Freiburg. More than five thousand individuals sent letters of protest and signed
protest lists in solidarity with the accused. The United World Atheist convention in India and the Union of Freethinkers in France sent letters of protest
to the president of West Germany.
Demonstrations took place in front of
the German embassies in London and
Los Angeles. A Belgian member of the
European Parliament came from Strasbourg as an observer of the trial. Be-

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cause of the international public's attention, the court was forced to abandon its
first plan and offered a bit of plea bargaining to the accused: it would discontinue the criminal proceedings if the
Bunte Liste would admit some guilt.
This, of course, was refused, because
the accused insisted on a first class acquittal. As the court was irritated by this
attitude, it adjourned the procedure for
an undefined period of time.
In 1985,the Bunte Liste organized the
second Anticlerical Week despite the
impending sword of Damocles over its
head, using the very same pink poster
with the priest and the little god for the
announcement. The legal authorities initiated thirteen preliminary proceedings,
this time also against persons who had
hung up the posters. The town council
had all posters removed on grounds of
suspected blasphemy, although there
had been an official permit for them. Because of the immediate public pressure
from abroad the posters were released.
Furthermore, in a prominently featured
editorial of the Neue Bildpost, the biggest Roman Catholic weekly in Europe,
the Roman Catholic church called for
the violent breaking-up of the lectures
held during Anticlerical Week. The
priest in the cathedral of Freiburg declared in his sermon during the Advent
service that mankind had to be protected against a radical minority like the
Bunte Liste reminding the German populace of the Roman Catholic endorsement of the Nazi regime. The Roman
Catholic church, in this case the archbishop's office, also called upon the
April 1989

readers of the local newspaper in Freiburg to write letters of protest against
the Anticlerical Week and send them to
the public prosecutor's office In order to
call for new criminal proceedings against
the Bunte Liste.
The seed of the pogrom agitation began to grow: numerous posters for the
Anticlerical Week were destroyed. In
broad daylight, the window front of a
gallery in which the Bunte Liste had displayed anticlerical cartoons by famous
cartoonists was smashed. Members of
the Bunte Liste were attacked violently.
As you see, ladies and gentlemen, the
Rushdie case existed already for a long
time in the Christian version. And people should not blame Islam without talking about Christianity at the same time,
which is its equal in every way. The legal
authorities, of course, did not react
against these pogrom agitations. On the
contrary, no charges were placed against
the agitators, and the courts refused to
prosecute anybody for calling for pogrom or violent attacks.
As for criminal proceedings against
the members of the Bunte Liste, the
legal authorities played for time. They
delayed the decision on the continuation of the Article 166 procedures for
months, hoping that the interest of the
international public would gradually
cease and sentence could be passed
without public attention. This hope,
however, was disappointed: every day
new letters of protest from all parts of
the world arrived continually. In February, the president of the Russell Tribunal, Prof. Vladimir Dedijer, intervened
personally with the president of the Federal Republic of Germany. Shortly afterwards numerous internationally known
personalities joined the appeal of the
Russell Tribunal to abolish Article 166.
At about the same time two United
States senators asked the Minister of
Justice in Stuttgart, through the American embassy in Bonn, for a statement
on the prosecution of the Bunte Liste.
The Minister of Justice, who had received hundreds of letters protesting
Page'Sl

Gottfried Niemietz and Beatrix Steinebrunner exchange a joke with Madalyn
O'Hair before leaving the American
Atheist General Headquarters to vacation in the western United States.

against the inquisitional proceedings in
Freiburg, had a letter written saying that
any prosecution of the Bunte Liste was
unknown to him.
Under the growing pressure of the international public, the West German
legal authorities finally had no alternative but to abandon all Article 166 procedures against the Bunte Liste, a result
which equals an acquittal.
The judiciary suffered a defeat this
time. But it chose the next opportunity
to get even, for it understood then and
understands at present that the Bunte
Liste has become more and more the
center of anticlerical resistance, a fact
that was and still is a thorn in the flesh
of the church, a thorn that must be removed. This opportunity came when
the Bunte Liste sent a letter of protest
against the compulsory psychiatric examination of Dr. Josef, the owner of a
chemical factory in the south of Germany. As his case also deserves your
attention, I should like to report it here
briefly:
Dr. Josef, whose ancestors had been
killed under torture by the Inquisition,
refused for years to collect the church
tax from his employees and to forward
them to the German tax office, which as I described in the beginning - then
obediently passes the money on to the
Roman Catholic and the Lutheran
churches. The employees paid their
church tax directly to the tax office, so
Page 38

mediately ran to the public prosecutor's
office, and the public prosecutor filed an
accusation for coercion.
The Bunte Liste had protested against
this scandalous procedure in the letter
I mentioned before and had pointed out
that these events strongly reminded of
the dark times of the Third Reich under
the Hitler rule. As a result, criminal proceedings for libel were initiated against
the signer of the letter. At the same time,
besides two private apartments, my lawyer's office was searched, as I am the
permanent legal representative of the
Bunte Liste. All my records, as well as
my client card files, were searched. The
that no damage whatsoever was in- authorities had hoped to find confidencurred by the church. When, after many tial information by which the identity of
years, the tax office nevertheless de- the letter's author could be determined.
manded the church tax from Dr. Josef, Up to then, only his name was known.
though it had already been paid, he ac- The authorities suspected that the aucused the tax office of fraudulently col- thor meanwhile had consulted me for lelecting the money twice. After this, he gal advice.
What happened here is an outrawas not only charged with insult, but the
authorities ordered him also to be exam- geous occurrence and represents an inined psychiatrically, compulsorily, with fringement of the law which is unique in
the cynical explanation that he might postwar German history. The confidenhave suffered a mental defect as a result tiality of communication between a
of the struggle with the tax office, which client and his defense lawyer is the sacred cow of any state under the rule of
had lasted thirty years. Furthermore,
law. If this sacrosanct principle is brocriminal proceedings were initiated
against him, and during the trial he was ken, any defense must become a farce.
asked whether he had suffered any ill- After the German courts, including the
nesses, and even whether he had suf- Federal Constitutional Court, considfered any head injuries during his child- ered this procedure to be legal and comhood. I am certain any comment on this pletely in accord with the principles of
the German state under the rule of law,
scandalous and humiliating conduct
the issue was brought before the Eurotowards Dr. Josef willnot be necessary.
Dr. Josef was sentenced to a fine of 8000 pean Committee for Human Rights to
be decided there. Though the Committee
deutsche marks.
But this still was not the end of the of Human Rights has not yet passed a
affair: some months later Dr. Josef was decision, it has, however, asked the Fedagain sentenced to a fine, this time in the eral Government for a statement comamount of 6000 deutsche marks. The menting on the events.
As you can see, blasphemy procereason was specious. Following the example of the church with its hospitals, dures are no usual trials - proceedings
senior homes, and nursery schools, he under the charge of libel are in 99 perhad declared his chemical factory to be cent abandoned. This becomes evident
a tendency institution. Therefore, he not only by the brutality of the proceeddeclared, he wanted to employ Atheists ings taken against Atheists, but also by
only, just as the church employs only the fact that these proceedings are
believers. A Christian job applicant im- always prepared by the political police
April 1989

American

Atheist

Vladimir Dedijer

Attorney Niemietz showed conventioneers a book he recently published which
exposes the genocide of Serbs by the
Roman Catholic church.

- a fact that cannot be in accord with
a constitution in which the principle of
the segregation of church and state is
established.
The search of my office, which, by the
way, was not successful, was by no
means the end of these acts of vindictiveness - there is no other name for it.
The private apartment of the Bunte
Liste's archivist was searched at the
same time as was my office. Two months
later the criminal investigation department again searched her rooms, confiscating her last will and her typewriter,
among other things. The typewriter was
not given back until seven months later.
At that time, proceedings instituted
against her suspecting her as the possible author of the letter of protest, were
abandoned, too.
Even this second searching of the
apartment was not to be the last. Annoyed about its latest setback, the judiciary used a new approach, always
having in mind to wear the Bunte Liste
down by means which indeed are tiresome. In summer 1988, that is, one year
later, the archivist's private rooms were
searched once more, for the third time
now, under the pretext that she had
committed fraud. As she did not have a
typewriter for seven months - which
had been confiscated by the police she had, of course, rented one for this
period of time, which is the obvious
thing to do for someone who has much
correspondence. She charged the publicpurse with the costs, as, after all, even
the legal authorities had to admit that
she was innocent and had thus suffered
damage without being at fault. The publicprosecutor saw a new chance here to
finally pass the desired sentence. He
stated that it was implausible that the
archivist had to pay money for renting
the typewriter, as ifeverything were free
in West Germany! This procedure is still
going on, and I can only appeal to all listeners to express their protest against
this. I hope that the importance of this
protest has already become clear by my
lecture.
Austin, Texas

I also hope this case has shown the
arbitrariness with which the judiciary
takes action against Atheists, and makes
evident that it boldly ignores the laws
unless the public expresses its protest.
The criminal procedures in Freiburg
concerning the poster are one of many
examples that prove my statements
correct.
Finally, I would like to report another
case which shows quite obviously how
arbitrarily the legal authorities proceed,
disregarding valid laws, in the fight
against adversaries of their much-loved
church. I am talking about the criminal
procedure initiated against myself more
than a year ago under the charge of alleged blasphemy, because of a lecture I
gave in the city of Wurzburg, titled "The
Middle Ages Are Alive - Modern Inquisition in the Federal Republic of Germany." In this lecture I reported about
the current persecution of Atheists in
West Germany from my experience as
defense lawyer. This procedure is of particu~ar importance for two reasons:
firstly, because it is the first time in German postwar history that a scientific lecture was incriminated on the basis of
Article 166, and secondly, because now
I, as the best known defense lawyer in
Germany in the so-called blasphemy
procedures, am being prosecuted legally. In all modesty I think that I can say
that by this work, as well as my lectures
and publications, I have become something like a key figure in the fight for the
freedom of speech and confession
[religion].
The book I just recently published
reports for the first time in the German
language about the genocide of orthodox Serbs committed by the Roman
Catholic church in Serbo Croatia from
1941to 1945. More than 800,000 persons
became victims of this Roman Catholic
slaughter. I show you a copy of this book
in the German language; here it is.
[Holds book up.]
The other side knows very well that a
conviction of me would quickly make
any criticism of church and religion imApril 1989

Jasenovacdas jugoslawische Auschwitz
und der Vatikan

I{';;:-,ll;;';~:;'.;';(::'::'!~I;!~jl:l~'t (~;n~.!;l
\/{,!,\'t):"!

-'",:""dl(:;1 ~:)il

(:';;?(ni"! .\.'ielf~:,.'i:

possible. Therefore I should like to close
my lecture with a brief report about this
case.
Because of a report by the Roman
Catholic bishop and denunciations by
two attendees at the lectures - one of
them a student of theology and the
other one the president of "Caritas," a
charitable sub-organization of the Roman Catholic church - a criminal procedure because of blasphemy was instituted against me. During my lecture I
supposedly had called the clergymen
"clerical pigs" and the church "the
greatest criminal organization of history." Though I could prove by an unedited videotape of the entire lecture
that I never made either of the two statements, the procedure was instituted
and the main hearing opened a few
months ago. Two days of trial took place
without my being able to introduce the
videotape exonerating me. The judge
turned down all my requests concerning
this point. The public prosecutor justified his negative answer saying that the
videotape was not appropriate means to
invalidate the plausible statements of
the two Christian witnesses. Thus the
judiciary thought it could ignore the
exonerative evidence and convict me.
This, however, did not work out, as
meanwhile several letters of protest had
reached the court, particularly from
abroad, so that a conviction would have
done harm to the reputation of West
Germany. On the one hand, a first class
acquittal had to be prevented, because
of which, I should suddenly be acquitted
with a formal legal argumentation - but
Page 39

Jon Murray, R. Murray-O'Hair, Gottfried Niemietz, Madalyn O'Hair, and
Beatrix Steinebrunner
paused for a
photo outside the American Atheist
GHQ on a hot, windy Texas day after the
convention.

copies to the courts in charge. I present
this, the text:

without the showing of the video. This
would have definitely left a stain on my
reputation, as the proof that I never
made the incriminating statements
would not have been given in public and public acquittal is what counts. On
the other hand, the president of "Caritas" had repeatedly claimed under oath
that I had made these statements, thus
clearly having committed perjury. The
video could not be shown in court as
long as he kept up his statement, because then not only my innocence
would have been proven but also the
perjury of the churchman. For this reason the judge tried by several phrased
propositions to move the witness to
claim that his original statements given
under oath were taken down in the
records wrongly. This is a monstrosity,
is it not?!
I refused to compromise on grounds
of interest. Owing to the international
protest - among the protesters were
Nobel prize winner Prof. George Wald
and Prof. Noam Chomsky, as well as
several other well-known persons - my
refusal was finally accepted, grudgingly.
Now the entire procedure willbe started
all over again with a new judge.
Besides the fact that Istillhave to fight
for an acquittal, another thing is of importance: the president of "Caritas" has
committed perjury. Because of this he
has to be convicted as any other citizen,
regardless of his position. Before the law
all are equal. This is of particular imporPage 40

tance as it willkeep further denouncers
from initiating criminal prosecution
against Atheists by lies. This is an important step for us. Imagine ifthe videotape
had not existed: I never could have
proven that I did not make the "incriminating" remarks during my four-and-ahalf-hour lecture. Thus I would have
been exposed to malicious denouncers
- and there are many of them. How
right I am is proven by the fact that
meanwhile, because of the denunciation
of two Christians, another procedure
has been opened against me for a lecture I gave at the university in our capital, Bonn. This last procedure against
me is also unfinished.
With this I should like to close my
lecture. I hope that I have succeeded in
the shortness of time to give an impression of West German reality. I especially hope that one thing has become clear:
It is only due to an attentive international public that in some cases acquittals
could be achieved, because the Federal
Republic of Germany feared for its
reputation. On this background I should
like to petition, because of the procedures against me and another member
of my organization - the typewriter
case - that the following resolution be
passed by the present members of the
convention, and that it be sent to the
president of the Federal Republic of
Germany and to the Ministers of Justice
of the federal states of North Rhine
Westphalia and Bavaria, as well as
April 1989

We, the participants of the National Convention of American
Atheists 1989, protest in the
strongest possible terms against .
the criminal prosecution of attorney Gottfried Niemietz on the basis of blasphemy Article 166as well
against the prosecution of another
member of the Bunte Liste Freiburg, Mrs. Ursula Dunckern, because of alleged fraud. We de-·
mand the immediate discontinuance of this procedure, as we particularly demand a first class acquittal in the Wurzburg inquisitional procedure against attorney
Niemietz as well as the instantaneous discontinuance of the preliminary procedure against him
because of his lecture at the University of Bonn. We are shocked
that in your country there is no
freedom of speech in the sense
that all persons, including Atheists, have the right to unrestrictedly utter their opinions. Blasphemy
Article 166Criminal Code is a definite restriction of this right granted
in your constitution. We therefore
fully support the demand of our
West German friends to abolish
this medieval law.
We furthermore demand the
president of "Caritas" of Wurzburg, who in court under oath
wrongly incriminated attorney
Niemietz, to be sentenced just as
any normal citizen regardless of
his position, (i.e., his being a
churchman).
I should very much appreciate if this
resolution would find a majority, as to us
it would be a great help and especially a
great protection.

The resolution was unanimously·
passed and Mr. Niemietz was given
a standing

ovation.~
American Atheist

Talking Back

For Christ's sake, shut up!

This month's question:
What's wrong with
having a moment of
silence in the public
schools?

Madalyn O'Hair, founder of American Atheists, replies:
Children are not stupid. They have
been embroiled in bitter strife for twentysix years, an entire generation, over
"prayer in schools." They are aware
that "a moment of silence" is for a moment of silent prayer. Thus adults demonstrate a major deceit to children as
their first lesson in participatory civics.
The schools and the children can do
without this deceit.
R. Jay Campbell, director of the
Dallas Chapter of American Atheists, replies:
What's the point of it? It's obvious
that time spent by the student in school
is supposed to be used doing something. Ifany student wants to pray in any
school in America at any time of the day,
there is nothing to stop that student, for
it would be unconstitutional to do so.
But organized prayer recitation and
Bible study is a violation of the First
Amendment, and the "moment of silence" is just another attempt to bring
back prayer to public schools. Considering the low test scores of American
children compared with the rest of the
industrial world, there are better things
for our kids to be doing in school.
Gipson Arnold, assistant director of
the Houston Chapter of American
Atheists, replies:
Nobody is taught anything during a
moment of silence. Such an official
observance is obviously meant to be a
step towards real organized prayer.

So you're having a hard time dealing
with the religious zanies who bug you
with what you feel are stupid
questions? Talk back. Send the question you hate most and American
Atheists will provide scholarly, tart, humorous, short, belligerent, or funpoking answers. Get into the verbal
fray; it's time to "talk back" to religion.

Austin, Texas

Robertson, and other televangelists
have repeatedly said on their electronic
hours of hate soaps, "ifwe can get a moment of silence in schools the Holy
Ghost can come down and all children
will be turned to Christ." They claim
that Jesus prayed in silence (Luke 5:16)
and that children should imitate him.
Jon Murray, president of American
Atheists, replies:
Remember that old advertisement,
"You can't fool Mother Nature"? Well,
you can't fool children either. They are
brighter, more perceptive than adults
credit them. Children know that the
only time they must remain absolutely
quiet is in church - or at a funeral. They
know when they are ordered, in their
homerooms in public school, to remain
quiet for a certain period of time that
this is prayer time. The kids know that.
The teacher knows it. The principal of
the school knows it. All the persons involved are two-faced liars. They dissemble. They deceive. They lie. The adults
are teaching the children that this is
"pretend time." They should pretend
they are silent when actually they are
sneaking prayers in, past the dirty mean
old judge, past the ACLU, past the communists, past the Atheists. They know
that if they keep the "pretend time" up
that maybe those "mean" people will
look the other way and they can pray
aloud. Meanwhile, they are sneaking "it"
in. This is simply a matter of teaching
children to be underhanded and deceitful.

Dr. Arthur Frederick Ide, Atheist
author, replies:
Only religionists are arguing for a
"moment of silence." It's a thinly veiled
attempt to reinstitute religion in schools.
A moment of silence is at the core of
religion: "Then all the multitude kept
silence, and gave audience to Barnabas
and Paul, declaring what miracles and
wonders God had wrought among the
Gentiles by them" (Acts 15:12).Falwell,
April 1989

Page 41

The Probing Mind

How did life begin?

ii

Part III:The first cells.

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 American
Chemical Society, and the American
Schools of Oriental Research. He is
the director of the Central Ohio Chapter of American Atheists.

Frank R. Zindler
Page 42

he livingcell - indeed life itself huddles poised in time between
the death which awaits all mortal
forms and the nonliving world of pre·
biotic nature from which it sprang. The
membrane- bounded cell, universally
the structure which has arisen as the
standard- bearer of the living state on
earth, is - despite the naive views of
certain nineteenth- century materialists
- more than just a bag of chemicals,
even though chemicals are really all that
it contains. Even so, there is no "vital
force" to stir its atoms into life when it
is present, or to leave them dead when
it departs.
The living cell is a dynamic, everchanging system in which chemicals
become ordered for a while into microscopic structures, only to dissolve again
as other molecules come together to
form the same types of structures over
again, or to replace them in the same
structure. The organelles of which cells
are made are no more static than a
candle flame. At any given instant, the
cell exhibits a dynamic pattern of chemical marriages and divorces, of energyproducing and energy-using processes,
of structures forming and structures
breaking down. Life is a process, not a
thing.
How did this ordered process come
to be? Since the cell is a highly-ordered,
nonrandom entity (avoiding, however,
the dull regularity of a crystal), it can be
thought of as an information-containing
system.' Information is the added ingredient that brings lifeto otherwise lifeless
atoms.
How, we must ask, could information
come about without a creative, supernatural intelligence? That is the problem
science yet must answer if it is to put
god into the ranks of the completely
unemployed.
Scientists seeking to account for the
information content of living cells are
heartened by the fact that information
and the appearance of intelligent design
can be found in nonliving nature too, in
systems no adult would seriously supApril 1989

pose to be evidence of intelligent design.
The delicate ferns and filigrees that form
upon our windows in winter are thought
by children to result from the intelligent
efforts of Jack Frost, but those of us
over the age of ten know that the ability
to form such pretty pictures is in the
nature of water itself. The "information"
on how to form intricate crystal structures inheres in the submolecular structure of water, in the way in which the
electrons orbit about the hydrogen and
oxygen atoms which constitute it. The
simplest of substances contain information, along with what often appears to
be a program telling how to interact with
the world.
In the case of livingsystems, however,
the amount of information and patterndirecting programming found in individual molecules is increased to a dizzying
degree. Although the entire cell may be
considered to be an information-containing system, the fact of the matter is
that most of the information content of
a cell is present in the form of giant informational molecules such as DNA
(which contains the "recipe" for making
an entire organism of a particular type)
or enzymes (proteins which can be

"Fhis page of the magazine contains information because of the highly nonrandom,
yet relatively unpredictable way in which the
elements we call letters are arranged on its
surface. If one were to cut out all the words,
shake them up, and pour them out on a
blank page, the information content would
be greatly reduced. Ifthe words were cut up
into individual letters and the letters strewn
about at random, the information content
would be all but lost. Likewise, a cell "contains" information by virtue of the way in
which its molecular elements are arranged
in space and time. The way in which DNA
(the genetic material of the cell) contains
information - with its four types of "letters"
(A, T, C, and G) strung out to form long
"messages" - is exactly analogous to the
way this sentence contains information by
virtue of the manner in which the letters of
the English alphabet are laid out.
American Atheist

-CH
~
N
I
I

thought of as the molecular tools with
which the recipe stored in the DNA is
translated into action - the baking of
the cake, as it were).
It is often argued that the laws of
probability are against the idea that the
major informational molecules of the
cell could come into existence spontaneously. "The chances that an enzyme
molecule could form from just the right
amino acids, in just the right sequence,"
it is often claimed, "is so small that if you
had ten trials per second, you wouldn't
get an enzyme molecule in a trillion
trillion years."
There are at least three major flaws in
the assumptions
underlying this argument. First of all, it presumes that when
the twenty amino acids of which proteins
are made react promiscuously
with
each other, all possible combinations
are of equal probability. The fact of the
matter is, there is a definite bias in the
way that amino acids in mixtures combine (polymerize) to form peptides and
protein-like polymers. Sidney Fox, one
of the greatest experimentalists studying
the problem of biopoiesis (the origin of
life), reports that "the varied amino
acids do not polymerize randomly; instead, they have much self-instructing
ability. The sequences formed are highly
specific ... and the polymers produced
are of sharply limited heterogeneity .... "2
The net result of this bias in the way
amino acids join together to form "proteinoids" (protein-like polymers which
form spontaneously
when mixtures of
dry amino acids are heated) is that
molecules capable of catalyzing biologically useful reactions (i.e., the types of
reactions now catalyzed by enzymes)
are more likely to form than are molecules
incapable of enzymatic activities. Organic
chemistry is biased in favor of life.
The second problem is that the argument fails to comprehend
the role of
natural selection operating at the molec-

2Sidney W. Fox, The American Biology
Teacher, vol. 43, no. 3, March 1981, p. 129.
Austin, Texas

I

N---F

#

CH2 -~-......r

I

CH2

I

HC-

t

N

-N

~-....&--CH

=

CH2

_CH

COOH

Figure 1. The structural formula for heme, the pigment found in hemoglobin,
catalase, and other enzymes. (Carbon atoms occupy all places in the structure
where straight lines come together.)
ular level. It is common knowledge, for
example, that the probability of being
dealt a perfect hand at bridge is extremely small. If, however, one may "select" all
the spades obtained from the first deal
of cards, return the unwanted cards to
the dealer (along with the cards of the
other three hands), let the dealer deal
again and again, each time keeping the
spades obtained and returning the unwanted cards, in no time at all a "perfect
hand" will be obtained. When natural
selection operates at the molecular level
in protocells (cell-like structures not yet
able to control their reproductive activity
or guarantee hereditary transmission of
information with little error), any "step
in the right direction" will tend to be
saved, and any step in the wrong direction will go back to the "dealer."
The third and most serious flaw in the
often awesomely mathematical
arguments leveled against the possibility of a
natural origin of informational molecules
is the assumption that the molecules in
question (e.g., the enzyme catalase)
must be identical to a given, modern,
highly evolved standard.
Like all enzymes, catalase is a protein,
a very large molecule composed
of
amino acids joined together. Its major
function in modern cells is to break
down hydrogen peroxide into water and
April 1989

oxygen. This is highly important, since
peroxide is very destructive to the molecular machinery of the cell. Besides its
amino acid structure, catalase also contains a pigment molecule, heme, which,
in turn, is composed of a porphyrin ring
(see Figure 1) and an atom of iron.
We can concede immediately that the
spontaneous
origin of a modern catalase molecule, with its four sets of 505
amino acids linked together in a very
specific order, is completely unlikely.
But what is rarely noted is the fact that
the first cells didn't need the entire catalase molecule (if they needed catalase
at all, in an environment containing little
free oxygen!). In the first cells having to
deal with small amounts of peroxide,
any molecule that could do the job of
catalase even weakly would have conferred an advantage
over cells that
could not break down peroxide at all.
It so happens that even the ferrous
iron ion itself (Fer") is able to break
down peroxide. If the iron is combined
with a pyrrole. ring (the porphyrin"super-ring" shown in Figure 1 is composed of four pyrrole rings arranged
along the sides of a square), its catalytic
ability is increased several-fold. If the
iron is combined with the porphyrin ring
of heme, its catalytic properties increase
a thousand-fold over that of a free iron
Page 43

ion. Finally, adding the protein part of
the catalase molecule increases the
activity ten million-foldl!
It is clear that for lifeto originate it was
not necessary for catalase or any other
macromolecule now found in cells to
have been present. All that was needed
were molecules that could do the work
of these macromolecules at least a little
bit. Of course, it is reasonable to expect
that the protoenzymes of protocells
would bear a clear chemical resemblance to at least parts of their modern
counterparts in cells, and it should be
possible to show how modern enzymes
developed from the simpler structures
of their ancestral protoenzymes. Discoveries in this area are occurring at an
accelerating pace.
So-called metabolic pathways are
employed by present -day cells to syn-

thesize needed materials, convert into
chemically useful form the energy of
sunlight trapped by pigments, and to
break down both raw materials and
waste products. These pathways involve
step-by-step chemical alterations of
starting materials until they become the
needed products. Comparison of the
metabolic pathways of primitive bacteria,
plants, and animals reveals many clues
as to how those pathways may have
originated. It is quite clear that metabolic pathways evolved precisely in the
manner of the work they perform: stepby-step. At no time in the evolution of
life did an entire pathway form at once.

The heterotroph hypothesis

compounds constituting the primitive
lakes and oceans of the world. Once
protocells formed which were capable
of self-replication, they would have sustained themselves by consuming the remainder of the broth that spawned
them. At first, the protocells would have
been able to utilize rather complex compounds," perhaps compounds that
could be integrated into protocell structure without any further alteration. As
time went by, however, the complex
"food" molecules would have been used
up, leaving molecules of lesser complexity which could be used only after some
degree of chemical modification.
Although some authors have imagined this stage of chemical evolution to
have constituted a "crisis" in the development of life, and have even supposed
it to have been a lucky accident that any
protocells developed the ability to use
somewhat simpler food molecules "just
in the nick of time, before they starved
to death for want of the more complex
molecules," the realities of chemistry
make the situation less hair-raising. We
must remember that at the point where
the soup had been depleted of nearly all
of the most complex food molecules,
many billions of protocells must have
been in existence. As the most desirable
food molecules became more and more
scarce, some of the protocells would
have disintegrated, themselves becoming
food for the remaining intact protocells.
It is very likelythat a sort of equilibrium
would have developed, with proto cells
disintegrating and other cells absorbing
their remains and reproducing, until a
particular protocell acquired an enzyme

To understand how metabolic pathways developed in the course of life's
evolution, it is necessary to examine the
way in which the first protocells came
into existence. The first detailed analysis
of this problem was made by the Russian
31twill be remembered that prophyrin mo- biochemist Alexandr I. Oparin in 1924.5
lecules have been shown to form sponOparin is famous for his formulation of
taneously under primitive-earth conditions,
the so-called heterotroph hypothesis.
and various types of porphyrins have been
found in meteorites, objects formed in the The word heterotroph comes from the
solar nebula before the earth became a· Greek words heteros ('another' or 'different') and trophe ('food' or 'nourishplanet.
4In catalase, as in other enzymes, only a ment') and refers to the fact that the first
small part of the protein structure is involved living things were unable to synthesize
in forming the so-called active site, the part
their own food from carbon dioxide and
of the molecule that actually carries out the water in the way that green plants
chemical chores required by the cell. Often,
('autotrophs') do, but rather were delarge parts of an enzyme are evolutionary
pendent upon sources of food outside
refinements that willdetermine whether the
themselves. Modern animals are said to
molecule will be dissolved in the cytoplasm
be secondary heterotrophs, since they
of a cell or be attached to cell membranes,
determine the circumstances under which have lost photosynthetic capability and
the enzyme willbe active or inactive, etc. Of depend upon the eating of other animals
the hundreds of amino acids that make up and plants as sources of energy and raw
a typical enzyme, it is usually the case that
materials.
only a dozen or so of them are critically
According to Oparin, protocells (which
involved in its catalytic activity; and in the he thought would have been microscoprest of the molecule it is often possible to ic coacervate droplets, colloidal aggre- 6Because of the constraints of the Second
make numerous amino acid substitutions
gates of molecules) would have formed Law of Thermodynamics, simple organic
compounds would have been the most comwithout measurably altering the enzymatic
from the "primordial soup" of organic
activity. The first enzymes almost certainly
were very small molecules, containing only
the amino acid sequence essential for enzymatic activity. The smaller the enzyme, of
course, the greater the probability it could
have formed spontaneously.
Page 44

5Alexandr l. Oparin, Proiskhozhdenie Zhizni
[The Origin of Life](Moscow: Izd. Moskovskii
Rabochii,1924).
April 1989

mon components of the "soup," the most
complex compounds the least common.
The most complex molecules generally
would have the highest information content
and would be least favored from a thermodynamic point of view.
American Atheist

MODEL OF SELF-SUSTAINING COACERVATE DROPLET:
would it be "alive"?

R
R

x~
R

•••
~~-y

R

L.M

y

M

The primordial soup in which life began contained a wide
variety of organic compounds, ranging in size from very
small to very large, energy- rich molecules. The large,
energy-rich molecules (such as the hypothetical compound
L.M in the above model) could have served as "food" for the
first protocells. The compound L.M is conceived to be composed of two major parts, Land M. Breaking the chemical
bond holding L to M would liberate energy. This energy
could immediately be used to join a phosphate group (P) to
a molecule of adenosine diphosphate (ADP) to form a
molecule of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the nearly
universal form of "energy currency" in modern cells. ATP is
an energy-rich compound. Many of the substances in the
soup would have had catalytic ability,i.e., the ability to speed
up chemical reactions without themselves being used up in
the process. The compound R, perhaps a proteinoid, is
conceived to be such a compound, being able to bring about
the breakdown of the food molecule L.M, with liberation of
energy. Overall, this process can be summarized in an
equation:
Eq. 1. R + L.M + ADP + P

R + L + M + ATp··

At the same time it may be supposed that there existed
in the soup certain compounds which were autocatalytic,
i.e., able to assist in the synthesis of more molecules like
themselves. (Sidney Fox has shown that certain proteinoids
can in fact facilitate the formation of more proteinoid,
although it is not known whether or not the new proteinoid
is precisely the same as the old one.) In the model above the
molecule X.Yis conceived to be autocatalytic, speeding up

Austin, Texas

its own formation from its two major components X and
Y,given a source of energy such as ATP. (When ATP gives
up its energy, it is degraded back into phosphate and ADP.)
Overall, this process can be summarized in a second
equation:

Eq. 2. ATP + X + y + X. Y

ADP + P + X. Y + X. Y

The hypothetical coacervate droplet shown above is
conceived to consist of two phases, a matrix phase composed of X. Y and one or more particles of the catalyst R.
In such a structure the chemical reactions described in
equations 1 and 2 could be expected to take place at the
phase boundary, where particles of R make contact with the
X. Y phase. As the droplet synthesizes more X. Y,it willgrow
in size until it becomes hydrodynamically unstable. Then it
will break up into two or more daughter droplets. If the
daughter droplets contain at least some R, they willbe able
to continue the life-likeactivity of the model.
Further evolution of the systero would involve gaining the
ability to break Land M into still simpler waste products,
extracting ever more energy from their chemical bonds.
(The end point would be reached when the food molecules
could be broken down all the way to water and carbon
dioxide.) Evolution also would involve acquiring the ability
to synthesize X and Y from progressively simpler precursors,
until only carbon dioxide, water, inorganic minerals, and
sunlight were needed. Each of these evolutionary developments would require the addition of new catalysts (proteinoids,
pigments, mineral ions, etc.) to the structure of the model
above.

April 1989

Page 45

or two that made it capable of utilizing
a second, slightly less complex type of
molecule still abundant in the primeval
pool. Able now to tap an abundant new
source of food, this new, mutant form of
protocell would multiply rapidly until it
replaced all the old-fashioned types that
required the highly complex type of
molecule now depleted from the medium.
Before long, the second type of food
molecule would have been used up, and
competition would develop again, resulting in a protocell that could utilize a
third, still simpler form of chemical food
(see sidebar).
As the primordial soup thinned out
into just plain ocean, with simpler and
simpler molecules being depleted by the
heterotrophic protocells, there came a
point at which further reduction in the
complexity of "food" molecules was impossible. At this point, our first true cells
would be able to make do with just carbon dioxide, water, and inorganic minerals. These cells would have become
the first autotrophs, organisms independent both of other organisms and leftover
soup. These autotrophs would have
been able to carryon photosynthesis,
capturing the energy of sunlight and
using it to combine carbon dioxide and
water to form sugar. Sugar, in turn,
could be reworked and combined with
inorganic compounds containing nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorus, and other elements to form all the varied substances
needed to maintain and improve the
quality of what at this point must be
called "life."

The origin of cellular structure
As in the case with trying to decide
how the chemicals of life came into
being, when trying to decide how cellular
structure came about we are faced by a
surfeit of plausible possibilities. There
appear to be more possibilities than we
need.
Oparin was impressed by the ability
of proteins and other macromolecules
in solution to clump together to form
suspensions of microscopic, complex
Page 46

droplets known as coacervates. As
these particles drift about, they absorb
more molecules from the surrounding
solution and actually grow in size. When
a certain size is reached, the coacervate
particles reproduce, sometimes by a
process that resembles the budding of
yeasts, sometimes by simple, irregular
fission. The daughter droplets, in turn,
grow, split, grow, and split, until the raw
material molecules are depleted from
the medium. Oparin showed experimentally that many enzymes and groups
of enzymes can form into coacervate
droplets and can carryon metabolic
activities - even imitating the activities
of short metabolic pathways.
Sidney Fox of the University of Miami,
on the other hand, has shown that when
dry amino acid mixtures are heated,
they polymerize into a protein-like material called proteinoid. Proteinoids are
of great interest theoretically in that
they frequently possess catalytic ability.
They are able to catalyze not only the
formation of nucleic acids (DNA or
RNA) - they are autocatalytic as well,
being able to bring about the formation
of more proteinoid! In short, proteinoids
exhibit a primitive reproductive ability.
In addition to possessing exciting
chemical abilities, when brought into
contact with water, proteinoids can
form into structures suggestive of protocells. Termed "microspheres" by Fox,
these microscopic particles also can
grow by accretion, proliferate by means
of fission and budding for several generations, and even engage in a form of
interparticle communication by transfer
of material. 7
Marigranules, discovered by the Japanese researcher Fujio Egami," have
also been offered as models of protocells.
Egami discovered that by adding simple
compounds such as formaldehyde and
hydroxylamine (compounds formed
easily under primitive-earth conditions)
to seawater enriched with trace elements
such as molybdenum, zinc, and iron, it
was possible to bring about not only the
formation of amino acids, lipids, and
April 1989

other biochemically important materials,
but it was even possible to get the amino
acids to polymerize into peptides and
protein-like materials. Best of all, if
allowed to stand for several months,
seawater containing these polymers
was found to contain tiny cell-like structures - marigrariules. Unlike Fox's
proteinoid microspheres, marigranules
are bounded by a lipid membrane-like
surface. The similarity of marigranule
structure to ordinary cell structure is
somewhat
greater
than that of
microspheres.
Like microspheres,
marigranules are also capable of growth
and undisciplined reproduction. Although
they too possess catalytic properties,
studies of marigranule "metabolism"
have not yet progressed as far as those
of Fox's microspheres.
Most recently, at an annual meeting of
the American Association for the Advancement of Science, David Deamer?
of the University of California at Davis
reported on studies he has done on materials extracted from the Murchison
meteorite. Some of the lipid (fatty) material he extracted from the meteorite-?
was capable of self-assembly into
membrane-bound vesicles looking very
7Duane L. Rohlfing, "The Development of
the Proteinoid Model for the Origin of Life,"
Molecular Evolution and Protobiology, ed.
Koichiro Matsuno, Klaus Dose, Kaoru
Harada, and Duane L. Rohlfing (New York:
Plenum Press, 1984), pp. 29-43.
8Fujio Egami, "Chemical Evolution in the
Primordial Ocean and the Role of Transition
Element Ions" [in Russian], lzuestiya Nauk
SSSR, Seriya Biologicheskaya, no. 4, 1980,
pp. 519-526.
9David W Deamer, "Amphiphilic Components of Carbonaceous Meteorites: Origins
of Membrane Structure," AAAS Abstracts:
14-19, January 1989, San Francisco, p. 24.
l°lt should be remembered that many meteorites contain primordial material created in
the solar nebula even before the formation
of the earth. Finding membrane-forming
materials in meteorites is very good evidence
that similar materials would have been
present on the nascent earth.
American Atheist

Almost certainly, the principle of "survival of the fittest"
is older than life itself.
much like tiny cells. Like real cell membranes, Deamer's membranes were
capable of incorporating pigment-like
compounds, such as pyrene, and exhibited some catalytic abilities. It is reasonable to suppose that lipid membranes
such as these, forming into closed
vesicles as a result of the foaming action
of waves, would have enclosed
coacervate drops, proteinoid microspheres, and marigranules, and would
have increased the complexity of protocells greatly. Most importantly, such
composite, membrane-bound protocells
would have been able to carry out a
wide variety of different chemical tasks
simultaneously, by virtue of the differing
capabilities of their various components.
The complexity and properties of such
protocells would come very close to
those of primitive cells.
Perhaps the most important feature
of the protocellular entities discussed is
that they would have been capable of
evolutionary change by means of natural
selection. Protocells acquiring useful
combinations of proto enzymes and
other useful materials would have tended
to survive, and proto cells lacking them
would have tended toward dissolution.
Fusion of protocells separately capable
of important life functions could have
led to broadly competent forms with
greater survival potential. Almost certainly, the principle of "survival of the
fittest" is older than life itself.

DNA: The first shall be last
In all present -day cellular forms of life,
DNA is the repository of hereditary information. It is the information stored in
DNA which tells the difference between
a man, a mouse, and a moss. In modern
cells, DNA stands aloof from the metabolic fray, passing its instructions on to
"messenger" RNA, which then brings
about the synthesis of proteins - a
process which is highly complex and is
clearly the product of a long series of
evolutionary developments. The set of
rules which relates the "wording" of the
DNA molecule to the amino acid seAustin, Texas

quence of proteins is known as the
"genetic code."ll
It is generally agreed that DNA was
not present in the first cells. Before the
advent of DNA, RNA could have served
as the genetic material in early cells, just
as it still does in certain viruses. The
question still remains, however, whether
or not even more primitive cells could
have existed without even RNA, using
proteins as the major informational
molecules. We have seen previously
that Fox's proteinoids have the ability to
form more proteinoid - thus theoretically being capable of forming a selfreplicating system - and they also can
catalyze the formation of DNA and
RNA from their building blocks. Did life
go through a protein phase before the
evolution of the genetic code? Or are
full-fledged proteins (as opposed to
proteinoids, which are somewhat more
irregular in their structure than proteins)
possible only with a nucleic acid-directed
system of protein synthesis?
A great deal of highly technical work
has been published on the origin of the
genetic code, and it is not possible to
summarize it here. However, mention
should be made of the astonishing suggestion made recently by A. G. CairnsSmith that the DNA-RNA-Protein cycle
of modem cellswas preceded by primitive
forms possessing none of the major
biochemicals now characteristic of cells.
According to Cairns-Smith, the first
replicating systems were not even organic, they were minerals! Specifically,
they were self-replicating crystals of
clay. Shades of Genesis, chapter two!
Cairns-Smith makes it clear that clay
crystals cannot only replicate, but can
even transmit information from one

llThe genetic code is often confused with
the genetic message. The genetic message
is the entire information content of the DNA
molecule - the recipe it contains. The ge·
netic code is the rule of correspondence
between DNA structure and protein structure.
April 1989

crystal generation to the next. Crystal
defects, the analogs of mutations, can
be passed on from parent to daughter
crystal. He shows that a type of natural
selection can operate in populations of
clay crystals, and that clay crystals quite
easily could have begun to create and
use organic substances to stabilize their
micro environments and increase their
chances of survival and reproduction.
Since various clays are known which
can catalyze the formation and polymerization of amino acids, mimic photosynthesis, and direct the formation of
nucleic acids, it is only startling - not
far-fetched - to suppose that a geneticcode assemblage of RNA and proteins
might have been brought together on
the surface of a clay crystal and, when
just the right combination came about,
could thereafter have subsisted without
the aid of the clay substrate.
Cairns-Smith likens the delicately
balanced nucleic acid-protein system to
an arch. Just as the sides of an arch
cannot be kept from falling without the
aid of the keystone, and the keystone
cannot be kept up without the aid of the
rest of the arch, so too in living cells
nucleic acids cannot come about without
the agency of protein enzymes, and enzymes cannot be produced without the
aid of nucleic acids.
To make an arch of stones needs
scaffolding of some sort: something
to support the stones before they
are all in place and can support
each other. It is often the case that
a construction procedure includes
things that are absent in the final
outcome. Similarly in evolution,
things can be subtracted. This can
lead to the kind of mutual dependence of components that is such
a striking feature of the central
biochemical control machinery."

12A. G. Cairns-Smith, Seven Clues to the
Origin of Life: A Scientific Detective Story
(Cambridge University Press, 1985), p. 115.

Page 47

The question that Darwin could not have hoped to answer the question that Newton, Galileo, and earlier geniuses could not even have
dared to ask - is very close to being answered. Thousands of scientists in
hundreds of laboratories are closing in on the problem of life's origin.
Whatever future research may show
to have been the case with respect to
clay minerals as the scaffolding that
brought about the construction of the
genetic code, it is quite clear that DNA
-'- the prime minister of the biochemical
government - was actually a late refinement and was not a part of the first
cells.

Envoi
The most primitive living things that
carry on photosyntheis do so without
releasing molecular oxygen into the
atmosphere. It is not clear just how long
this type of photosynthesis dominated
the earthly scene. By around 1.5 billion
years ago, however, a number of photosynthetic algae had evolved which had
developed a new, improved form of
photosynthesis which released oxygen
into the oceans and atmosphere. For
early forms of life, oxygen was the first
form of "toxic waste," and natural selection led to the development of enzymes
(such as catalase) which could protect
cells from the damaging effects of
oxygen.13 Ultimately, cells acquired the
ability to turn adversity to advantage,
and actually came to make use of oxygen as a means of "burning" their fuel
(sugar and other simple molecules) to
provide greatly increased amounts of
energy with which to carry out various
types of new activities.
Once it was possible, thanks to oxygenbased aerobic resipiration, to generate
large amounts of energy in very short
amounts of time, cells could become
more mobile, and the first single-celled
animals became possible. Movement is
the essence of animality, and significant,
sustained movement was unaffordable
before the harnessing of oxygen. It was

130xygen, because of its high chemical
reactivity, is like a bull in a china shop when
it runs loose in the cell. Unless its movements
are carefully directed, it is likely to attack
and ruin many of the informational molecules
of the cell. It can even kill the cell.
Page 48

the harnessing of oxygen that led to the
appearance of the secondary heterotrophs, the animals. There is no free
lunch in nature, and cells acquiring mutations allowing them to move easily
about their watery world - making it
possible to avoid harmful environments
and seek out healthful ones, even in the
dark when solar energy was unavailable
- had to sacrifice the machinery needed
to carryon photosynthesis. Instead of
creating their own food from scratch,
they could simply engulf their slower
neighbors, digesting them by means of
digestive enzymes they had evolved
long before.
Once the pace of cellular motions had
quickened into animal activity, the future course of evolution became clear,
at least in its general outline. There
would be a selective advantage for cells
to group together to form multicellular
organisms, animals big enough to procure and eat any of the primitive vegetation in the sea. Once herbivorous animals became abundant, natural selection
would lead to the apearance of carnivores
- animals which would generally have
to be more mobile (and therefore more
intelligent) than the herbivores.
Thus began the earliest version of the
"arms race," which continues to this
day. With carnivores preying upon
herbivores, natural selection would
tend to select for faster and smarter herbivores, making them harder for the
carnivores to catch. This, in turn, would
bring about selection for even faster and
smarter carnivores. Ultimately, certain
carnivores would evolve the ability to
use and make tools - weapons with
which to gain a decisive and irreversible
advantage over the herbivores. Oxygen
would be harnessed still a second time
in the history of life - in the discovery
of fire.
Homo sapiens would have been better
named Homo prometheus, after the
mythical hero who stole the fire of the
gods and brought it to earth for the sake
of us mortals. For human history in a
profound way is the history of fire and
April 1989

the secondary technologies
it has
sparked; and science is a part of this
history. With fire, Sidney Fox heats lava
rocks, sprinkles them with amino acid
solutions, and analyzes the proteinoids
that form upon their surfaces. Stanley
Miller passes sparks through primitive
atmospheres to witness the formation
of the chemicals of life. The electric
sparks, .of course, result from electric
currents generated miles away by the
coal and petroleum fires of generating
plants. The fires of science flame brightly,
thanks to the oxygen-generating process
developed by humble algae so many
eons ago - algae which now we seek to
understand.
The question that Darwin could not
have hoped to answer - the question
that Newton, Galileo, and earlier geniuses could not even have dared to ask
- is very close to being answered.
Thousands of scientists in hundreds of
laboratories are closing in on the problem of life's origin. It is exhilarating to
contemplate the progress that has been
made, despite the fact that the experimental study of biopoiesis is only slightly
older than the memory of World War II.
When I was born, a half a century ago,
hardly anyone could have suspected
that the chemicals of lifewould prove to
be ubiquitous and so easy to produce.
When I graduated from college, no one
could have suspected the ease with
which protocell-like marigranules could
form in seawater. And who would have
expected to find the makings of cell
membranes in meteorites?
Whether or not life as we know it is
the result of a "genetic takeover" - of
organic systems supplanting
selfreplicating mineral ones - or whether
the genetic code had a yet unsuspected
origin remains to be settled. But we shall
learn the answer, and the answer is
coming soon.~
Be on the phone with Madalyn O'Hair!
Just Dial-THE-Atheist at (512) 4585731 to hear her speak on the latest
news.

American Atheist

Historical Notes

60 years ago
The Debunker was published by
Haldeman-Julius Company, which also
put out the Little Blue books, the "pocket" series that put literature into the
hands of the ordinary man at 10¢ each.
The April 1929 Debunker featured articles on the topics of "The Degradation
of the Boston Press" and "The HoudiniSpiritualist Hoax," as well as articles by
Maynard Shipley and Frank Swancara.
The issue started off with this editorial
by E. Haldeman-Julius:
"Men - the masses, whom we are
wont to describe as too credulous have not been believers only. We are
perfectly correct in saying that they
have shown an astonishing capacity for
believing in foolish notions. They have
also been doubters - and history has
curiously mocked both their beliefs and
their doubts. Flying machines and before them steamboats and railroad
trains were laughed at by the masses as
wildly nonsensical dreams: yet their
belief was unquestioningly given to the
fancy that angels and imps flew busily
about on supernatural missions. Galileo
was looked upon as impious and crazy
to say that the earth followed a natural
motion as a satellite of the sun: but it
was easy for the pious to believe that the
sun could have been stopped by the fiat
of a Hebrew captain. It was thought that
Columbus embarked on a strange, fearful, impossible voyage when he started
west to explore far seas: but the journey
of a man's 'soul' to heaven or hell was
glibly described by the priests and this
superstition was accepted as a matter of
course. The myth of the 'soul' was a devout article of belief, yet the fact of the
circulation of the blood was felt as a difficult burden upon the credulity of men.
It appeared simple enough for men to
believe in fantastic rewards and punishments in a weirdly imagined future beyond the grave: but they were slow in
realizing, for example, the vital connection between unsanitary conditions and
disease. The idea of the telephone and
of telegraphy was at first regarded skepAustin, Texas

tically by the masses - none would
have believed a prophecy as to the wonders of modern communication - but it
was widely accepted as the truth that a
God in the sky held converse with human beings and that he once talked to
a mythical Moses from such a queerly
chosen place as a burning bush. It was
not suspected that the average span of
life could be extended scientifically, but
it was a settled dogma that man was immortal. It has been easy for men to
believe in notions that were utterly unreal, but they have reserved their doubt
for the ideas and agencies of real progress. They have been curiously attracted
by myths. They have laughed at wisdom, sound invention, and useful knowledge."

40 years ago
In April 1949 two members of the
United Secularists of America of Clifton, New Jersey, filed suit in the Superior
Court of New Jersey, Law Division,
seeking to force the discontinuance of a
reading of at least five verses of the Bible
each day in the public schools of New

Donald Doremus, president

Jersey.
The litigants were Donald R. Doremus
and Anna E. Klein. Although the United
Secularists of America was not named
in the suit, the action was entirely financed by that organization and was
put together for it.
Under attack was the Revised Statutes 18:14-77of the state of New Jersey.
The case Doremus v. Board of Education of Borough of Hawthorne (72 Sup.
Ct. 394, 342 U.S. 429, 1952) eventually
was heard by the Supreme Court of the
United States. The court at that time
held that Bible reading in the public
schools "did not present justiciable controversy," that the parents had not attempted to have their children excused
from the Bible reading, that no state
funds were spent for the exercises, and
that - further - the children concerned
had graduated from the school involved
before the case had wound its way to
the Supreme Court (from 1949to 1952).
The filingof the suit was first reported
in the May issue of The Progressive
World magazine and accompanying it
was an appeal for legal funds - $6,000.

Anna Klein, secretary

Separation of Church and State Committee, U.S.A.
April 1989

Page 49

Left: The Founding Fathers would have
been aghast to have "In God We Trust"
under their noses, but in April 1979the
Supreme Court let that slogan stand.
Below: The small sketch of the first
Atheist Centre in the world, drawn by
Madalyn O'Hair, appeared in the April
1964issue of the American Atheist magazine.

30 years ago

10 years ago

The Age of Reason Magazine in its
April 1959 issue reported that Joseph
Lewis, president of the Freethinkers of
America, sent the following telegram to
the Associated Press, United Press International, The Dallas Herald and The
Dallas News:
"Many of our members in the city of
Dallas and in other cities in the state of
Texas have protested to us against the
proposed bill to disqualify and dismiss
any teacher in any public educational institution in Texas who does not believe
in a supreme being.
"A law requiring such an oath is not
only unconstitutional but is also a flagrant and utterly indefensible invasion
of our civil rights.
"Our organization stands ready to
challenge such a bill,ifpassed by the legislature in the courts of Texas and in the
United States Supreme Court, if necessary, and we also offer legal assistance
to any teacher in any public educational
institution who is dismissed for holding
such a belief or who is denied a position
because of his or her Atheism.
"Such a bill would have disqualified
such members of our organization as 25 years ago
Thomas A. Edison and Luther Burbank.
In its April 1%4 issue, the American
"I willgive to the American Red Cross Atheist announced the opening of the
the sum of $1,000.00 if any member of American Atheist Centre, the first of its
the Texas legislature willproduce for me kind in the world. The building itself was
one iota of evidence of the existence of located at 2502 North Calvert Street in
a supreme being."
Baltimore, Maryland. Prior to this auspiNot only was the bill passed, but it cious occasion, the nascent American
remained unchallenged until 1978. At Atheist organization had operated out
that time, American Atheists filed suit in of a four-room store-front building in
the Federal District Court of Austin, north Baltimore.
Inits announcement of the opening of
Texas, demanding that all Texas oaths
be declared unconstitutional. This suit . the world's first bonafide openly prowas still in litigation in 1982 when a claimed Atheist Centre, the organizateacher challenged the specific question tion described it as three-story building
of "Do you believe in a Supreme Being?" boasting eleven rooms, built in the
which appeared on all applications for classic row-house construction known
school teachers. That case, Roe v. Klein in Baltimore from the early 1700s.
Independent School District, was conSimon Kaplan, of Florida, was one of
cluded on December 30, 1981, while the benefactors who brought the AtheAmerican Atheists' suit was stillpending ist Centre into being and on this occabefore the United States Court of Ap- sion, the first month's mortgage 'paypeals, Fifth Circuit.
ment was made by him.

The nation has symbols because they
are powerful calls to the hearts and
minds of its citizens. Too many persons
have died for the flag, "Old Glory." As
part of a continuing effort to recapture
the symbols of the nation and return
them to the secular meanings premised
in the Constitution of the United States,
American Atheists had filed suit (O'Hair
v. Blumenthal, 588 E2d 1144,Fifth Circuit, 1979)on September 1, 1977,asking
for the removal of the phrase "In God
We Trust" from the nation's currency
and coins.
The hard fought case was lost every
inch of the way in all lower courts.
It was in April 1979,just twenty years
ago, that American Atheists petitioned
the Supreme Court of the United States
for certiorari (review) of those unfavorable opinions in the lower courts of the
Fifth Circuit. The U.S. District Court for
the Western District of Texas had held
that the words "In God We Trust" on
both currency and coin of the nation
was simply "a patriotic ceremony." You
can figure that one out! The U.S. Court
of Appeals in Louisiana upheld that decision.
The continuing case caused a storm
of controversy in the nation - and the
Supreme Court, ignoring all pertinent
law,eventually refused to grant certiorari.

Page 50

April 1989

5 years ago
Barbara Smoker, president of the
National Secular Society (the principal
Atheist organization in England), addressed the Fourteenth Annual National
Convention of American Atheists in
Lexington, Kentucky. The convention
was held on April 20, 21, and 22, 1984.
Ms. Smoker spoke on the topic of
"Atheist Liberation," outlining the many
discriminations Atheists still suffer in
her country and calling upon Atheists to
demand their civil rights.
John G. Jackson, author of Christianity before Christ, also addressed the
convention; he took the topic of "Black
Atheists of the Harlem Renaissance."~
American Atheist

Report from India

Patriotism
of another colour
on Murray's article "A Pledge Too
Far" (November 1988)particularly
interested me because we had an
incident in 1986 involving three Jehovah's Witness children in the state of
Kerala who refused to sing the national
anthem which had been made compulsory in schools at morning assembly.
Readers are aware of how this fundamentalist sect regards nationalism and
national symbols and flags. For their
brazenly disrespectful behaviour young
Bijoe, Binumal, and Bindu were expelled
from school. The Jehovah's Witnesses
took the matter to court.
At about the same time a similar act
of defiance took place, also in Kerala,
when M. V. Krishna Warrier, a sixtyyear-old Sanskrit teacher, substituted
the national anthem with one of his own
in Sanskrit because he felt the one we
have lacks "nationalist spirit." The government ordered him to resume the
compulsory singing of the national anthem. He complied, but he made his pupils sing it along with his own composition.
Both incidents focused public attention on the presence in our midst of subversive elements - three Christian children and an eccentric Hindu so steeped
in Brahmin orthodoxy that he would not
admit Harijans (untouchables) in his
school. The Supreme Court delivered a
judgement regarding the Jehovah's Witness children which made many patriotic Indians demand that the anthem be
made mandatory for everybody. It
would correct the severe lack of loyalty
among minority Christians.
In an interview with a weekly newsmagazine, the father of the children,
Professor V. J. Emmanuel, a teacher of
English in a college in Kottayam, explained the stand of his particular sect:

J

Symbols, songs, flags,
and rituals are all being
enlisted in the cause of
making India a Hindu
nation.

In 1978,your editors, assisted by
Joseph Edamaruku, editor of an Indian
Atheist publication, combed India
seeking writers who would consistently
offer an interpretation of Indian religious events. Margaret Bhatty, in
Nagpur, a well-known feminist journalist, agreed that she would do so in the
future. She joined the staff of the
American Atheist in January 1983.

Margaret Bhatty
Austin, Texas

Nationalism is a very narrowminded concept. We would rather
be international than national.
There willcome a time when people will feel ashamed of today's
patriotism.
April 1989

He pointed out that the Jehovah's Witnesses are law-abiding citizens and pay
their taxes. "But in matters pertaining to
our conscience we want to be free," he
said.
During the days of the British Raj, we
stood respectfully for the British national anthem. I recall how all cinema shows
ended with "God Save the King" and a
picture of George VI and the Union
Jack.
After Independence in 1947 this absurd custom was continued with the Indian tricolour coming up on the screen.
But the audience never stopped and
stood at attention; they made for the
exits. A few years ago the authorities
decided that the best way to deal with
this obvious lack of patriotic fervour
was to stop the playing of the anthem in
cinemas.

Dispenser of India's Destiny
Before our national anthem was
adopted in 1950, a number of alternatives were considered. "Jana-ganamana" is from a song by the Bengali
poet, Rabindranath Tagore, and only
the first of his five stanzas is used.
Tagore's own rendering of it in English
goes thus:
Thou art the ruler of the minds of
all people,
Dispenser of India's Destiny,
Thy name rouses the hearts of the
Punjab,
Sind, Gujarat, Maratha,
Of the Dravid and Orissa, and
Bengal;
It echoes in the hillsof the Vindhyas
and Himalayas,
Mingles in the music of the Jamuna
and Ganges,
And is chanted in the waves of the
Indian sea.
They pray for Thy blessings and
sing Thy praise,
The saving of all people waits in
Thy hand
Thou dispenser of India's destiny,
Victory, Victory to Thee!
Page 51

Many were unhappy with the choice
of this particular song because it is believed the poet had originally composed
it in praise of the English king, and the
line "Thou dispenser of India's destiny"
is a deplorable demonstration of servility to British colonialists. There are,
however, others who dismiss this as incorrect. They would have us believe
that the "Thou" addressed in the lines is
some sort of supervisory deity overseeing our national destiny.
As far as meaning and content go, the
stanza chiefly consists of a somewhat
sketchy list of some major geographical
aspects of the country, throwing in a few
Indian states chiefly in the north, and
lumping all of the south under the term
Dravid. It fails to express any comprehensive nationalistic ideology.
The Supreme Court upheld the right
of the three Jehovah's Witness children
to refuse to sing the national anthem
since it was a matter of conscience, as
long as they stood respectfully while the
other pupils sang it. Their refusal to sing
it had not contravened the constitution
since it has no clause making the singing of the anthem mandatory. The
judgement angered the most patriotic
Indians among us - the ruling party of
the Congress-I and a large number of
Hindus.

"Neither Indian nor judges"
Leading the pack was the prime minister himself. One of his toadies declared
that the Supreme Court judges were
"neither Indian nor judges." Another
tore the judgement and trampled it on
the floor of the House. Now we have
always prided ourselves on the complete
separation of the executive branch from
the judiciary. But Indira Gandhi initiated
a slow erosion of this very worthwhile
principle by using the legislative power
of the central parliament to discredit,
overturn, and overrule judgements
which appeared detrimental to her
party's interests.
After the Supreme Court judgement
in the JW case, her son, Rajiv Gandhi,
Page 52

issued a statement in September 1986
saying that ifthe Supreme Court did not
correct its decision, the government
would suitably amend the constitution
to make the singing of the national
anthem compulsory. "We will use all
legal means available," said he, "and if
they do not work, we will use constitutional means."
It was difficult to see how such mass
conditioning - with all of us singing the
national anthem - would transform
everybody into full-blooded patriotic
Indians, but Rajiv Gandhi appeared to
think it would. His high resolve seems
laughable in a country where mass illiteracy puts the theme of a national song
beyond the comprehension of most citizens since it is in Bengali and therefore
understood only by those familiar with
that language. Perhaps even the most
destitute recognise the Indian tricolour,
but one doubts if they could sing the
national anthem even with a promise of
one square meal a day as reward for
their fealty to their country.
I asked an eight-year-old from the
local village school to sing "Jana-ganamana" for me. She is Hindi-speaking,
but attends the municipal school closest
April 1989

to us and studies in Marathi. She agreed
to sing it, but she said she knew it only
in Marathi. She sang a dreadfully garbled
version of the song, completely unaware
that she was singing in Bengali.
Ironically, many educated Indians
cannot sing the national anthem through
to the last word with full understanding
of its meaning. Said Mr. Gandhi:
The words of the national anthem by Gurudev Rabindranath
Tagore give us the message of tolerance, equality, and integration,
but unfortunately some have come
to regard them as mere words.
As you can see from the English
translation, nowhere does the anthem
urge us to those qualities we need most
today - tolerance, equality, and integration. So maybe even the prime minister doesn't know the meaning.
The Supreme Court's verdict triggered a rabid display of Hindu chauvinism. The three JW children had proved
again what Hindus have always feared
- Muslims and Christians cannot be
citizens of this country because their
loyalties lie elsewhere. For many weeks
American

Atheist

our media extracted a lot of footage
from the whole affair. It seemed evident
that our great Indian polity was in danger of being toppled by the defiance of
three young children.

The national religion
In a multi-religious society such as
ours in which Hinduism is the dominant
religion, children of every minority community are infected by its social aspects.
In schools, our history texts draw heavily on Hindu myth and legend for roots.
In films and on television, the heavy emphasis on Hindu rites and rituals and the
portrayal of Hindu heroes, heroines;
and saints inform non-Hindus about the
religion. National quizzes on television
always feature questions on Hindu mythology, and contestants are expected
to know the answers no matter what
their own religions. But one finds considerable ignorance among middle-class
Hindus about Christianity. Many see no
distinction between Roman Catholics
and Protestants and believe that all profess extraterritorial allegiance to the
pope in Rome. The JW case appeared
to be an excellent opportunity to instill
patriotism into the Christian community.
Ms. Madhu Kishwar, one of our most
articulate feminists and the editor of a
monthly magazine, Manushi, published
from Delhi, decided to do a small field
survey of her own. She wrote up her
findings in The Illustrated Weekly of
India (Bombay, 8 March 1987). Since urbanised, educated Hindu males were
making the most noise, she took a sampling of those. Among the fifty selected,
most of them strangers, there were five
post-graduates, twenty college graduates, and twenty high school graduates.
Only one in the whole lot knew the national anthem and could sing it through
and translate it. And he was against
making its singing compulsory, suggesting that what the country needed more
was a sense of social responsibility for
issues like child marriage, wife abuse,
wife beating, and so on.
Of the forty-nine others, none could
Austin, Texas

recite or sing the entire anthem. Most
stumbled over the first two lines; some
only knew the first three words, "Janagana-mana." One even tried to convince
her that it wasn't the national anthem
but another national song. But they all
said the national anthem must be made
compulsory for non-Hindus. It would
give Muslims, Sikhs, etc., a sense of unity with the country. One group thought
that the Jehovah's Witnesses' stand
threatened the anthem and the country.
If they live in India, then they must do
what everybody else does. "People who
live in India have to respect India, acknowledge its importance," said one
businessman. He continued:
The Congress has been pampering minorities, but once Hindus
awaken, they willshow that Hindus
are everything. Now the Congress
has stopped pampering the minorities. Hinduism is coming. Gradually,Hindus willovershadow India;
Hindu religion will overshadow
India.
He said that the whole question of the
national anthem was a religious conflict,
and its only purpose was to promote
Hinduism.
A fifty-two-year-old government servant, a post-graduate in economics,
said:
Unfortunately, in India, some
people think they are free to indulge
in anything they like. This is possible only in India. Even the most
free countries like the United
States and England do not allow
so much freedom as is available to
people in India, particularly to
some communities who are trying
to exploit it, against the interests
of the country. It should not be
allowed.
A majority of the subjects questioned
could offer no reason, however, for
making the anthem compulsory, yet
April 1989

they insisted it should be done. But they
did not want it made compulsory in their
offices, workplaces, cinema halls, and
public places. They did not want it made
compulsory for themselves.
Predictably, Kishwar's conclusions
confirmed that the sound and fury
around the country about the issue of
the national anthem was inspired by
Hindu chauvinism. Hindus themselves
do not need to be taught patriotism, but
others must be taught. And the presence of minority religions in India rests
only on the goodwill and toleration of
the Hindus. The national flag, anthem,
and other symbols of state are to be jealously guarded by Hindus since others
might set them at risk with the abuse of
their freedom of conscience. The identification of these national symbols with
Hinduism is part of the growing tendency in the country to evolve a militant
Hindu nationalism towards the founding
of a Hindu state.
Rabid nationalism draws on the same
mindless credulity on which religious fanaticism thrives. Here, too, symbols,
songs, flags, and rites, and rituals assume immense emotional significance.
Professor V. K. Sinha, in an editorial
in The Secularist magazine (Bombay,
July/August 1986) deplored the sinister
implications of the entire controversy.
"To make an idol of a nation is to
betray mankind," he wrote:
A secular attitude is not just opposed to any attempts by organised religions to invade areas of
social and political life which can
be best left to regulate themselves
on rational and humane principles;
it is opposed to any move to make
. "sacred" any belief or institution.
The Court has upheld an important principle: the right of an individual to desist from joining the
majority in an act which goes
against his conscience provided it
entails no disrespect for the beliefs
of the majority. Secular democracy
is founded on this principle. ~
Page 53

American Atheist Radio Series

Lloyd Thoren, interview #2
his

is Madalyn Murray O'Hair,
back to talk

Atheist,
T American
with you again.

The voice behind the
world's first "Dial-AnAtheist" speaks out.

I have in the studio the wise prophet
and Atheist, Mr. T.
Mr. T, you were religious once upon a
time, weren't you? Apparently families
start people out that way.
Mr. T: Yes, I was. I, of course, got confirmed in the church. My parents did not
like the Methodist church at one time so
they sent me to one of the stronger, fundamentalist types, which in this case
was the Lutheran church. I attended
church for a long time, tried to do the
establishment thing, even taught Sunday school for awhile, but then as I
began to have increased doubts as to
the efficacy and values of religion and
religious training, I started to read an
entirely different kind of book. Many
years later I gradually learned that there
is a lot more to life and living than just
following the crowd like a bunch of
sheep.
M. O'Hair: When you first went to
college, were you still religious?
Mr. T: Yes, I tended in that direction.
However, I did take an interesting and
exciting course in anthropology. This,
coupled with my own natural curiosity,
gradually led me to the happy time
which I am enjoying now as an Atheist.

When the first installment of a
regularly scheduled, fifteen-minute,
weekly American Atheist radio series
on KLBJ radio (a station in Austin,
Texas, owned by then-President
Lyndon Baines Johnson) hit the
airwaves on June 3, 1968, the nation
was shocked. The programs had to be
submitted weeks in advance and were
heavily censored. The regular production of the series ended in September
1977, when no further funding was
available.
The following is the text of "American
Atheist Radio Series" program No. 404,
first broadcast on July 31,1976.

Madalyn O'Hair
Page 54

M. O'Hair: All right. But you went to
the University of Indiana, didn't you?
Mr. T: No, I went to Northwestern University.
M. O'Hair: Northwestern? Well, I knew
it was up north some place, and you
have been living in southern Indiana.
Now, where in the world would you get
Atheist books of any kind either at
Northwestern University or in southern
Indiana? How did you come across
Atheism, and what were you able to
read? What books started you on it? besides the anthropology?
Mr. T: Right. It was extremely difficult to
April 1989

find Atheist books. And when I began I
really did not have access to any Atheist
books. They just were not currently
available, and I did not realize there
were as many as now I know that there
are. I first began by reading books like
The Territorial Imperative by Robert
Ardrey, Man in Nature by Marston
Bates; and in that book, Man in Nature,
Marston's first sentence is, "Man is
clearly an animal." Now, once you realize the truth of that statement, and in
fact, understand that we are classified
by our own definition as an upright primate and in the category homo sapiens,
that kind of a realization is the beginning
of your coming to realize that we are a
part of the animal kingdom, and simply
because we can walk better on our hind
legs than any other critter does not necessarily make us any different - and in
fact - physically we are identical. We
have lungs the same as a frog or a dog
or a snake. All of our skeletal structure
is very nearly identical with all of the
other mammals. And that is the category that we are also under - by our
own definition we also put ourselves as
mammals. So this was really the beginning about finding the truth about myself and the world in its environment.
I think that this is a very, very important part, because we have lost the reference to the fact that we are a part of
all of nature. I get particularly furious
when .I enter a store and it says, "No
animals allowed." I usually go to the
management and say, "How dare you
put a sign up like that?" because we are
governed by the same laws of attraction,
the same laws of sexuality as all of the
other animals, and I think that it is important for everybody to know that.
M. O'Hair: Where did you go from
there, Lloyd, in respect to this? What
was the next most decisive factor, other
than the complete idea that you were a
part of the animal kingdom?
Mr. T: Well, I began to study psychology, and I really worked at that, reading
many - numerous - books in the field
American Atheist'

The American Atheist Museum in Indiana, founded by Lloyd and Pam Thoren,
was the site for the first Annual Summer
Solstice in 1980. Lloyd, Pam, and their
daughter Jenny are on the left of the
front row.

of psychology and the effects of behavioral training, or what might be better
called environmental aspects of life and
living. I soon learned that what people
think about things usually comes from
older people who have taught them the
various things, almost identically to the
way they were taught. Often times they
don't really think about what they are
doing; they just go ahead and repeat the
same mistakes that their parents have
taught them, the same mistakes that
their parents' parents taught to them.
M. O'Hair: Well, this is why the Roman
Catholic church says so wisely, "Give
me a child until he is six and he is mine."

Mr. T: Right, the behavioral training is a
matter of importance in psychology.
Yousee, most people learn to be neurotic. In the study of psychology you learn
the great escapes from life and living.
They are drugs, which include - of
course - alcohol, and then there is the next thing - insanity. You can opt
out of life and escape through insanity.
Another one is religion. You can just not
have to worry about lifeand livingtoday
because there is the high hope that you
may go to a heaven tomorrow. That
gives you a choice. You really don't have
to try so hard in this life, knowing full
well in your mind's eye that you are going to heaven. These things are all
taught. And, of course, many people
turn to the ultimate escape, and that is
called suicide. But I strongly advise that
no one try this method of escape because
you can always change from an alcoholic
to a pretty decent sort of a guy, or from
a religious nut to a pretty decent sort of
a guy, or instead of deciding to spend the
rest of your life in a mental institution
you can decide to straighten up and face
the world realistically as one of its proud
members.
M. O'Hair: But suicide is rather irreversible, isn't it?

Mr. T: Yes, suicide is definitely - that is
a permanent adjustment, you might say.
Austin, Texas

M. O'Hair: I think that one of the things
that finally has irritated me most about
religion is the anxiety-ridden quality of it
- the whole concept of "You are no
damn good." Let me ask you about
what you think in relation to that?

Mr. T: Right. The beginnings of religion
are that you are a no-good, dirty, rotten
sinner, and, of course, this tends to
cause you to lose your self-esteem.
Instead of being proud of yourself as an
important part of the animal kingdom
and - instead of working hard instead of having a very high opinion of
yourself and saying, "Boy, I'm great; I'm
terrific," you are taught that you are just
a no-good, dirty, rotten sinner This is
very contrary to the development of any
sense of self-esteem. So, you always run
around feeling ashamed of yourself, and
this is the beginning of becoming a very
serious neurotic.
M. O'Hair: I notice in your life-stylethat
you are pretty much able to take care of
your own problems, and I think this
flows from the fact that you have such
a strong, healthy ego. But one of the
things that I would like for you to talk
about here - and I heard you in a
restaurant talk about this - is the fact
that religion tells us that we cannot solve
our problems, that we must go outside
of ourselves - to god - through prayer
to solve problems. I know you have
some strong feelings on that. Would you
tell us about them?

Mr. T: Yes. Anyone who expects to
April 1989

resolve anything through belief in a kind
of supernatural being - it does not
matter which one it may happen to
be ... Any source of supernatural help
is just absolutely useless and senseless.
It is an exercise in futility. There is no
way that there is ever anything supernatural; there never has been and there
undoubtedly never will be. It is just a
simple fact of lifethat we are no different
from any other animal - or, not any
other animal, but mammal specifically.
And that hope, the idiotic system of
trying to hope for help someplace else,
out in the ether someplace I suppose, is
just sillyonce you realize the uselessness
of it. I just feel terribly sad for people
who spend their time and energy in this
fruitless exercise.
M. O'Hair: As the wise prophet and
Atheist, Mr. T., what did you say to
people, what do you say to people, what
is your response when they say, "I am
praying for you?"

Mr. T: I get that an awful lot. I ...
M. O'Hair: I do too, and I would like to
hear another Atheist speak to that.

Mr. T: I usually ignore all of those kinds
of things. I think probably the most the worst thing that somebody can say
to me is something like, you know,
"There, there, now I understand that
you are an Atheist, but pretty soon, one
day, you willsee the light." I can tell this
entire listening audience that I have
seen the light and that I am an Atheist,
Page 55

Lloyd Thoren (center) prepares a banner
in the Atheist Pride March in Denver in
1987.

are happy people. They are interesting
to be with and they always have a tremendous amount of conversation going.
Your wife, Pam, was a psychology
major too, wasn't she?

and that is the light and the truth. And
the rest of that stuff about Sky-Daddy,
J. C. Superstar, and the Holy Spook is
just somebody's fantastic imagination
- somebody invented a story and gullible people continue to buy it.
M. O'Hair: Is this the way that you
referred to the Holy Trinity on your
"Dial-An-Atheist" program that you
had? Would you repeat it? I think that is
pretty good.
Mr. T: Yes, I did refer always to the
Trinity as Sky-Daddy, J. C. Superstar,
and the Holy Spook. It seemed the best
way to go for me. It was a little irritating
to the local ministerial association, but
then almost anything I said on my tapes
was a little irritating to them, so it did not
bother me.

M. O'Hair: I hope that you willbe able
to establish an "Atheist Radio Series" up
there in Indiana, and one of the things
that we are hoping for is, eventually, to
have a radio station. We willbe able to
continue to keep this going, I am sure.
Let me ask you, have you found an
Atheist woman?
Mr. T: Oh yes, I have a very lovely wife.

She and I work together in the cause of
Atheism, primarily to let people know
that there are lots of Atheists around,
people who are very happy people who
enjoy life and living. That's important,
because when I was growing up as a
young boy I did not even know there
were such things actually - now I've
found out - and boy, am I grateful and
Page 56

happy.
M. O'Hair: Another thing that I think
you should perhaps speak to, Lloyd, is
this: most of the Atheists I know are
comfortable and happy people. We put
a premium on personal happiness whereas the religious community puts a premium on suffering and sin - and they
must be constantly disabused in relation
to that. I think that the happy life-style
should have some selling points. Do you
want to speak a little bit about your personal philosophy in relation to happiness
versus suffering?
Mr. T: Surely, I used to be concerned

greatly with what everybody thought
about me. I tried to placate the establishment. That is an expression that I
have often used. I tried to please everybody and do their thing, much to the
detriment of the enjoyment of my own
life. Then, one day, I thought to myself,
I am not going to live that way anymore.
I am going to do my own thing. I love
people. I don't ever hurt anybody. I just
live my own life-style. I don't wear ties
anymore because they confine my
neck. It is silly to wear clothing that is
very discomforting. I am relaxed with
my beautiful wife. I am happy that she is
with me here on our visit to Austin,
Texas, from Indiana where we live.
M. O'Hair: I am delighted that you
always present yourself most personably. This is another thing that I am
happy about with most Atheists. They
keep themselves clean and neat. They
April 1989

Mr. T: Yes, she was. We, of course, both
agree that we should follow some of the
learned psychologists like B. E Skinner,
Albert Ellis, Nathaniel Brandon, and
many others who have now been leading the way and realizing that people are
not born neurotic. They are taught to be
neurotic by their parents, teachers, and
regrettably, the church teaching, which
lays on so heavily all of this mythical
business and miracle stuff which has no
basis in fact whatsoever.

M. O'Hair: This leads us to a very bad
conclusion though because it is constantly the older folks, whom we cannot
teach, who are teaching the younger
folks. Somehow along the way we must
seize an opportunity. Do you think that
we should reach out only to the young,
or do you think that we should reach out
to the older or the middle-aged?
Mr. T: No, I think we can reach out to
all people. One of the things that I used
to do on my tapes was to recite something
out of John 3:16 or something like that,
and say something, in the manner of a
teacher:

(Here he emphasizes a voice
delivery:)
For God so loved the world,
that he gave his only begotten
Son, that whosoever believeth in
him shall not perish, but shall have
everlasting life.
And then I would say, "Now, come on,
who could buy a package like that?"
M. O'Hair: Well, that is beautiful, Lloyd
Thoren - and I am very happy to have
had you here in our studio today. This
is of Lloyd Thoren, the Chapter Director
of Society of Separationists, Inc. in the
State of Indiana, and an articulate, wise
prophet and Atheist.~
American Atheist

MeToD

Once a Catholic,
now an Atheist
n 1%8, I took off early one gloomy,
rainy morning from Saigon's Tan
Son Nhut Airport. I was en route to
Vientiane, Laos, aboard an ancient,
rickety Royal Air Lao civilian twinengine DC-3. Two stops were to be
made on this early morning "milk run"
- scenic Souvanaket and picturesque
Paksay. At the second stop, after a rather turbulent flight and a jarring landing,
the pilot calmly announced, "Ladies and
Gentlemen, kindly make your way to
the terminal as soon as possible. We are
expecting 'incoming!' "Indeed, "Charlie"
(the endearing term used to refer to the
communist Vietcong) began raining
mortars on the tiny airport.
When everyone had settled into the
terminal, the pilot, obviously nicknamed
"Captain Jack," beckoned me and
Brother Ben (a Jesuit lay priest) to join
him under the cocktail bar. He was sipping a "Bah Moi Bah" (Vietnamese Beer
33) and offered one to me. Then he offered Brother Ben a scotch - the only
thing other than Christian Brothers
Brandy that Brother Ben would drink.
The mortar explosions came closer and
closer to the airport terminal, causing
considerable panic and some screaming
among the people who were taking cover wherever they possibly could. Finally, Captain Jack turned to Brother Ben
and said, "Well, I guess you better start
doing what you do best, Ben." Some of
those within earshot bowed their heads
expecting a prayer - instead, Brother
Ben started to take up a collection!
It was long before 1%8 that I began to
harbor doubts about the religion in
which I was reared. In fact, I can remember having doubts as far back as the
fourth grade. My parents are Roman
Catholic. Mom is so devout that she
makes the pope look like an agnostic!
One September, I was supposed to be
entering the second semester of the
fourth grade in the public school system.
Mom and Dad decided to put me into
Roman Catholic school instead. Since
the Roman Catholic school did not operate with semesters, I was obliged to

I

When asked what he
was giving up for Lent,
this Atheist replied,
"The church."

"Me Too" is a feature designed to
showcase short essays written by
readers in response to topics recently
covered by the American Atheist or of
general interest to the Atheist
community.
Essays submitted to "Me Too" (P. O.
Box 140195, Austin, TX 78714-0195)
should be 650 to 1500 words long.

Austin, Texas

April 1989

effectively repeat the first semester of
the fourth grade for the "privilege" of attending Roman Catholic school. And
this was after I had been skipped a semester in the public school system for
achieving good grades.
The attempted "brainwashing" of this
young boy attending Roman Catholic
school and participating in religious activities as an altar boy was almost complete that year of the fourth grade in
Roman Catholic school. However, my
lingering concerns remained about why
it was necessary to participate in ridiculous rituals, why endless repetitions of
meaningless prayers were necessary,
why the nuns could not answer questions concerning my doubts about the
rituals and the ridiculous stories in the
Bible, and why the alcoholic, possibly
homosexual, priests as well as the nuns
were obliged to be celibate.
Fortunately, after only one year of this
nonsense, my family moved into another school district and I, once again, was
back into the public school system. It
was sometime between this return to
sanity and graduation from the university that Mom asked me, "What are you
going to give up for Lent?" She was not
amused when I replied, "The church!"
While attending the university, I encountered two profoundly powerful
books which caused me to sever all ties
to the dogma of the Roman Catholic
church. These two books were Philip
Wylie's Generation of Vipers and Mark
Twain's Letters from the Earth.
It was at this exact time that Dad inquired, "Why is it that when young people go to college, that's when they begin
to question the religion into which they
were born?" It seemed to me then, and
it still seems to me, that Dad answered
his own question.
In addition, I was beginning to learn
then and continue to learn to this day
that one's belief systems, or the lack
thereof, can pose certain ontological
hazards. Obvious examples come to
mind such as Daniel in the lion's den,
(See "Once a Catholic" on page 60)
Page 57

Letters to the Editor

Prayer, sex, and SAT s

::"A~~,,:;bl
",
"110"".lIl1A

While trying to find something to
watch on television while eating lunch, I
came across a frightening program on a
religious channel. It was about the absence of religion in schools. It used statistics to "prove" that all of the nation's
problems are caused by the absence of
prayer in school. The people on this program cited statistics showing that after
1963 students got lower SAT scores,
contracted more sexually transmitted
diseases, had more teen pregnancies,
and more suicides. Their thesis was that
if one loses religion, one loses morality.
They quoted the Supreme Court as
saying, "Morality comes from Christian
principle." Ironically, they called their
plight a "scary progression" away from
religion and said that theirs is a "battle
dealing with religious freedom." "We are
in a war," they said, "pushing back the
lack of values in the classroom." These
ideas are, of course, nothing new from
the religious community. I, however,
findthem particularly frightening because
people actually passionately believe
them. My fear was strengthened when I
learned the program title: "A Call to
Action."
Regardless of the pessimistic nature
of my letter, I wish you a happy day. I
also want to tell you to take your time
with the magazine. No hurry!

A definite three-year commitment
from 178 families raised the campaign
praise goal of $600,000. The steering
committee is composed of eleven people, most of whom are lawyers. Our
laws are enacted by lawyers who are religionists, so naturally any litigation concerning separation of church and state
will be decided in favor of religion.
I cannot see how the Atheists are going to gain any progress through litigation.
Education is the answer to progress,
and that education must begin at an
early age. Early secular education is being usurped by religion, which is a seed
imbedded like cancer and hard to eradicate.
Atheism, and I mean true Atheism,
can only succeed when people accept
logic and individual thinking.
How many people really think for
themselves? I will also include so-called
Atheists.
Flash the dollar sign in front of them
and their mouths begin to water.
There is very little honesty today. I
personally do not wish any of my hardearned money to be used for litigation,
but rather for education. I am a 100 percent Atheist, and no money could
change my way of thinking for eightyfour years.
Robert Draznik
Arkansas

Derek Robert
Texas

Suggested reading
Education, not litigation
"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 point. Space
limitations allow that each letter
should be three hundred words or,
preferably, less. Please confine your
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Page 58

Quoting the recent letter which I received from the executives and staff of
the American Atheists G.H.Q: "We
must now sadly admit that our nation,
although founded on the principle of
state/church separation, is now one of
the most religious nations on earth."
This statement is also true here in my
hometown of Gamaliel, Arkansas. Incidentally, the very name originated from
the Bible.
Recently a Baptist church was constructed here which cost over $1 million.
April 1989

Enclosed you will find a money order
to renew my membership. I'm sorry to
be sending it a little bit late, but it is due
only to a problem which you are all too
familiar with - shortage of funds.
I really enjoy the magazine. I've never
found any other publication which consistently prints articles that inspire the
human mind to think on such a high,
rational level. It is also refreshing to find
coverage of current events regarding religion that is unbiased. It has been a
pleasure to discover the thoughts of
Atheist pioneers, whom I never would
American Atheist

have even heard of were it not for American Atheists. It is also very encouraging
to know that books by Atheist authors
are actually being printed in our day
when superstition, ignorance, and fear
of thinking is so prevalent.
I would like to suggest an article for
the magazine. Why not introduce the
members, and potential ones, to the
thoughts of Ayn Rand? Her pure logic
invigorates and fills the thinking mind
with courage. Although her philosophy
of objectivism is not exclusively devoted
to Atheism, I believe readers would be
interested in and benefit from her concepts.
Also I must say that the Lonely Atheists columns [in the Insider's Newsletter]
are a great idea. For as I well know, it is
lonelyout there for us who are not afraid
to think.
Keep up the excellent work.
David Conrad
Arizona

The death of Roman Catholicism
"It may be a decade - even two or
three - before the last vestige of Roman
Catholicism is wiped forever from our
culture, but what is to come is inevitable."
Surely, I didn't actually see that in the
American Atheist? (I) But, sure enough,
there it was right there on page 21 of the
December 1988 issue ("The Disaster in
Detroit," News and Comments). You,
of all people, should know better than
that!
The Roman Catholic church has en-

upwardly mobile instead of a priesthood
of poverty - expect to see any or all
changed, rejected, or compromised on
in the near future. Don't, however, expect the Roman Catholic church to give
up without a fight. It will resort to just
about anything to insure its presence
continues in this country. It ain't over
until it's over.
Joe T. Penrod
Nevada
dured for damn near two millennia. It
has fought off and relegated to historical
footnote status dozens of rival Christian
sects. It has survived two devastating
schisms: Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism. It survived the best efforts of
Roman emperor Nero's determination
to eradicate it from Roman culture by
force and violence. Every time this institution has bounced back. To now expect
it to just roll over and die, quietly surrendering the most powerful, most influential nation in the world, is just plain
nuts.
While it is true that this "... church
is an anomaly in our times, [and] its
doctrines fail before the application of
common sense," that can change. Sure,
Pope John Paul II is an atavistic throwback to the Dark Ages, but he is not
going to live forever. The leopard can
always change its spots, as this leopard
has done many times already as circumstances dictated. Nothing is sacred to
the Vatican - except power. Birth control, celibacy, abortion, female priests, a
"yuppie" priesthood to appeal to the

Facing life's problems
I've recently become a "card-carrying"
Atheist, but I have to admit sometimes
I'm at a loss as to how to handle certain
situations. I've read your magazine the
American Atheist for about two years
now, and I really enjoy it. However,
although you attack religion, religionists, and the way they do things, you
don't really give any alternatives.
One problem area is death. I recently
watched a movie about a terminally ill
child. The way the characters in the
movie helped the child face death was to
describe the wonderful place called
heaven. I don't think an Atheist could
use this type of lovely story as explanation to a child, and yet what is the alternative? I feel that a child would have a
very hard time accepting the finality of
death.
Iwould like to see the American Atheist magazine address handling life's
problems from an Atheist's point of
view.
Marie Wood
Ohio

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April 1989

Page 59

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Page 60

A Guide to an Atheist Funeral or Memorial Service: Written beautifully, celebrating reason, oneness with Nature. Send $2.00
to G. Gainer, Box 1104 Spence Station,
Newport, KY 41071.
Bertrand Russell answers the question
Am I an Atheist or an Agnostic? in this 28page booklet. $4.00 ppd. Product #5444.
American Atheist Press, 7215Cameron Rd,
Austin, TX 7ff/52-'NJ3.
About the "Good Book": The short booklet
The Bible Contradicts Itselfby John Bowden
willwean people away from the Bible. 36 pp.
Prod. #5040.$4.00 ppd. AAP., 7215Cameron
Rd, Austin, TX 7ff/52-'NJ3.
Poems by Atheist grandmother Bertha
Goodall. Stapled. 28 pp. Product #5120.
$3.00 ppd, A.A.P., 7215Cameron Rd, Austin,
TX 7ff/52-'NJ3.
April 1989

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Paperback. Product #5328. AAP., 7215
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American Gay Atheists: P. O. Box 66711,
Houston, TX 77266-6711.Serving the Gay &
Lesbian Community. Dial-A-Gay-Atheist,
Houston: (713)880-4242;Dial-A-Gay-Atheist,
New York: (718)899-1W; Dial-A-Gay-Atheist,
Chicago: (312)255-2960.Publishes a monthly
newsletter.
Methods of Moderation and Abstinence:
Atheism's answer to AA faith healing.
Publishers of the world's only monthly
newsletter for Atheist alcoholics and other
addicts and their families and friends. Write:
MOMA, P. O. Box 6120,Denver, CO 802060120.

Once a Catholic
(Continued from page 57)

Joan of Arc, Giordano Bruno, Madalyn
O'Hair, etc.
Also, with regard to ontological hazards, I will never forget a Filipino secretary working in Vietnam during the war
who was riding sidesaddle on the back
of her American boyfriend's motorcycle. As they passed by the beautiful,
red brick Roman Catholic cathedral in
downtown Saigon, Elena released her
right arm to make the sign of the cross
just as her boyfriend John went into a
sharp turn. Elena was thrown off the
bike and obviously shaken. Interestingly enough, she was not thrown off or
shaken from her belief system.
If only Robert G. Ingersoll had been
successful in his fight to free men's
minds from the shackles of ignorance
and religious superstition. If only American Atheists can be successful in their
ongoing battle.
- Gene Johnson
California
American Atheist

suggested

American Atheist
introductory reading list
Literature on Atheism is very hard to find in most public
and university libraries in the United States - and most of
the time when you do find a book catalogued under the
word A theism it is a work against the Atheist position.
Therefore we suggest the following publications which are
available from American Atheist Press as an introduction

. into the multifaceted areas of Atheism and state/church
separation. To achieve the best understanding of thought in
these areas the featured publications should be read in the
order listed. These by no means represent our entire collection of Atheist and separationist materials.

1. Why I Am An Atheist, including a history of materialism, by Madalyn O'Hair. Stapled. 41 pp. Product#5416
..
3.25

14. Atheist Truth vs. Religion s Ghosts by Col. Robert G.
Ingersoll. Stapled. 57 pp. #5156
3.25

2. The Case against Religion: A Psychotherapist
Dr. Albert Ellis. Stapled. 57 pp. #5096

s View by

15. Some Reasons I Am a Freethinker
Ingersoll. Stapled. 37 pp. #5184

by Robert G.
3.00

4.00

3. All the Questions You Ever Wanted to Ask American
Atheists with All of the Answers by Jon Murray and
Madalyn O'Hair. Paperback. 348 pp. #5356
7.00
4. What on Earth Is an Atheist! by Madalyn O'Hair.
Paperback. 288 pp. #5412
6.00
5. An Atheist Speaks by Madalyn O'Hair. Paperback. 321
pp. #5098.
6.00
6. All about Atheists by Madalyn O'Hair. Paperback. 407
pp. #5097
6.00
7. Ingersoll the Magnificent by Joseph Lewis. Paperback.
342 pp. #5216
8.00
8. Essays on American Atheism, vol. I by Jon G. Murray.
Paperback. 349 pp. #5349
9.50
9. Essays on American Atheism, vol. II by Jon G. Murray. Paperback. 284 pp. #5350
7.50
10. Essays in Freethinking, vol. I by Chapman Cohen.
Paperback. 229 pp. #5052
7.00

16. Our Constitution - The Way It Was by Madalyn
O'Hair. Stapled. 70 pp. #5400
3.00
17. American Atheist Heritage: Jefferson, Franklin,
Lincoln, and Burbank by Joseph Lewis. Stapled. 56 pp.
#5212
4.00
18. Fourteen Leading Cases on Education, Religion, and
Financing Schools. Paperback. 273 pp. #5500
5.00
19. Sex Mythology
#5440

by Sha Rocco.

Stapled.

55 pp.
3.00

20. Women and Atheism, The Ultimate Liberation by
Madalyn O'Hair. Stapled. 21 pp. #5420
2.50
2l. Christianity Before Christ by John G. Jackson.
Paperback. 237 pp. #5200
7.00
22. The Bible Handbook (All the contradictions, absurdities,
and atrocities from the Bible) by G.W. Foote, W.P.
Ball, John Bowden, and Richard M. Smith. Paperback.
372 pp. #5008
7.00
23. The X- Rated Bible by Ben Edward Akerley. Paperback.
428 pp. #5000
8.00

11. Essays in Freethinking, vol. II by Chapman Cohen.
Paperback. 240 pp. #5056
7.00
12. Life Story of August Comte by F. J. Gould. Paperback.
179 pp. #5132
5.00
13. The Logic and Virtue of Atheism by Joseph McCabe.
Stapled. 58 pp. #5280
3.00

All of the above publications are available at a special set
price of $100.00 - a savings of $25 off the single issue price.
Postage and handling is $1.50 for orders under $20.00;
$2.50 for orders over $20.00. Texas residents please add 7%
percent sales tax.

American Atheist Press, P.O. Box 140195,
Austin, TX 78714-0195

"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that
act of the whole American people which declared
that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the
free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State."
- Thomas Jefferson
Letter to Messrs. Nehemiah Dodge and Others,
a Committee of the Danbury Baptist Association,
in the State of Connecticut
January 1, 1802