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

September 1986

Vol 28, No.9

American Atheist
A Journal

of Atheist

Editor's Desk
R. Murray-O'Hair

Director's Briefcase.
Jon G. Murray

News and Thought


Divine Discontent
John M. Allegro
Were religious rituals primitive man's
Valium? Was the origin of religion
simply a defense mechanism to keep
anxieties under control?

Mr. Murray suggests that "Burger & the

Bicentennial Commission" may be up
to no good for the nation. It's a shocking
theory that he proposes.

American Atheist Radio Series

Madalyn O'Hair
"Protestant Religion and Medicine," a
combustible meeting if ever there was

Ask A.A.
A foreign reader asking about the basics
of American Atheism triggers a full leeture, and a domestic reader who wishes
to see Chapter newsletters finds fundamental theories under it all.




.Nature's Way
Gerald Tholen


From Plato to Reagan:

Just a Little Old-Time Religion
Joe David

There's less to the Bible than meets the

eye according to "Of Men and Manuscripts."

It's not lack of religion that is ruining our

schools, it is too much of the religious
basics doing the damage.


News and Comments

A Banner Day for God - A Califor-




Press Conference
Brian Lynch


Mr. Lynch demonstrates

against 'Sanctuary.' "

nia youth and his father wouldn't stand

for being prayed over at graduation
excercises. - 10
Colorado Atheists on the March - A
review of the manyfold activities of the
Colorado Chapter of American Atheists during the first half of 1986. - 21

"The Case

Me Too


Letters to the Editor


Classified Advertisements


Cover Art by Christopher Dunne


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

Austin, Texas

September 1986

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EDITOR'S DESK / R. Murray-O'Hair

rayers at graduations, town meetings,
and football games; god on our currency and in our national motto; religious
emblems on city and county seals; creches
on public property; "Noels" strung across
city streets - all things activist, militant
Atheists have complained about and challenged in the courts and in public forums.
And all things theists and closet Atheists
have called "too trivial" for First Amendment advocates to fight.
The legal implications of such activities
are clear. The simplistic argument that
because "In God We Trust" is on our coins
the United States is a Christian nation has
been used too often in court decisions for
them not to be compelling symbols. But the
layperson either ignores or is ignorant of
such consequences of "secular religion."
But there is another, more insidious consequence of this "trivial" intrusion of the
religious into the public arena. That is the
exclusion of the Atheist from our culture.
The Atheist must remain the outsider while
symbolic affirmations of life, of Americana,
and of our culture transpire. While graduates are honored, the Atheist parent or student is made the freak. When collections of
citizens gather for their common good, the
Atheist is reminded of his or her "outsiderness." At a time of the year when all people
celebrate and come together for good cheer,
the Atheist's participation is mocked and
discouraged by religious intrusions into public life. Through these seemingly "trivial"
reaffirmations of theism, the Atheist is
denied full participation in our culture. The
Atheist is stripped of role models and
refused acceptance.
Other abused minorities have learned the
importance of symbolism. Remember when
all children played with white dolls? When all
leaders were referred to in the masculine
case? The message to Blacks and their
children in the toy store was clear enough: If
you were Black, you were not truly part of
the culture. The message to women was
plain and simple: Females are followers.
And the message to Atheists when confronted with public acceptances of religion
should be clear enough: Ifyou do not believe
in ghosts and goblins, you are not quite right.
Take graduations, for example. The
community gathers at graduations to honor
young persons who have completed a
course of study and to welcome them into a

September 1986

new status, that of adulthood. It is a time for

the young to celebrate as a group. It is an
opportunity for each graduate to be singled
out, congratulated, and rewarded for his or
her work. The graduation is, in its nature, a
communal event. But when the graduation
is begun with a prayer, the Atheist graduate
is excluded from that group celebration. He
or she sits while the others stand to pray.
The Atheist is silently being told that
whether he or she is an honor student or an
athletic star or "Joe Average," he or she is
not really part of that graduating class.
In this issue, we feature news concerning
one Atheist parent who was not about to
have his son told that. James Brodhead, a
former American Atheist columnist ("The
Atheist at the Breakfast Table"), had seen
one son insulted at his graduation. When the
time came for his second son to leave high
school, he started a fight to ensure that the
communal event of graduation would include Atheists by excluding prayer.
The theists of Brodhead's area battled
tooth and nail for the graduation prayer.
That in itself should give pause to those who
consider the fight against "secular religion"
so trivial. One would think that if prayer at
graduation was indeed so meaningless, the
Christians and other theists of the community would not fight its removal. If one
doubts the legal or ethical arguments for not
intruding prayer into the graduation exercises, one should consider why the theists
feel so strongly about including it.
Brodhead's struggle did not occur in one
of those areas usually called the "Bible Belt."
This battle was in an allegedly liberal and
enlightened area, where anything goes:
Brodhead's was not the first such fight by
an American Atheist; we doubt that it willbe
the last.

Sometimes theists try to paint us Atheists

as joyless logicians who, having opted out of
religion, have opted out of emotion. But
anyone who has attended an old-fashioned
Chapter solstice or equinox party knows
better than that.
Those of you who willbe out doing a little
joy-raising this month willwant to note that
this year's autumnal equinox is on September 23 at 2:59 A.M. (CST).

American Atheist



June 17 of this year Chief Justice
Burger announced his retire-

ment from the Supreme Court of the United

States to work full-time as the chairman of
the Commission on the Bicentennial of the
U_S. Constitution. I watched on television,
along with millions of other Americans, the
press conference at which he made that
announcement. I am sure that I am not the
only one who wondered why someone
would step down from a position as important and nationally impactful as that of chief
justice of the Supreme Court just to chair a
presidential commission and then be out of
work as soon as the Constitution's bicentennial year was over. The timing of his decision could not have been worse, either,
because it gave Reagan a golden opportunity to reshape the Supreme Court before
leaving office in 1988.Ithought to myself that
there had to be a payoff for Burger somehow
or that all of this had to have been in the
works behind closed doors in the White
House and the Justice Department for some
time now. Burger could not have just gotten
out of bed that morning, looked into the
mirror, and said to himself, "I'm stepping
down as chief justice."
Who Are They?
My inquisitive nature took over, and I
tried to find out what I could about this
Bicentennial Commission from the large
clipping files that we maintain here at The
American Atheist Center _I was surprised at
how little has actually been made public
about it. The Commission was constituted
by an act of Congress in July of 1985. Its
purpose was "to inform the public about the
Constitution and its importance in securing
basic freedoms," according to all the major
wire services. Congress gave the Commission an initial appropriation of $300,000 to
$331,000, varying according to which press
source you care to read. The Commission is
composed of twenty-three commissioners in
all. I could not determine who all of them
were from press accounts, so I had to send
an American Atheist Center staff member
down to the federal depository library to
look them up. The following is a complete

Austin, Texas

(1) Chief Justice Warren E. Burger,

(2) Joseph Phalen, director, Bicentennial
Commission on the U.S. Constitution;
works for the National Endowment for the
Appointed by Reagan, 06/26/86:
(3) Frederick E. Biebel, a Connecticut
Gap leader
(4) Betty Southard Murphy, a Washington, D.C., attorney; J.D., American University, 1958; Episcopalian
(5) Phyllis Schlafly, conservative cause
(6) Bernard Siegen, law professor at the
University of San Diego; J.D., University of
Chicago, 1946-47
(7) Ronald H. Walker, White House aide;
assistant secretary of the Interior, 1969-70;
staff assistant to the president, 1970-72;special assistant to the president, 1972-73;
director, National Park Service, 1973-75;
B.A., University of Arizona, 1960;Methodist
(8) Charles Allen Wright, law professor at
The University of Texas at Austin; LL.B.,
Yale, 1949; prolific legal author with eleven
books on jurisprudence
Appointed by Burger, 06/26/86:
(9) Herbert Brownell, former U.S_ Attorney General, 1953-57; LL.B. and LL.D.,
Yale, 1927; Methodist
(10) Cornelia G. Kennedy, U.S. District
Court judge for the Eastern District of Michigan, Detroit, 1970-79; chief judge of that
court, 1977-79;appointed circuit judge, U.S.
Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, 1979;
J.D., University of Michigan, 1945
(11) Obert C. Tanner, founder and chairman of O.C. Tanner & Co. of Utah (O.C.
Tanner & Co. manufactures emblematic
jewelry and award products.)
(12) Charles Wiggins, served as U.S.
Congressman in the 90th through 94th
Congresses, representing 25th district of
California; member, 95th Congress, representing 39th district of California; former
councilman and then mayor of El Monte,
California, 1960-66; B.S., LL.B., University
of Southern California; Reagan appointee to
the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in
October 1984
Appointed by the Senate, 06/26/86:
(13) Harry Lightsey, Jr., dean, University

September 1986

of South Carolina Law School

(14) Edward Pierpoint Morgan, Washington, D.C., attorney; LL.B., 1939, and LL.M_,
1943, Georgetown University; FBI inspector, 1939-47; author of the official report on
the Pearl Harbor disaster for a congressional investigatory committee in 1946
(15) Senator Ted Stevens, R-Alaska
Appointed by the House, 06/26/86:
(16) Lynn Ann Vincent Cheney, senior
editor at Washingtonian Magazine, described by itself as "a monthly lifestyle magazine directed to the residents of the Distict
of Columbia and the surrounding Maryland
and northern Virginia suburbs. It contains
articles and guides on the best entertainment, restaurants, shopping, and things to
do in the area. Major feature articles deal
with social, political, and community issues
that affect Washington - and oftentimes
the nation as a whole."
(17) Representative Philip M. Crane,
(18) Thomas O'Connor, history professor
at Boston College
Appointed by Reagan:
(19) Senator Edward M. Kennedy, DMassachusetts (appointed 07/26/85)
(20) William J. Lucas, chairman of the
County Commissioners of Wayne Co.,
Michigan (Wayne Co. encompasses metro
Detroit and most of its suburbs); Mr. Lucas
is an aspirant for governor of Michigan on
the Republican ticket (appointed 09/09/85)
(21) William J. Green, member ofthe 88th
through 94th Congresses from the 3rd district of Pennsylvania; mayor of Philadelphia,
1980-84; Democrat (appointed 09/85)
(22) Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
(23) Senator Strom Thurmond, R-South
In addition to these twenty-three commissioners, I was able to uncover the identities
of two staff personnel of the Commission.
The staff director is Mark W. Cannon, who
has been Chief Justice Burger's administrative assistant at the Supreme Court since
1973. He was appointed to his Commission
post in August of 1985_The Commission's
media specialist is Gene Mater, who is the
former vice-president of CBS_ He was hired
onto the Commission in the second week of
January of this year. Not many of the per-

Page 3

sons named above are noted as being great,

liberal thinkers. With the exception of Senator Kennedy, they read like a Who's Who of
conservative mainline America. Needless to
say, there are not any Atheists in the ranks,
and only two Democrats. Some of them are
relatively unknown, so I could only provide
what information I could easily obtain about
I must digress here for a moment to say
that on numerous occasions over the past
ten years American Atheists has attempted
to gain permission to testify before congressional committees that have been deliberating on various state/church separation
issues. We have been turned down more
often than the beds in a brothel. Congressional staff personnel will simply not allow
any significantly opposing viewpoint to be
represented at a committee hearing on a
given subject. Opposition to the prevailing
view on the subject under consideration
must be toned down, soft-pedaled, establishment opposition, in keeping with the dignity of Congress, of course! We saw this
selection process at work with the Meese
Commission on Pornography, and I have no
reason to believe that the process has
changed with the Commission on the

which will back any interpretation of the

Constitution Burger cares to make; the
National Endowment for the Humanities,
which can be counted on to fund almost any
program the Commission desires; the National Park Service, which will give permission to use federal land on which any kind of
rally or religious ceremony can be held
(shades of the pope!); the Smithsonian Institution, which will provide the historical
paraphernalia or documentation to back up
any Commission pronouncements, accurate or not; and the Daughters of the American Revolution. The latter was of the most
interest to me because they proposed producing lapel pins, place cards, candy dishes,
and commemorative medals for the bicentennial and asking ministers to celebrate the
Sabbath with the Pledge of Allegiance,
patriotic music, and sermons about the
importance of the Constitution. This came
as no shock, however, since my family has
six confirmed veterans of the Revolutionary
War (with only one being the membership
requirement), and yet the Daughters of the
American Revolution have denied membership to my mother, Dr. Madalyn O'Hair,
because of her Atheism.

What Are They Doing?

It was at the time of this first public meeting that the Commission made its first report
to Reagan and Congress which consisted
essentially of begging for more money. The
Commission asked for authority to issue
commemorative coins and medals to raise
funds and to raise the ceiling on taxdeductible donations to itself from $25,000 a
year to $250,000 a year for individuals and to
$1 million a year for businesses. In view of
the "privatization" of the Statue of Liberty
celebration, this is ominous. The Commission proposed that the bicentennial be celebrated over a three-year period beginning in
1987, to mark 1787 as the year of the writing
of the Constitution, 1788 as the year of its
ratification by the states, and 1789 as the
year of the establishment of our federal
government. The Commission also proposed that a onetime national holiday be
enacted by Congress on September 17,
1987, called "Constitution Day," since the
Constitution was signed on September 17,
It was not until the congressional Christmas recess of December 1985 that Congress finally voted $12 million in funding for
the Bicentennial Commission of the $20 million the Commission had sought in September of that year.
The fourth meeting of the Commission
was held February 2 and 3 of this year at the
University of San Diego. It was open to the
public, and those commissioners who did
attend heard five hours of testimony on how
to celebrate the bicentennial. Following that

The first meeting of the Commission was

held at the Supreme Court building in
Washington, D.C., on July 29 and 30, 1985,
and was closed to the public. The second
meeting was held on August 22, 1985, in Salt
Lake City, Utah, that seat of liberalism and
religious neutrality, and was, as the first
meeting, closed to the public. Naturally, the
media was immediately up in arms about the
first two meetings of a commission on the
Constitution having closed-door meetings
on how to celebrate the bicentennial of the
very document that champions free speech
and freedom of the press. Chief Justice
Burger confronted the media in Salt Lake
City on August 24, 1985, and cited "historical precedent" as the reason for the closeddoor sessions. He said, "We're following the
precedent of the original meeting of the
Constitutional Convention in 1787. They
even boarded up the windows in the hall to
discourage eavesdroppers. Our meetings
are entirely consistent with how the constitution was drafted" (San Diego Union, 24
August 1985).
The first public meeting of the Commission, which was actually its third meeting,
was not held until September 16, 1985, at the
conference room of the Supreme Court
building. In attendance besides the commissioners were representatives of twenty
organizations which had plans to participate
in the bicentennial in some way. Among
them were the American Bar Association,

Page 4

What Will It Cost?

September 1986

February 1986 meeting, I can find no substantive press coverage on the Commission
until Chief Justice Burger made his retirement announcement on June 17 of this year.
Then suddenly the media was interested in
the Commission once again.
What's It All About?
Does it not strike you as a little odd that
the public knows so little about this Commission that has been assigned the task of
informing the public about the Constitution?
I have gleaned what little information I have
presented about the Commission thus far
from reading stacks of newspaper clippings
from major dailies around the country. Most
of you willonly know about what had transpired if you live in one of the cities in which
the Commission held one of its meetings.
Otherwise, you may have seen nothing at all
in your local papers about it or its activities.
Could it be that those on the Commission
really don't want rank and file Americans to
know all that much about the Constitution?
I, for one, am suspect.
After reading what I could about the
Commission, I started to correlate that
against other events of the same time period
while asking the question, "Why would a
Commission that is only on the surface in
existence to celebrate the writing of the
Constitution need to have the chief justice of
the Supreme Court as chairman?" and I
came up with a frightening theory. While this
Commission is getting geared up for its
campaign, the White House and the Justice
Department are setting up the ideological
underpinnings for an attempted overthrow
of the American republic as post-Civil War
generations have known it. The Commission may be an integral part of their scheme,
perhaps as a diversion.
At this point I can hear you say, "Jon
Murray has finally lost his mind!" Not so.
Hold on to your hats while I demonstrate
what I mean.
In July of 1985, during the same month
that Congress and Reagan were setting up
the Bicentennial Commission, Attorney
General Meese gave a very important
speech to the American Bar Association
annual convention. It was a speech that will
go down in history as being of equal importance as the "Iron Curtain" speech of Sir
Winston Churchill. Meese's speech contained such radical departures from established legal precedent that two Supreme
Court justices spoke out against it directly.
What he did in his speech to the Bar Association was to publicly announce the plans of
the conservative movement in this country
to challenge the basic way in which our
government now functions. We have all
been privy to the actions of the Reagan
administration, backed by the Fundamentalists, in the areas of school prayer, abortion,

American Atheist

affirmative action, foreign policy, and the

like. But for the first time Meese publicly let
the cat out of the bag that what the conservatives have in mind is something far more
sweeping and fundamental than just brief
skirmishes over particular social issues.
These little battles have just been political
smoke screens to draw public attention
away from the real goal, which is the fundamental reorganization of government.
Original Intent
The main thrust of Meese's remarks to
the Bar Association was that the Bill of
Rights should not be applied to the States.
He wants the entire judicial system to "go
back to basic principles." What he means by
that is what he calls "Jurisprudence of Original Intention," a jurisprudence based on
what he and his conservative think tank colleagues deem to be the correct interpretation of the collective thinking of the Founding Fathers. He put his goal quite simply:
"We will endeavor to resurrect the original
meaning of constitutional provisions and
statutes as the only reliable guide for
Again I hear you say, "So, we have heard
that from the conservatives before." Yes,
you have, but you have not heard that from
conservatives who have held the White
House for two terms with a president who
has appointed over half of the federal judiciary and is now reshaping the Supreme
Court, a conservative force that is now in
control of the U_S. Senate and a growing
number of state executive offices.
States' Rights vs. Federalism
A little history lesson is needed here to put
Meese's remarks before the ABA in perspective. Since the formation of our Constitution, there has been a constant struggle
between the advocates of a strong, central
federal government and those who advocate
states' rights with loose or no federal controls. This dichotomy of ideas so divided our
nation that a war had to be fought over it.
We have the style of federal government
that we have today because those who
advocated a strong, central federal government won a physical, military victory over
the states' rights advocates after being
unable to settle the argument intellectually.
Shortly after that war, President Lincoln
sponsored the Fourteenth Amendment to
the Constitution, which contained the following "offensive" portion for which the
states' rightists have never forgiven him:
"No State shall make or enforce any law
which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall
any State deprive any person of life, liberty,
or property, without due process of law; nor
deny to any person within its jurisdiction the

Austin, Texas

equal protection of the laws" (Amendment

XIV, ratified July 9, 1868). It is from that
Fourteenth Amendment that many of the
decisions of the Warren Court of the 1960s
came, those decisions that the conservatives wish most to overturn. Those were
decisions such as Gideon v. Wainwright
(372 US 335, 1963), which guaranteed counsel to indigent defendants; Murray v. Curlett
(374 US 203, 1963), which removed mandatory Bible reading and prayer recitation from
public schools; New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (376 US 254, 1964), which established
"free speech" as a determining factor in libel
suits; and Miranda v. Arizona (384 US 436,
1966), which established basic rights for
those charged with a crime. None of these
landmark decisions on key civilrights issues
would have been possible without the Fourteenth Amendment making them applicable
to the states. Through this amendment and
other legislation, the North had imposed its
more liberal "city" views over the more conservative "country" views of the South. The
South, states' rights advocates, and conservatives have been angry about that ever
The Plot Thickens
This new Republicanism that started with
Lincoln and the founding of the Democratic
party and that is embodied in the due process and equal protection clauses of the
Fourteenth Amendment must be overturned by the Reagan conservatives if they
are to succeed in taking over the country.
The philosophical underpinnings of Republicanism on which the civilrights movement
has been based and which is the only hope of
minorities must be discredited and overthrown in order for the conservative forces
to take control.
The game plan is for conservatives to
implant their ideals into the judiciary where
they cannot become subject to vote. That
would put minorities and civil liberties
groups (which have traditionally turned to
the courts as a means of maintaining their
rights) out in the cold. Evangelist and presidential contender Pat Robertson has been
remarking now for some time along with his
conservative associates that the Supreme
Court, and the federal judiciary in general,
has been "legislating." He is correct in that
minorities have traditionally found it impossible to successfully influence legislative or
executive branches because they lack funding and numbers in coordinated voting
blocs. The only "legislature" to which they
have been able to turn has been the federal
judiciary. With this outlet for redress of grievances cut off, the conservatives can easily
muscle their social issue agenda on unwilling
minorities, such as the Gays in the recent
sodomy decision.
The next step is to take over the legislative

September 1986

branch while maintaining a hold on the

executive. The Democratic party is splintered and uncoordinated going into the
upcoming election year. It is traditionally
underfunded and has no "populist" candidate to offer. The conservatives have scores
of them, funding, and paramilitary organizetion. The political coherence of the conservative movement in this country is at a peak
with a legal establishment network of think
tanks centered close to the nation's capitol.
Once the judiciary is wrapped up, capturing
the legislative and executive branches willbe
a piece of cake.
Meese and his conservative colleagues
base their jurisprudence of original intent on
the supposition that the Founding Fathers
are to be regarded as "gods" of a sort,
superhuman beings who had some kind of
mystic insight into the future and whose
founding wisdom makes up eternal guidelines that cannot be altered by future events.
They perceive our Constitution as an immutable canon in a conservative theology. With
the Founders no longer with us, someone
must interpret their wisdom in terms of
modern day events, and the conservatives
are here to do so, assuming for all practical
purposes the role of the clergy in Roman
Catholicism. They are setting themselves up
as a kind of constitutional clergy that can
impart the true wisdom of the founders to
the laity.
Back To God And The Bible
Does this sound a bit familiar? It should.
The basic concept of Christianity is the
immutable nature of god's word as presented to man through his son, Jesus Christ.
The entire history of Christianity has been
the act of generations of adherents attempting to interpret this original wisdom of god
rendered by Christ in terms of day-to-day life
in each age. The Bible is the word, and in it
we can find all the guidance we need by
simply interpreting the words of Christ in
terms of modern developments, according
to the theologians of all major denominations.
We have, in the conservative assault on
the judiciary, the same pattern. The Founding Fathers are the speakers of "The Word,"
and that word is forever and is to be taken
literally and cannot be altered, but may only
be interpreted in terms of its meaning in
relation to modern events. The Founding
Fathers were spiritually endowed somehow,
making them like Christ and his disciples.
We even had thirteen colonies which represented Christ and his twelve disciples, and
this continent, as Reagan has repeatedly
pointed out, was placed in its geographical
location by divine providence so that the
Puritans could find it.
Can it be possible that we have a conservative administration that is made up of per-


sons who really believe in the divine origins

of this nation and that we must return to the
original word of our founders, who were
inspired by a god? I fear so. It is now becoming abundantly clear to me that seeing the
Soviets as an "evil empire," states' rights as
"modern barbarity," reproductive rights as
"murder," and free speech, press, and
assembly as "blasphemy" by conservative
leaders is no coincidence. What we have
here is a clear and present attempt to restructure our civil law after biblical law.
Presidential candidate Pat Robertson, in a
recent interview with The Washington Post,
. I don't think the Congress of the United States is subservient to the courts.
... They can ignore a Supreme Court
ruling if they so choose, . . . A
Supreme Court ruling is not the law of
the United States. The law of the United States is the Constitution and laws
duly enacted by the Congress and
signed by the president. And any of
those things I would uphold totally
with all my strength, whether I agreed
with them or not (Greeley [CO] Tribune, 28 June 1986).
Consider this. What is the difference between those two statements by Robertson
and the historically consistent Judeo-Christian position that the laws of man are subservient to the laws of God? The law for a
Christian is the law of god, duly ordained (or
enacted) by god and handed down by
Christ, his son, to be obeyed without question, whether the individual Christian agrees
with them or not.
A Christian Republic?
What we have going on in this country is
the attempt to establish a Christian republic
based on biblical precepts. We are well on
our way toward this concept, and those who
may be in opposition simply have failed to
understand what is happening. One cannot
posit god as the ultimate authority and then
establish a secular government with a secular constitution and have those two ideologies coexist. Either the word of god is preeminent and you go with it, or it must be thrown
aside in favor of the rule of man - both
cannot be true. Our Constitution can either
be viewed as divinely inspired or as the work
of men and thus a work that can be
reworked in terms of modern fact situations.
If it is gospel, then it would make sense to
strip away all amendments to the "original"
where mere morals have defiled it, would it
not? Those amendments would have been
heresy - including the First Amendment.
Now let's review what we have. Only two
processes for change in our Constitution
were included in the pre-amendment docu-

Page 6

ment. The first is passage of amendments by

Congress and then ratification by threefourths of the state legislatures. That route
has been used twenty-six times. The other
process allows for two-thirds of the state
legislatures to call upon Congress to convene a Constitutional Convention. That
option has never been used successfully.
With fifty states now in the Union, the
required two-thirds of the legislatures would
be thirty-four. In the last eight years, thirtytwo states have issued such a convention
call to Congress to enact an amendment
requiring a balanced budget. That means
only two more are needed to call the first
constitutional convention since the one that
drafted the document itself. The GrammRudman balanced budget act has just been
shot down by the Supreme Court, with
Chief Justice Burger conveniently remaining on the Court long enough to cast the
tie-breaking vote on that issue. This puts the
state legislators, who have been desirous of
a balanced budget act or amendment, in the
position of needing to come up with only two
more states to call a constitutional convention for that purpose. The Constitution
prescribes no guidelines for a constitutional
convention. Ifone is convened, who is to say
that the purpose of the convention shall be
limited to balancing the budget? The entire
Constitution and all the amendments could
be up for grabs. Then there is the issue of
delegate selection. The Constitution offers
no help in that area, either. Who would the
delegates be? What would be the selection
process, as none is prescribed? How convenient would it be if the Commission on the
Bicentennial of the Constitution could simply "enter stage right," having already met
twice, in secret, and present the draft of a
new Constitution already prepared? How
does anyone know what transpired at those
closed-door meetings? Would we end up
with a group of persons such as some of
those on the Commission, Phyllis Schlafly,
for example, presenting a constitutional
convention with an already laid out Christian Constitution? Could that be an underlying reason for the existence of a Constitutional Commission, and the celebration of
the bicentennial just a front? Our Constitu-

tion was drafted in 1787 by thirty-eight delegates plus George Washington, which
makes thirty-nine. With twenty-three members on the Constitutional Commission
already and plus, say, the president, vice
president, and the Cabinet, we would be up
to the required count to keep a constitutional convention in line with "historical
in the words of Burger.
(Twenty-three Commission members, fourteen Cabinet members, the president, and
the vice president comes to thirty-nine.
God, working in mysterious ways, started
our nation with 39 men and may just end the
republic with that same number - 39.)
No, Thanks!
These are sobering prospects that I think
all of us as Atheists have to keep in mind and
follow very closely with an inquisitive mind. I
am not a conspiracy buff, and I think that the
Mae Russell mentality is way out in left field,
but I have come to an understanding of the
extent to which the religious mind will go.
Symbolism and magic numbers have played
a traditionally powerful role in the motivation of Christian groups. The right-wing religious zanies in our country are capable of
just about anything for what they perceive as
direction from their "god." We may never
make it to the 1988 elections. Ifwe do, I think
that we need an Atheist candidate for that
race. The Democrats are finished, and their
cowardice-inspired mediocrity will prevent
them from backing a candidate who is sufficiently distinct from the Republicans to provide the needed polarization to defeat the
rightists. Perhaps nothing willcome of all of
these "coincidences,"
but perhaps we
should keep our bags packed, wallets out, or
our guns loaded, depending on one's point
of view, just in case. ~
A second generation Atheist,
Mr. Murray has been the Director
of The American Atheist Center
for ten years and is also the Managing
Editor of the American Atheist. He
advocates "Aggressive Atheism."

"Just between 40u and me ... I don't trust the gU4 ... he's olwous reading
something. "
September 1986

American Atheist


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.

rallaws of the earth, but it is best to work

toward attaining that knowledge than it is to
sit back and say, "God does it," which is no
answer at all.
(2) American Atheists, the organization,
does not engage in debate with religious
persons for the simple reason that the
debate is always on their playing field, the
Thank you for your letter which Ireceived
rules of the game are theirs, and the tenets
shortly. Iam very grateful for the pamphlets
which are debated are those which reinalso. Never on earth did Icome across such force religion. All such debates do is to help
first-class and daring articles. Iwould very to reinforce religion as it attempts to meet
much like to be a member but financially I the challenges against its doctrines. Generam not well-off to subscribe to your daring ally the method is to reinterpret the doctrine
and intelligent magazine.
so that it will be more acceptable to a new
Please do clarify a few points which Ihave age. American Atheists is more interested in
listed below. Idon't understand your setup.
reinforcing the many, many positive aspects
(1) Do you believe that a Supreme Being
of living in the real world. It has also been
exists and that he controls the laws of earth?
interested in building a base so that it will
(2) Why is an organization like yours being
have a foothold in American culture for the
set up? Do you combat religions, e.g., by future. That has been attained in just
holding debates and lectures against reli- twenty-three years, and American Atheists
gions and about religions?
is now an institution which is here to stay.
(3) American Atheists is based in the Unit(3) Your organization, it seems to me, is
ed States which is, overwhelmingly, a
more like an anti-church or anti-Christian
organization. None of your articles, books is Judeo-Christian nation. In fact, the fundamentalists of that religion are going ahead
written against other religions. Why?
with an attempt to take over the political
(4) Do you believe in "inspiration," that
men from time to time and from nation to system of this nation during the upcoming
nation are inspired to teach good things presidential elections in 1988.
(4) Inspiration is ninety-nine percent
about life and also taught to believe in the
perspiration. There is not a manifestation of
existence of the Supreme Being?
(5) I quote this from a theist: "Many ideas divinity which occurs now and then in any
have come and gone since men had knowl- culture. As the world continues to expand
edge. At one time many people believed that
its information and knowledge and as more
the earth was flat, but now they are proven
and more persons become more and more
wrong. Likewise the idea of theism (belief in educated, there will be more who see the
God) existed very, very long ago and the inequities in any given system and attempt
idea still prevails and the trend shows it will to ameliorate the condition of humankind.
prevail still. Atheism is a recent idea which
Those persons who do so do not necessarily
will not prevail for long, because Atheism
need to predicate their love of justice on
cannot prove or provide a solution for mod- acceptance of the idea of a "supreme
ern man's problems which are spiritual. being." Instead, they will base it on theories
Atheism is more towards materialistic; it of equal justice, equal opportunity, and the
demands reasons and proofs. It cannot pro- greatest good for the greatest number.
vide answers for many unexplained things."
(5) The quote from the theist is simply a
Please comment.
tongue-in-cheek rationalization in support
of theism. A similar argument could be used
M. A. Sahol for slaverY, war, sexism, racism - the other
evils of the world. Our world is filled with
new and exciting ideas concerned with solutions for modern man's problems, and they
(1) As individuals, American Atheists
have no belief systems at all. We do not, for are eueryumere around us. The world is
example, "believe" in science. We see that fully aware now that hunger can no longer
science is a method of accumulating knowlbe tolerated. The health care for eueryone is
edge about the physical world so that we necessary. It is apparent even to a theist
can base our judgments upon the use of that that free universal education is a needed
information. So, we "do not believe" in any- major step forward - that illiteracy, for
thing at all. We are of the considered opin- example, should and must be erased.
ion that there is no supreme being existing
Praying to god for these goals willeffectuanywhere, now or at any time in the past.
ate nothing; only an analysis of our probWe do not as yet understand all of the natu- lems and a deliberate move toward their

Austin, Texas

September 1986

solutions willsuffice. Man is the answer, not


As a twenty-year-old active and concerned life member of American Atheists, I

believe I have an idea that could possibly
help strengthen membership and involvement in all state chapters.
The American Atheist magazine should
dedicate a page, perhaps alongside the DialAn-Atheist column, a section listing the
address of each state chapter. Then, new
members could immediately receive their
local chapter's, or even other, or all, state
chapters' newsletters.
John F. Oddi
All new members have included in their
"new membership kits" the address and telephone number through which the local
Chapter can be reached. Therefore, if there
is a Chapter in your area, you know about it
- having been informed by National. Also,
when one originally inquires for information
about the organization, one receives a list of
all Chapter addresses.
But let us have a few words about asking
Chapters outside of one's area to send one
Local Chapters really don't want to service people outside their area; they do not
have budget enough to send their Chapter
newsletter throughout the land. The Chapters focus on state/church separation issues in their geographical limits.
Most Chapters have a local membership
fee in addition to national membership. National membership is a requirement for any
local membership, and this has to do with
complicated I.R.S. regulations so that all
contributions to either the Chapters or
National can be tax-exempt.
Usually Chapters are financially overburdened attempting to take care of their
own local members. Each Chapter is also
required to send a copy of its monthly newsletter to all other Chapters - so information generally concerning what other Chapters are doing is available to you if you are
attending your own Chapter meetings.
In case you are unaware, unemployment
rolls are mounting; Chapter Eleven bankruptcies are rife; massive lay-offs in manufacturing are reported in everY state; the
economy has slowed to an insignificant
growth rate; and, consequently, the Chapters are having difficulty obtaining the finances which are needed to operate. So, as
you know, does National.

Page 7

Joe David


[PJermitting prayer

in public class-

rooms would be "welcoming God back

in our schools."
President Ronald Reagan

Chicago Tribune
March 3, 1983
faced currently in educaThetionproblems
are not because god was removed

from the public schools, but because god

entered them,
I know it's fashionable to refer to the
Supreme Court's ruling of some twenty
years ago against prayer in the schools as
the cause for the demise of public education,
but the truth is, that decision had little, if
anything, to do with the deterioration of our
The problems began much earlier; they
began when thinkers like Plato and his
admirers took over the schools. The crafty
injection (implied or stated) of the concept of
a super being into the curricula has been the
primary cause of the deterioration of scholarly learning.
As far back as recorded history, such
thinkers have been waging a lifeor death war
against reason. By educating people to
doubt their perception and to accept god on
faith, they have attempted to prove that the
senses are useless and true knowledge can
only come from within. In Meno, for example, Plato elaborates on this argument by
giving the example of an uneducated slave
boy who never was taught and, for that reason, wasn't even aware that he knew a theorem in geometry which Plato was able to
educe from him. Plato concludes from this
that the boy learned it (and forgot at birth he
had learned it) during his previous lifeamong
ideal forms. Coming-to-know, according to
Plato, is the process of remembering what
one has forgotten in another life (anamnesis).
Immanuel Kant continues this type of Platonic reasoning with his dichotomy, a priori
experiences (knowledge that is prior to
experience) and a posteriori experiences
(knowledge that is derived from the senses).
In the Critique Kant tries to prove that true
knowledge isn't derived from external sensations (a posteriori), which bombard us in
disorderly multitudes, but it is, instead,

Page 8

derived from a priori experiences, which are

innate and which create "reality" out of this
bombardment of confusing sensations. According to Schopenhauer, this separation of
a priori and a posteriori experiences was
Kant's greatest contribution. Theologians,
anxious to protect religion from the assault
of reason, agreed and found comfort in this
argument which attempted to prove that
real truth was inborn in man.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel takes
Kant's reasoning about external and independent reality a step further- According to
Hegel, external reality doesn't exist What
seems to be reality when observing the singular isn't reality at all. Instead, it is only an
aspect of reality (i.e., the Absolute), True
reality can only be grasped by coming in
contact with the whole. To achieve this
exalted state, he devised a dialectical movement According to Hegel, opposites must
collide to form a union which must collide
with other opposites to form a higher union
and so on, systematically progressing to true
"reality" (i.e., "a non-material dimension
beyond time and space and human sense
perception." - The Ominous Parallels, by
Leonard Peikoff, page 26)_What this means,
in summation, is that the parts of reality which fit to make the whole - are not so
important as the whole and should, consequently, be subjugated to it
Many educationists have eagerly supported this view. Johann Herbart, for example,
who prepared the world for modern education, believes that individuality must never
be the aim of education; instead, its aim
must be to teach a student to liveproperly in
the existing order of which he is a part Such
an idea - which is fundamental to totalitarianism - is certainly in keeping with Hegel's
idea of the whole being more important than
the part, or Plato's view, as exemplified in
the Republic, that only a select few have the
real wisdom to rule in harmony with the
Divine Plan.
Perhaps Herbart's most popular contribution to current thinking in education was
his definition of apperception, As Herbart
sees it, new knowledge can only be mastered through old knowledge (i.e., traditions, family values, and the like). This idea,
which resembles Kant's idea of new and old

September 1986

knowledge, places emphasis on drawing out

a priori experiences (innate knowledge) in
the Kantian sense, and not educating in the
intellectual sense. Therefore, for learning to
occur, according to Herbart, a teacher must
make knowledge relevant to the student's
unique past A teacher's success willdepend
on how well he can integrate the old with the
new, because a student can supposedly only
learn best that which he has already learned.
Such an approach to education is deadly
to the intellectual growth of an individual
because it venerates status quo and it claims
real knowledge can only be mastered by
mindless drill work (the reasoning behind
the back-to-basics movement?). But most
importantly, such an approach to education
is deadly because it destroys intellectual
inquiry by training the mind blindly to accept
the traditional and reject the new.
Wilhelm Max Wundt took Herbart's ideas
a step further and claimed that man lacked
self-determinism. Once upon a time, it was
believed that education was to develop the
special talents and abilities of the individual.
This idea changed with Wundt. Now it was
proper to provide students with suitable
stimuli to bring about desired response.
Inherent in this idea is the idea that man isn't
in volitional control (that he hasn't rational
faculty?) and that he must be preconditioned to be useful to society, In the pamphlet, The Leipzig Connection (page 8), the
author, Lance J. Klass, said,
Wundt's thesis laid the philosophical
basis for the principles of conditioning
later developed by Pavlov and the
American behavioral psychologists;
for lobotomies and electroconvulsive
therapy; for schools oriented more
toward the socialization of the child
than toward the development of intellect and the continuation of culture;
and for the growth of a society
increasingly devoted to the satisfaction of sensory desires at the expense
of responsibility and achievement
Wundt's ideas spread to America through
a network of trained researchers, professors, and publicists. One of these men was
Edward Lee Thorndike. Like Wundt, Thorn-

American Atheist

dike believed that learning rested, not on

some form of reasoning, but on stimulusresponse. Since he was a Darwinist, he
believed studying animals was as instructive
to learning about human behavior as studying humans. Therefore, he would switch
from children to chickens, when humans
were unavailable, and would generously
reward good behavior, which, he believed,
was the key to successful stimulus-response
learning. To absolve teachers from classroom failure, he claimed that intelligence
was set before a student enters school. This
premise led naturally to the conclusion that
those students deemed unsuitable to learn
must be provided with vocational training at
the earliest possible time. Consequently,
before a student could decide his own direction and assess his own talents, he was
pushed in the "right" direction by manipulative educationists.
Another man influenced by Wundt was
his one-time assistant, James McKeen Cattell. While studying in Leipzig, Cattell made
the "brilliant" discovery that adults recognize words without sounding them. Therefore, he concluded that there was no advantage in teaching students to sound out
words; instead, they must learn to recognize
them as "total word pictures." Inherent in
this reasoning are echoes of the mystics who
believe that man is born with innate knowledge which he must only reach inward to
educe. Such silliness of thinking, spread by
the look-say method, led to the reading deficiency which today affects millions of Americans. An argument against the look-say
method was advanced in Rudolf Flesch's
book, Why Johnny Can't Read, which
became a best -seller in the fifties, and which
contributed to the return of the phonic
method - an intelligent, succinct, and sys-

tematic method for teaching reading.

Another Wundtian - and perhaps the
most influential - was John Dewey, who
through the Dewey school attempted to join
psychology to education. Like Wundt,
Dewey believed students must be exposed
to experimental rather than intellectual
data. In this sense, the teacher was no longer
the educator, but the socializer, who must
condition the child to yield to group pressures. "To Dewey, as to Wundt, man was
just another animal, alone with his reactions,
dependent upon experimental data." (The
Leipzig Connection, page 12.)
Perhaps Dewey's most significant "contribution" to education was his philosophy of
pragmatism. According to pragmatists, children learn by doing - by playing out their
instincts with action (which, unfortunately,
can lead to many mindless and criminal
acts). Thinking, to pragmatists, isn't important except at times of crisis, and then thinking only needs to be sufficient to solve the
immediate, not the real, concern leading to
the crisis. This type of problem solving is
very much like treating a disease with an
aspirin rather than an antibiotic. Inherent in
this idea of allowing children free rein to their
instincts is the idea that there is no such
thing as evil. This immediately suggests the
Hegelian idea that within all of us is an aspect
of the Ideal; therefore, real truth needn't
correspond to reality, but only to that "reality" which ultimately works for the whole.
The danger of many of these ideas seem
to be best summed up by Dr. Leonard Peikoffin a May 20,1974, article in The Ayn Rand
From Plato to the present, it has been
the dream of certain philosophers and
social planners to ... inject a contro-

Austin, Texas

John Dewey, who has infuenced American (and Russian) education since the
1920s, and whose ideas have significantly
affected education, seems to grasp in My
Pedagogic Creed an understanding of what
Dr. Peikoff was saying. "Through education
society can formulate its own purposes, can
organize its own means and resources, and
thus shape itself with definiteness and economy in the direction in which it wishes to
move." It is understandable - in view of this
- why the government is interested in the
"spiritual strengths of our people" rather
than the intellectual and moral strengths. By
creating public church schools, our government hopes to hurl us back into the Dark
Ages by taking complete control of the
American mind and freezing it in ignorance.

Joe David's writings have appeared in
many magazines, newspapers, and
journals. He is the author of the novel
about public education, The Fire
Within. This article is from his latest
book entitled Glad You Asked, which
has been published by Books For
All Times.




versial ideology directly into the plastic, unformed minds of children ... by
means of seizing a country's educational system and turning it into a vehicle for indoctrination. In this way,
one may capture an entire generation,
and thus, shortly, a country, without
intellectual resistance, in a single coup

September 1986

Page 9


September is the month of school opening, and - if you are an Atheist hoping to
graduate from grade or high school at the
end of this school year - your thoughts
should be focused on June 1987. That is
when the action willbe.
From time immemorial, the old saw goes,
Atheist students have been graduating from
high school and have been met by religious
ceremonies, including but not limited to
both benedictions and prayers, at the graduating exercises. When confronted by such
planned religious ceremonies, the question

for Atheist potential graduates has been not

alone what to do, but "Do we have time to do
it?" With time of the essence, the Atheist
student, or the parents of that student, have
often lost the small battle and been forced to
sit through a predominantly religious launching of the student into the adult world.
Two years ago James Brodhead's oldest
son, William, graduated from high school in
Van Nuys, California, and James Brodhead
was angered when he and other parents and
friends were asked to bow their heads in
prayer in the middle of the commencement

exercise. The class president began, "Father, we pray for each of our continued successes .... Bless us abundantly that we may
bless others abundantly." Trapped in the
audience, he dared not raise an objection for
he did not want to mar the graduation
ceremonies for the young people to whom it
all was directed. He could only watch as he
saw his son sit down, head up, when the
graduates were asked to stand and bow
their heads. Immediately after the graduation, he wrote to the Superintendent of
Schools for Los Angeles. The superintendent's first response was dated August 1,
The voluntary nature of graduation
ceremonies, the wide discretion given
to senior classes in developing their
commencement programs ... are factors which must be considered. While
I fully understand your personal belief
and position in this matter, ... as a
matter of law senior classes of the District may schedule invocations as part
of their commencement programs.
Little or nothing could be done at the time.
William had graduated and Brodhead's
younger son, Daniel, was not due to graduate for another two years. But, as the time
approached for the second Brodhead graduation, father and son talked it over and
decided that what had occurred at the graduation of William was not what either of
them wanted for Daniel to endure. On
March 27, 1986, Brodhead contacted the
Van Nuys High School superintendent asking him again to review the legal precedents
and this year direct the principal and the
senior class advisor to schedule the 1986
graduation to be non-religious. He had, in
the interim period, talked extensively with
The American Atheist Center and had
obtained from it a copy of the case of Collins
v. Chandler Unified School District, 644
F .2d 759 (9th Cir. 1981), having to do with an
Atheist mother protesting religious invocations at school assemblies in a Phoenix,
Arizona, high school. Upon contacting an
attorney for the district, the superintendent
again reported back to Brodhead that
because students largely plan their own graduation ceremonies and attendance is voluntary, the constitutionally dictated separation of state and church did not apply to the

Page 10

September 1986

American Atheist

ceremonies. Brodhead was advised that

school officials would, however, talk to the
principal "to see ifhis [Brodhead's] sensitivities could be accommodated." Brodhead
next asked for a meeting with the principal
and assistant principal of the school, but this
proved to be unsatisfactory and no resolution of the inclusion of a religious ceremony
was reached. Neither Brodhead nor his son
were convinced when the school officials
advised that attending graduation was "an
option." For himself and his son, Brodhead
felt that this was no choice at all. His son
wanted to attend graduation, and he wanted
to attend a graduation that reflected the
Constitution about which he had been
taught in the school he attended, from which
he was graduating.
The father noted,
Here's the culmination of their education, with the faculty up there in
their academic robes. And a student
gets up and recites some superstitious
incantation to an imaginary being.
This undermines everything I have
taught them, usurps my place as a
parent in teaching my boys both morals and theology.

in organizing the exercises. Allof this clearly

placed the power, prestige, and authority of
the school behind the invocation, seemingly
endorsing it.
There had been an earlier fight in California. The state superior court hearing a case
in 1984 had agreed with students who felt
that such invocations violated state/church
separation and had entered an injunction
barring the Livermore Valley Unified School
District from including prayers in its graduation ceremony. In late May, that case, Bennett v. Livermore Valley Unified School District (No. H-91312-6, Superior Court for the
County of Alameda, Summary Judgment
June 22, 1984), was still on appeal to the
Court of Appeals, First Appellate District.
In reviewing whether or not the proposed
invocations met the three-pronged, U.S.
Supreme Court-formulated Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 US 602 (1971), test as to constitutionality, the ACLU in its complaint to the
court noted, that "government may not
employ religious means to serve secular

interests, however legitimate they may be,"

and that prayer was a "primary religious
activity in itself." Second, the prayers
advanced religion by placing the official
school imprimatur on whatever theological
tenets were to be espoused by the student
selected to deliver the worshipful portion of
the program, especially since the prayer
would occur at an official function of the
public school system. In addition, the activity is coercive upon the student. As noted in
the Chandler case, the students "must
either listen to a prayer chosen by a select
group of students or forego the opportunity
to attend a major school function. It is difficult to conceive how this choice would not
coerce a student wishing to be part of the
social mainstream .... " Thirdly, governmental entanglement is obvious, since teachers
and administrators
must monitor such
assemblies as a graduation ceremony. A
faculty advisor is assigned to assist the
senior class.
The Daily News immediately printed an

He had, he continued, always taught his two

sons that "there is no power greater than the
human mind." On May 22 father and son
fileda lawsuit seeking an injunction prohibiting prayers during graduation at all schools
in the Los Angeles district.
The lawsuit, taken up by the ACLU,
started with the Webster definition of an
invocation, which is "the act of calling on
God for blessing, help, etc., and as 'a formal
prayer.' "
The provisions of the constitution of the
state of California were perfect for the situation. Article XVI, Section 5, prohibits all
government entities, including school districts, from granting "anything to or in aid of
any religious sect, church, creed, or sectarian purpose." In the case of Fox v. City of
Los Angeles, Sup., 150 Cal. Rptr. 867 (1978),
this had been interpreted as follows:
[A]rticle XVI, Section 5, forbids all
forms of governmental aid to religion,
whether that aid be in the tangible
form of cash or in the intangible form
of prestige and power [emphasis
In the case which Brodhead had filed, it
was noted that the commencement exercises were to be held on school property (the
Nathan R. Smith Field); paid faculty members and administrators would be present;
school officials were to advise members of
the senior class on the ceremonies; and
school bulletin boards, public address systems, and other resources were to be used

Austin, Texas



September 1986

Page 11


editorial, titled "ACLU Vs. Free Speech,"

which ran in the May 26 edition of the paper:
It must have been another slow day
down at the American Civil Liberties
Union. The public interest group that
once fought tough battles for free
speech and equal rights has been
reduced to challenging invocations
during Los Angeles high school grad
uation ceremonies. Real injustice
must be hard to find these days.
The ACLU is representing Daniel
Brodhead, a Van Nuys High School
senior who believes that invoking the
name of God during a public ceremony violates his constitutional guarantee of separation of church and
state. But the ACLU seems to be
stretching the Constitution a bit. The
Founding Fathers never intended to
banish religion or public references to
it; they simply did not want the state to
promote one faith over others.
The First Amendment makes it
clear: "Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment .of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise
thereof .... " With those words, the
signers of the Constitution sought to
keep the institutions of religion and
government from joining forces to
establish preferred treatment for
members of a particular faith. But
while ACLU lawyers emphasize the
need to keep church and state separate, they seem to have forgotten the
First Amendment guarantees for the
free exercise of religion and freedom
of speech.
Preventing someone from making a
religious invocation is arguably an
infringement on the free exercise of
religion; it most certainly is an infringement of freedom of speech. Is the
government to say what can or cannot be said in a public address? And if
reverent references to God are taboo
in public facilities, then wouldn't the
government be placing the establishment of Atheism over other beliefs?
At their most refined, the invocations at public meetings contain innocuous references to the presence
of a higher authority vis-a-vis the
mundane affairs of the local sewer
[sic] board. There are times when
members of the clergy get overzealous in promoting their own particular
view of the universe, but one learns to
tolerate such lapses in the same way
that one tolerates expression of con-

Page 12

trary political ideas. If speech is to be

free, we have to listen to all sorts of
things we don't want to hear.
Many public agencies balance out
the invocations by rotating the duty
among representatives of different
religions. We can't work up a great
deal of pity for Atheists who feel
excluded from this activity. After all,
they could still lead the assembled
citizens in reciting the "Pledge of Allegiance," if they don't mind the "one
nation, under God" part. Or they
could arrive late.
We don't think the general public is
apt to get worked up over the invocation fight. The only complaint we have
heard about invocations is when they
drag on too long. The ACLU is not in
the business of being popular, of
course, but it seems to choose its battles more with an eye toward needling
authority than with righting a wrong.
A Buddhist monk gave the invocation during graduation at California
State University, Northridge, this
year. One wonders whose side the
ACLU would have been on if someone had tried to stop him from
The editorial, of course, set a certain tone
for the community ifits members decided to
complain. The theme was tailor-made for
that. It was the graduate himself who answered on May 29. His letter, and three others, were printed that day in the Daily Times
under the banner question: "Do invocations
abuse free speech?"
The editorial "ACLU Vs. Free
Speech" (Daily News, May 26) about
our lawsuit against prayers at graduation appears to be based on two mistaken assumptions.
One is that the American Civil Liberties Union decided to needle authority and went looking for a cooperative
plaintiff. On the contrary, we worked
for two years, writing and talking to
school officials, trying to reach a quiet
agreement about my graduation.
When we gave up last month, my parents drafted a complaint so we could
sue on our own, but we sent the papers to the ACLU to ask them for
advice. We asked them to represent
The second mistake is to assume
we're suing under the United States
Constitution. Maybe because the
pioneers saw how people were trying

September 1986

to put religion into government 150

years ago, the California state constitution is much more strict about
government promoting religion in any
You talk about freedom of speech
and free exercise of religion. What
about my free exercise of my beliefs,
and my right to be free from religion?
Are constitutional rights for religious people only and denied to American citizens who have decided they
are Atheists?
That's the way it is in Iran and (the
other way around) in the Soviet
Union. America shouldn't be like that.
Dan Brodhead
Sherman Oaks
The second letter was angry and ended
So, instead of wasting a lot of valuable time, here's a solution for Brodhead. When everyone else at the graduation stands to show their belief, he
and his family can stay seated to show
they have none.
from Agoura: Hills
Two other letters were supportive of the
I sympathize and identify with
James Brodhead and his family's lawsuit to forbid prayers at graduation.
As a third generation Atheist, Ihave
been in the same position many times.
The last two that really bothered me
were at the United Chambers of
Commerce Fernando Awards earlier
this spring and this past week when
my daughter graduated from Pepperdine University School of Law at
Just what is the proper response to:
"Shall we bow our heads in prayer?"
Unlike Brodhead, I've never had
the nerve to say no. Should I hum a
tune and ignore them or ask for equal
time to expound on the wonders of
logical thinking and rational problemsolving?
After all, they build these beautiful
churches and temples and chapels in
hospitals and they can pray anytime,
anywhere they want to pray. Isn't this
enough? Do they have to force it on
the rest of us?
I think it is rude in a pluralistic
society such as ours for any faith to
assume that everyone in a captive

American Atheist


secular audience wants to pray. I wish
the ACLU luck in protecting my freedom from religion.
from Tarzana, California
The final letter was short and to the point:
Webster's Dictionary defines "invocation" as a prayer said at the opening of a ceremony or service.
Your religious beliefs are not the
same as mine and may not sit wellwith
me, and vice versa. Why should I (or

you) be forced to listen to a priest,

rabbi, minister, or monk saying a
prayer that his followers believe in,
but which I may find offensive?
That's what's called for in separation of church and state. Ifour founding fathers didn't mean it, we should.
from Granada Hills, California
The case had hardly been filed when the
Board of Education began negotiations with
the ACLU through a series of telephone
calls. Within just several weeks the legal

aspect of the situation had been resolved.

The Board of Education capitulated: There
would be no prayers at commencement
The agreed terms were given in a letter
written by the "legal advisor" of the Board of
Education and addressed to the attorney for
the ACLU on June 3,1986, and included the
the [Los Angeles Unified
School] District willimmediately notify the defendants, other District a-

The following is the text of an op-ed article which appeared in the "Focus"
section of the Daily News on June 8, 1986. The author is Carol Sobel, a staff
attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union in Los Angeles.

Constitution Exacts Costs For Religious Freedom

The graduation prayer issue at Van
Nuys High School has been settled legally,
but the underlying issues in the case are far
from resolved.
Much of the debate was predictable:
There we go again, being anti-religion;
what about the rights of those people who
want to pray?
The response is clear. The decision
helps guarantee religious liberty. What
James Madison and Thomas Jefferson
recognized two hundred years ago holds
true today in a world where even more
religions compete for public recognition.
Religious freedom is best protected by
ensuring complete government neutrality.
Only in this manner will believers of any
religion or none at all not feel excluded at
public events.
California's Constitution also contains a
ban on government aid to religious organizations, expanding on the wisdom of the
Founding Fathers by declaring that government may not discriminate against or
show a preference for any religion.
Our state liberties were first authored
barely a century after the drafting of the Bill
of Rights and revised just twelve years ago.
After nearly two centuries of experience
with our revolutionary experiment in the
history of governments, these refinements
were seen as critical to ensuring the full
meaning of these fragile rights.
Religion has always been recognized as
a private, personal matter in this country.
Government neutrality toward religion in
public acts and events protects the rights
of those who wish to practice their faith. At
the same time no one may demand the

Austin, Texas

government provide a public platform from

which to proselytize or pray.
But how high and solid are we willing to
maintain the Jeffersonian wall of separation
between church and state?
Two themes seem to be chiseling away at
that wall. One is that certain governmentsponsored religious practices are "tolerable" in our modern world. That argument
usually is attached to a claim that the objects
or observances in question have lost their
sectarian meaning. However, the impassioned religious response these fights evoke
seems to contradict the secularization argument. If it has no religious meaning, why
does it matter that the goverment put up a
nativity scene or the menorah?
Also, by making the issue of what is "tolerable" into a standard, this theme implicitly
recognized that what is being "tolerated" is
wrong. But the constitutional wrong is only
the most obvious problem. We need more
than mere tolerance for religious liberty to
reach its full promise.
The second attack comes from those who
believe that limiting religious practices in a
public school graduation limits free speech.
The reality of the First Amendment is that
the Establishment Clause does limit speech
in certain circumstances.
But it is important to recognize that those
limits exist to ensure both guarantees of the
First Amendment: freedom of speech and
the Establishment Clause. It is a careful
balancing process not served by knee-jerk
reactions on either side. In the setting of a
graduation ceremony, it means that while
speakers may sometimes refer to God or
deliver other reliqious references thev may

September 1986

not engage in religious practices such as

prayers. This is especially true in sections of
the program - invocations, inspirational
moments, benedictions - that, by definition or form, lend themselves to religion.
The tensions represented in this case are
not confined to limits on religious speech
and are not unknown to constitutional law.
Public claims of free speech have frequently
clashed with claims of freedom of the press
when access to newspaper and television
space is denied.
In a practical example, the First Amendment rights of antiabortion demonstrators
outside hospitals and clinics come up
against the constitutional rights of women
to choose an abortion. In the broader constitutional spectrum, free press rights frequently have come up against a defendant's
Sixth Amendment rights.
Each situation requires a careful analysis
and balancing of competing claims. That is
what occurred in this case. The Constitution deserves nothing less.
Shifting the focus in the Van Nuys case to
Atheism alone missed the point. This lawsuit is as much about the rights of the
Native American, Jew, Jehovah's Witness,
Buddhist, or anyone else who believes in a
different supreme spirit or being as it is
about the rights of those who share the
same faith as the speaker. Each is guaranteed that religion will remain a private matter protected from government intrusion or
display. That right is just as secure if one or
one hundred people object to the publicly
sponsored prayer.

Page 13


gents, employees and all persons acting in cooperation with them that, in
an invocation or similar message at a
graduation ceremony of the District
schools, the District will not permit,
sanction or authorize any language or
other behavior that constitutes a religious observance or practice and will
so inform all graduation program
speakers in advance.
The District further pledged that it would
"make a good faith effort to comply ... with
respect to graduation exercises scheduled"
in June. Since these were eminent, "there
may be some difficulty in complying fully"
but "in any event, graduation speakers
scheduled for this year's commencement
exercises at Van Nuys High School willbe so
Brodhead was ecstatic:
We are very pleased because we
feel now, in the second largest city in
the United States, we have established a principle that Atheists have as
much a right to freedom from religion
in a public place as religious people
have to practice it.
But, yet, he added, "I think it is good and
fair. I'm sorry we had to go through allthis to
get what should have been common sense."
His son agreed, "It was my dad's idea to go
to court, but I supported it because it was
the only way to go. It turned out pretty well."
The Van Nuys High School graduation
ceremonies were duly held on June 18, 1986,
and the new Los Angeles Unified School
District policy was put into effect: The
ceremonies contained no mention of god.
But, overhead, a small plane hired by an
Anaheim minister pulled a banner which
'86." Several hundred students and spectators cheered and applauded the banner as
the plane circled the school's football field
during the ceremony's opening. Outside of
the school a handful of pickets from the
Culver City Bible Church picketed the
ceremony together with some who were
supporting the new policy. Armed security
guards were stationed around the school
and barred some would-be spectators from
entering the graduation without a ticket.
With more than five hundred students
graduating, the senior class vice president
read an "inspirational" message that made
no mention of god but credited help and
guidance "from all sources" for the success
of the graduating seniors.
William Brodhead, now age twenty-one,

Page 14

was there to see his younger brother graduate without the insulting prayers which he
had endured two years earlier.
Finally it was over, and there was Daniel
Brodhead, saying, "It's great." His father,
asked about the airplane and the trailing
sign, replied honestly and to the point, "It
was a bit tacky." His brother, William, aimed
at the base, "As long as it [the plane with its
banner] is not paid for by the school district," it is fine. The minister, chairman of a
local group of the national Traditional
Values Coalition, disclosed that his group
had paid $350 for the airplane and banner
because, "We feel what is happening here
today is a denial of the free expression of
religion." The roving reporter was there
also, obtaining opinions, as usual, "in
twenty-five words or less."
Graduating senior, age eighteen: "It [removing religion from the ceremony] is an
extremely important victory for proponents
of the separation of church and state."
A friend of Daniel's, age seventeen: "I
would not take the prayer out. If he feels
strongly against religion, he doesn't have to
Resource specialist for the school: "This
campus has many, many religions. We can't
mention all the religions. That would take
three or four hours. So an invocation of
neutrality is the best way."
Teacher, government and history, age
twenty-six: "A neutral vote is a vote against
religion. I would have allowed the student
body to decide. It's their graduation."
A religious student, age seventeen: "That
banner was a disgrace, and Ibelieve in God."
Senior Class President: "It gave us a bad
name. It made us look like we were praying
around school. Like we were monsters,
when there was nothing going on."
Meanwhile, the attorney for the school
board was busy weaseling, answering the
reporters that the new policy was not meant
to ban all mention of religion but only officially sanctioned religion. "It does not prohibit a speaker from making what is clearly a
personal statement regarding God or religion." He cited the El Camino High School in
Woodland Hills, California, where the principal read aloud a letter received from the
father of a student who had died during the
school year. The letter contained references
to god.
Brodhead had written a lengthy letter to
the Los Angeles Times newspaper (daily circulation about 1,080,0(0) during the final
negotiations with the school board. When
an agreement was reached on June 3, that
newspaper printed the letter, in full, on its
"op-ed" page in the June 4 issue. And, Brod-

September 1986

head was all over the electronic media:

appearing on Los Angeles television channels 7, 9,11, and on local talk-radio station
KGIL; having hour-long remote phoners to
talk shows on WCOL (Columbus, Ohio),
KFWB (Los Angeles, California), WING
(Dayton, Ohio), KMJ (Fresno, California);
and appearing on Carole Hemingway's
show in Los Angeles.
In the Daily News of June 8, Brodhead's
picture adorned the front page. As he
perched on the trunk of his car, his American Atheist bumper stickers were to be seen
plainly by all readers: on the right rear "Atheism Makes Sense for America"; on the
left rear - "Proud to be an Atheist." In this
article, feeling good since he had won his
challenge, riding high, he affirmed that he
would be at the graduation exercise on
June 18.
But the matter was not over in California.
On May 28 it had been necessary for the
ACLU to also file suit against the Yucca
Valley High School and the Twenty-nine
Palms High School to prevent ministers
from saying prayers at graduation ceremonies in the Morongo Unified School District.
The school district superintendent angrily
proclaimed that he saw no reason to break
the tradition of prayer at graduation when
"the vast majority of the population in the
Morongo Basin demand the traditional
ceremony." Graduation ceremonies, he
explained, are set at each high school, and
each school invites whichever minister it
wants at the ceremonies. The schools
involved planned to fight in order to keep the
prayers. With this situation, the ACLU
attorney who was handling both the Brodhead and the Morongo District cases wrote
an op-ed article for the Daily News, which
appeared in its "Focus" section on June 8,
1986. (See "Constitution Exacts Costs For
Religious Freedom.")
The "Letters to The Times" column of the
June 15 issue of the Los Angeles Times gave
a feeling tone of the issue. Eight rather long
letters were printed. The leadoff letter
Once again an Atheist has won
without much trouble from the educators of our land.
Weak-kneed and full of false interpretation, our Los Angeles Board of
Education knuckled down to Atheist
James Brodhead over the age-established custom of blessing school graduations by a prayer of benediction ....
If Christians don't speak out, or
aren't allowed their forum, the Atheists will win their godless crusade by

American Atheist


ing religious matters to court ....
from La Crescenta, California
Another was even more specific:
Since when in this country do
minorities rule? If Daniel Brodhead
doesn't want to listen to an invocation
at his class's graduation then let him
put in earplugs ....
This country was founded on the
principles of a Divine Creation. The
Brodheads would be wise to take
another look at the First Amendment.
It guarantees freedom of religion not freedom from religion.
The Soviet Union has an Atheistic
government that rules its people with
little compassion or mercy. I doubt
prayers are offered at its graduation
from Newhall, California
And, yet another:
Our country was founded by religious people. "In God We Trust" is
inscribed on our money, and America
is still basically a religious country.
Daniel Brodhead, his parents and
others who choose to be Atheists
should realize this and learn to live
with it. ...
If Brodhead and other Atheists do
not prevail and if, on occasion, they
are forced to endure invocations for a
few minutes while others thank God
and ask for divine guidance, I suggest
that they take the time to reflect
inwardly upon the good people and
things in their lives and be appreciative. Or don't Atheists appreciate
from Sherman Oaks
One more:
I am sorry the Brodhead family is so
offended by a short prayer, but I cannot begin to tell how offended I am
daily to hear the humanistic views
pushed down the throats of my children at school and in the media ....
from Tujunga
All of this was taken up in an editorial in
the Los Angeles Daily News of June 5,1986,
titled: "Let Us Wish ... "
It didn't take much for the father of
a Van Nuys High School student to
abolish invocations at public high

Austin, Texas

school graduations in Los Angeles. In

response to an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit on behalf of the
student and his father, the Los Angeles Board of Education quickly
agreed Tuesday to bar religious invocations at high school graduations.
Graduation speakers can still make
inspirational remarks, board member
Robert Weintraub notes, "as long as
no reference is made to God."
And there's the rub. In the board's
view, the constitutional right of free
speech does not extend to religious
speech. That is dubious assertion, to
say the least. The First Amendment
ban on laws "respecting an establishment of religion" clearly prevents
government from favoring one religion over another. But it does not
authorize government to flat-out censor religious speech at public events.
The valedictorians who address
their classmates this spring probably
willbe discouraged from making political speeches but no good civillibertarian would question their right to
put in a plug for the Sandanistas or the
Contras if they so choose even at the
risk of offending someone in the
audience. Religion can divide and
offend people just as politics does, but
that does not justify a ban on religious
speech anymore than it justifies enforced silence on any other topic.
Like valedictory addresses, invocations should be general statements
that take into account different beliefs, but just as valedictorians can talk
politics in a general way, so should
invocation speakers be free to refer to
God, in a non-sectarian way, by name.
It's hard to imagine what the so-called
"generic" invocations allowed at Los
Angeles high school graduations will
sound like. Presumably, the speakers
may say, "Let us wish," even if they
can't say, "Let us pray."
Meanwhile, in Jackson County, Oregon,
specifically in Medford, Eagle Point, and
Ashland, schools dropped plans for commencement benedictions and invocations.
The Oregon Court of Appeals had just
ruled, on May 21, in a 2-1 decision, that a
1984graduation ceremony at David Douglas
High School in east Multnomah County violated state/church separation with its included invocation. The case arose when the
school district rented the Portland Civic

September 1986

Auditorium and planned to hold a commencement exercise there using school

personnel. The proposed program included
a "prayer-like" Christian invocation written
by a teacher who would also deliver it. The
school board rejected a student's suggestion
that instead of a prayer-type reading, the
program include a moment of silence or a
literary reading. Four students, "who were
not Christian," and who were opposed to
the plan, sued and enlisted the ACLU to
press the case on their behalf. In May 1984,
the Multnomah County Circuit Court prohibited the district from "sponsoring, permitting, or encouraging formal prayer in
commencement exercises." The school district brought itself into accord with the decision and kept its graduation exercises secular in both 1984 and 1985, and planned to do
the same in 1986. Meanwhile, it did appeal
the decision and the Christian Legal Society,
a national group interested in such issues,
filed an amicus curiae ("friend of the court")
brief with the school board. Members of the
school board, at the time of the initial circuit
court decision, had agreed to support an
appeal of the lower court ruling but would
not allow district taxpayers' money to be
used for it. A group calling itself the Citizens'
Appeal for David Douglas Youth was organized and sent out a national appeal for funds.
One of the largest responses was $5,000 in
matching money from the Freedom Council
of Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting
Network. The money contributed was used
to pay for the appeal.
The Oregon Court of Appeals upheld the
lower court decision. The decision pointed
out specifically that Oregon constitutional
provisions aimed at preventing government
support of religion banned the use of public
funds for religion.
Immediately, there was consternation in
other Oregon schools over graduation programs. In Jackson County the ACLU attorney said that schools that use prayers at
graduation risk losing state basic school
support while complaints are investigated.
"The law was put forward to punish Rajneeshpuram, so now the rest of the state
must live with it."
And, with all that reluctance, even the
pastor who was scheduled to give the invocation at Eagle Point High School complained, "It's a real shame. So, the majority
of the people have to suffer to protect the
In Salem the district's five high school
principals said they would not have time to
cancel plans for invocations during this
year's commencement ceremonies, but the
superintendent of the Salem-Keizer high

Page 17


schools overruled the principals and announced there would be no prayers. Ministers who were involved were directed to
offer "greetings" rather than invocations.
New Jersey
The arguments in regard to prayer at public school graduation services have been
going on for over a decade. The Collins case
precedent which had brought the win to
Brodhead had been concluded in 1981. As
far back as 1975, in New Jersey, the drama
was different. There a father had filed suit to
restrain the Board of Education of the
Borough of Watchung, New Jersey, from
permitting the inclusion of prayer which is
"generally acceptable within the community" in eighth grade graduation exercises of
the Valley View School in Watching, New
Atheists generally hold that the inclusion
of prayer in any public service violates the
"Establishment Clause" of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United
States, which states, in relevant part, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, ... " This Amendment is
binding on the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, and it is binding on local
school boards. Although the radical religious right in the United States continually
puts forth that the First Amendment's only
raison d'etre was to guarantee that no single
religion should be accepted as the state religion, in the case of Everson v. Board of
Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947), the U.S.
Supreme Court had pointedly said otherwise:
The [First] Amendment's purpose
was not to strike merely at the official
establishment of a single sect, creed
or religion, outlawing a formal relation
such as had prevailed in England and
some of the colonies. Necessarily, it
was to uproot all such relationships.
But the object was broader than
separating church and state in this
narrow sense. It was to create a complete and permanent separation of the
spheres of religious activity and civil
authority by comprehensively forbidding every form of public aid or support for religion.
Recently, that is within the last several
decades, the U.S. Supreme Court has been
carefully attempting to posit criteria by
which one can recognize if a state (city,
county, school board) action is in violation of
this principle of state/church separation.

Page 18

The test in the case of prayers at public

school graduation ceremonies is (1) whether
the inclusion has a secular legislative purpose and (2) a primary effect that neither
advances nor inhibits religion and (3) which
does not aid one religion or any religions. As
the Atheists see it, such prayers pass none
of the three tests. In the case of grade school
children, they are involved in such ceremonies at the ages of approximately thirteen or
fourteen, at a time when they are still quite
impressionable to the state's endorsement
of religion. At that point in their lives the
school is the most overt of state institutions
making an impact upon their lives. Prayers
advance religion by giving the school's blessing to the god idea and to the concept of the
efficacy of prayers.
In reviewing a case which had used "nondenominational" prayer in schools, the U.S.
Supreme Court had said:
We think that by using its public
school system to encourage recitation
of the Regents' prayer, the State of
New York has adopted a practice
wholly inconsistent with the Establishment Clause. There can, of
course, be no doubt that New York's
program of daily classroom invocation of God's blessings as prescribed
in the Regents' prayer is a religious

It is a solemn avowal of divine faith

and supplication for the blessings of
the Almighty. The nature of such a
prayer has always been religious, ...
The respondents' argument to the
contrary, which is largely based upon
the contention that the Regents'
prayer is non-denominational and the
fact that the program, as modified and
approved by state courts, does not
require all pupils to recite the prayer
but permits those who wish to do so to
remain silent or be excused from the
room, ignores the essential nature of
the program's constitutional defects.
Neither the fact that the prayer may
be denominationally neutral nor the
fact that its observance on the part of
the students is voluntary can serve to
free it from the limitations of the
Establishment Clause .... The Establishment Clause ... does not depend
upon any showing of direct governmental compulsion and is violated by
the enactment of laws which establish
an official religion whether those laws
operate directly to coerce nonobserving individuals or not .... When the
power, prestige and financial support

September 1986

of government is placed behind a particular religious belief, the indirect

coercive pressure upon religious minorities to conform to the prevailing
officially approved religion is plain.
Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962).
Usually, those who want the prayer claim
that it is permissible because (1) it is strictly
ceremonial, (2) it is generally acceptable to
members of the community, (3) no participation is required in the prayer, and (4) graduation is not dependent upon attendance at
the graduation exercises.
The above case, of course, shatters all of
the above arguments. And the idea of disallowing prayer was reinforced in many areas:
in Illinois, DeSpain v. DeKalb County
Community School District 428, 384 F.2d
836 (7th Cir. 1967); in New Jersey, State
Board of Education v. Board of Education of
Netcong, 270A2d412 (1970); in the Western
District of Pennsylvania, Mangold v. Albert
Gallatin Area School District, 437 F .2d 1194
(3rd Cir. 1971); in Massachusetts, Commissioner of Education v. School Committee of
Leyden, 267 N.E. 2d. 226 (1971).
In the Texas case Doe v. Aldini Independent School District, 563 F. Supp. 883 (S.D.
Tex, 1982), recitation of prayers at a variety
of public school functions, including graduation exercises, was found to advance religion and thereby violate the Lemon test.
The voluntary nature of the graduation is immaterial because the Establishment Clause is directed not at
compelling prayer but at government
support of religion. The same support
is present whether or not a student's
failure to attend. the graduation for
religious reasons is excused.
In Wisconsin, in Lemke v. Black, 376 F.
Supp. 87, (Eastern District Wisc. 1974), the
graduation plans had been made by students, independent of school officials. But,
the plans included the graduation being held
in a church. The court found that this would
have a known religious impact. It continued,
The fact that the students themselves plan the ceremony is not
determinative. Graduation ceremonies are a normal and traditional function of the public schools .... School
administrators cannot allow an ordi-

American Atheist


nary school function to be performed
in an unconstitutional manner. They
cannot delegate the responsibility for
planning a public function to a nongovernmental body and allow that body
to proceed in an unconstitutional way.
In the case, the president of the school
board gave an affidavit that the prayer was
purely ceremonial. However, every person
in the country realizes that prayer cannot be
anything but religious. Such an affidavit
represented the personal conclusion of the
president of the school board rather than
any hard fact. It is hard to imagine any eighth
grade student who would not wish to attend
his first formal graduation. It is harder to
imagine such a student willing to absent
himself because he will be offended by the
prayer to be offered in the exercises. There
are few ages when conformity to peer group
pressures is not stronger than principles.
In Michigan it was a different story altogether. At issue were invocation prayers in
Plainwell High School and Portage Central
High School. In both cases the ACLU was
asked to carry the legal ball and it did, suing
the two districts in May 1985 in an effort to
stop prayers in graduation ceremonies set
for June 5 and May 29 at the respective
schools. The complaints in this case were
filed in a federal district court in Grand Rapids, and there the judge denied the request
for an injunction. He ruled, on May 9,1986,
in Stein u. Plainwell Community Schools,
that such prayers "are motivated by secular
purposes of school districts [and] do not
have the primary effect of advancing religion
and will not foster excessive entanglement
of government with religion." The judge
noted that the content of the prayers are
controlled by the students, not the school
officials,that the audience consisted primarilyof adults, and that there was no danger of
daily indoctrination since the graduation
was an end of year event. A co-counsel of
the students who had attempted to stop the
prayers stated that the ACLU would appeal
the ruling to the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals in Cincinnati and noted:
My position is that the officialsponsoring of prayer at any governmental
function necessarily has a religious
The judge's ruling covers the court's
western district of Michigan, roughly the
western half of the Lower Peninsula and the

Austin, Texas

Upper Peninsula.
In 1985 a federal district judge in Iowa had
ruled the exact opposite. There a twodecade-long practice of including both an
invocation and a benediction conducted by
a minister had been challenged. The court
found a clear violation of each of the three
parts of the entanglement test under Lemon. Attendance at the graduation was voluntary and the invocation and benediction
were brief. "This finding ... is supported ...
by the undeniable truth that prayer is inherently religious" (Graham u. Central Community School District of Decatur, 608
F.Supp. 531, D.C. Iowa 1985). To date,
neither the U.S. Supreme Court, the twelve
federal courts of appeals, nor any of the fifty
state courts of last resort have handed down
rulings on the question, leaving few guideposts for either lower court judges or school
Virginia & Pennsylvania
In two other lower federal court decisions
the judges declined to bar invocations at
graduation, most notably in Grossberg u.
Deusibio, 380 F.Supp. 285 (Eastern District,
Virginia, 1974); Wood u. Mount Lebanon
Township School District, 342 F.Supp. 1293
(Western District, Pennsylvania, 1973); and
in the state court, in Weist u. Mount
Lebanon School District, 457 Pa. 1966,
The rationales of the decisions against
barring of the prayers are: (1) The practice
has been a long-standing custom throughout the state; (2) the graduation is optional;
(3) the commencement exercises are not
part of the regular school day; (4) the invocation is generally brief.
The questions are endless. The U.S.
Supreme Court has given every indication
that it considers students in primary and
secondary education levels to be "impressionable" children, while those same students just months later in a college or university setting are "mature adults." Many of
the lower courts have considered the age of
the graduates, particularly when an eighthgrade graduation is involved. Closely married to this factor is that of peer group pressure for teenagers.
Several courts pretend not to know if
prayer at the graduation ceremony should
be considered an extension of the public

September 1986

school experience, or whether it should be

taken as akin to the ceremonial opening of a
session of the state legislature. If the latter
interpretation is given, then a prior U.S.
Supreme Court decision, Marsh u. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783 (1983), having to do with
the unicameral legislature of Nebraska
rules, and prayer is permitted.
There is argument whether attendance at
commencement is voluntary or mandatory
and how much that matters. But as indicated in the Matthews case, supra, the U.S.
Supreme Court has already ruled that this is
not relevant in an Establishment Clause
claim, such as prayers in public schools. It is,
however, necessary to note that the very
important ceremony marks a scholastic
coming-of-age in our society. It is the
passage-into-adulthood. In Lemke u. Black,
supra, the court stressed that it was quite
callous of school officials to say to students
who had successfully completed twelve
years of education that to avoid violating
their consciences they might make the
"voluntary" choice of not celebrating their
academic achievement with their classmates. Graduation is an important, official
event to which the power, prestige, and
influence of the school authorities is added.
This is heightened by the special day set
aside for the event, the unusual costumes
worn, the ritual of individual presentation of
each diploma to each graduate, the attendance of families and friends, and the rriedia
coverage of the event.
Does the nature of the prayer make a
difference? Is a nondenominational appeal
to god less offensive than a traditional Christian prayer? Again, this has been decided by
the U.S. Supreme Court in Engel, above,
with the direct admonition that "the fact that
the prayer may be denominationally neutral" cannot serve "to free it from the limitations of the Establishment Clause."
Does the person uttering the prayer make
a difference? Will a student be held to the
same criterion as a rabbi or a teacher? The
courts have been almost uniform in going to
the prayer itself and not the person who
delivers the prayer.
The religious community, of course, has
been the most concerned on the issue of
whether or not a watered-down prayer
acceptable to "the community" denigrates
religion. Here, the high-toned establishment
religions argue that it does. The fundamentalists and the Roman Catholic church
almost uniformly hold that a display of public
reverence by children in public school is

Page 19


appropriate to a "Christian nation" such as

they deem ours to be. A letter to the editor
to the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Press concerning the Stein decision, supra, is instructive. The author wrote:
Believe it or not, and this may come
as a shock to some people, the founding fathers of the United States of
America proclaimed the supremacy
of Christianity over any other religious system. It is written in our Constitution, Article VII, paragraph two,
"Done in Convention by the unanimous consent of the States present
the seventeenth day of September the
year of our Lord one thousand seven
hundred and eighty seven.
Our Lord? Ours is the possessive
pronoun of we. "We" is the first word
of our Constitution meaning everybody in the land. Lord? What Lord?
Beyond the shadow of a doubt, our
founding fathers had in mind Christ.
Since Christ is in our Constitution as a
witness to end the document, prayers
are constitutional in public schools.
Atheists and members of the

ACLU who want to take away Christ

from our public institutions should
have in mind that Christ is in the
We leave the unraveling of that rare bit of
logic to you, the reader!
A second religious issue is whether or not
such a delivered prayer interferes with the
exercise of the faith of those attending? The
Jews, of course, do not want a prayer to
Jesus Christ. The Protestants are unlikely to
address a supplication to the Virgin Mary
whom the Roman Catholic church feels is an
intercessory agent to god, certainly one to
receive prayers. Muslim children prefer to
address Allah directly. It is only the Atheist
who reminds all and sundry that religion has
its proper place in the church and home not in tax supported institutions where
children are in compulsory attendance by
law or by peer pressures. When speaking of
"voluntary" attendance, the courts have
repeatedly seen this, in the context of the
public schools, as a myth. In Brandon v.
Board of Education of Guilder/and Central
School District, 635 F.2d 971 (2nd Circuit,
1980), the court remarked that "an adoles-

cent may perceive 'voluntary' ... prayer in a

different light" than do the religions which
argue for its inclusion in the schools.
To repeat then: Ifyou are an Atheist entering your last school year, hoping to graduate
in June 1987, be that from high school or
grade school, you had better look to the
ceremony to see if it is religion-laden. If it is,
you need to begin now to see what you can
do about it in your school, in your town, in
your state. As is indicated in this article, the
problems are complex and the outcome is
not at all certain at this point. But, with the
legal references in this article, and the telephone number of The American Atheist
Center at hand, you just may be able to have
a clean graduation - free from JudeoChristian contamination.
(Christa Collins, the young woman who
was the Atheist student in the Phoenix High
School case of Collins v. Chandler Unified
School District, supra; her mother, Theresa
Collins, who brought that suit; and James E.
Brodhead, the father involved in the case
here reported, Brodhead v. Los Angeles
Unified School District, are all members of
American Atheists.)

Detroit Atheists Open House

Reason: To meet Atheists, enjoy, and learn.
Time: Sunday, September 28, 1986. 12 to 6
Place: Pompei Rooms One and Two, Holiday
,Inn, 5801 Southfield Fwy. Service Drive,
..Detroit, Michigan 48228 (Telephone: 1-313336-3340). Southfield Fwy M-39 and Ford
Road M-153 ..
Speaker: Frank Zindler, American Atheist
columnist, will give two lectures. The first, at
1:30 P.M., will be on "Creationism: Arguments and Tactics." The second, at 4 P.M.,
will be on "The Meaning of Evolution."
Notes: Sponsored by the Detroit Chapter of
American Atheists each year, the "Open
House and State Convention" is an event not
to be missed. Remember - it's for all Michigan Atheists, not just the ones in Detroit.

Page 20

September 1986






American Atheist



The members of the Denver, Colorado,
Chapter of American Atheists may have
forgotten the meaning of low visibility they do not ever seem to practice it. At least
monthly, the Chapter is in the news; pictures of picketers are garnished with headlines that start out "Atheists protest." Never
does a religious fanatic or a censorship
advocate visit the city of Denver without
American Atheists making its voice heard.
As soon as a state/church issue arises, the
Denver Chapter is there to make the American Atheist position known.
Just follow the Colorado Chapter's exploits this year. In January, it sponsored a
feminist speaker on pornography and started a tax-the-church petition. In February,

one of its members went to a town meeting

held by legislators of Arapahoe County
(Metro Denver) to tell those representatives
that church real estate and other church
business investments should be taxed. The
idea is under advisement.
InColorado, in 1986, the new ruling is that
only five percent of the electorate (those
who voted last time) is required to get an
initiative on the ballot. So, Gale Schreier,
Chapter secretary, proposed an all-out coalition to campaign and circulate petitions to
put on the ballot the question of taxing real
estate and other holdings of the church.
Atheists, he continued in his proposal,
need to catch a little of the commitment that
is the patented trademark of heaven-bent

Christians if the nation is not to be taken

over by the tax-exempt, law-free, religious
Apathy on the part of the Atheist community, in Colorado or anywhere, is an ally
of the religious.
On February 23, Falwell spoke at a local
church, and - sure enough - Atheists
picketed outside (complete with windbreakers and scarves). The Denver Post carried a
story on Falwell's speech, but at least a third
of the article was about American Atheists.
BillTalley, the director of the Denver Chapter, was his usual frank self when interviewed by the press on that occasion. The
newspaper reported:

Colorado Chapter members made Atheism's sensitivity for women known in the protest for women's rights during the June 14
March for Women's Lives sponsored by the National Organization for Women. Over 4,000 persons participated in the march.

Austin, Texas

September 1986

Page 21


[Talley] said the pickets appeared
Sunday to express their belief the
church is "anti-Constitution" and
But he assailed Falwell personally,
saying, "ML Falwell is the most dangerous man who ever came down the
pike. He wants to destroy the Constitution, starting with the Billof Rights."
Talley said he thinks fundamentalism is a key cause of teenage suicides
because it teaches youths they are
worthless ....
During that same month, Talley and
another Chapter officer addressed the
senior class of a Christian (not public) high
BillTalley has been attempting to operate
an Atheist bookstore out of his business
office for some time, and every conceivable
block has been put in his way, by complaints
filed against him with the zoning commission. By late in 1985, these totaled five
(1) a "permanent" sign had been erected
without a permit
(2) the sign was "too close" to the
(3) it is unlawful to conduct the retail sale
of Atheist books
(4) it is unlawful to "warehouse" books on
his property
(5) it is unlawful for him to have residence

(above) The Colorado Atheists booth

got more than a passing glance from
many of those attending the People's
Fair in Denver.
(below) Bob Fenn, Chapter vice-director, greets onlookers to the Colorado
Chapter's booth.

in his office in an add-on which had been

built for that purpose.
As always, Talley's sense of humor came
to his aid in this battle when he addressed
the Department of Zoning Administration of
the City and County of Denver, in January,
in this wise:
[The] Denver City Attorney ... has
argued on behalf of the City and
County of Denver before the Colorado Supreme Court that the city's
nativity scene is not religious, but has
become "secularized" by virtue of
having been juxtaposed to "secular"
symbols, such as St. Claus and
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,
By the same logic, the fact that we
have a temporary sign reading "Atheist Book Store" does not mean that
we're conducting retail sales in a B-1
zone district. No. Not at all. It means
merely that this is the place where we
STORE Atheist books.
True, some people give us taxexempt donations. And sometimes,
as an incentive for such donations, we
in turn give donors a free book or two.
This is not retail sales, but a fundraising activity, for which we have the
proper certifications, incorporation,
and tax exemptions.
As to allegation 1) that of having
erected a sign without permit, my

Page 22

September 1986

American Atheist


reply is that the phenomenon to which

you refer is not a sign at all, and I'm
certain that [the] City Attorney ...
would agree. What you see out front
of my office is a pair of 4' x 4' cedar
trees which were planted there some
ten years ago. I am waiting for these
cedar cuttings to take root and sprout
limbs and leaves, as often happens in

(above) Director Bill Talley (left) leads

protesting Atheists outside a church
where Falwell spoke on February 23,
(below) Louis Williams and Bill Talley
man the Chapter's booth at the People's
Fair on June 1, 1986.

that phase Talley, or did he keep plugging?

Well, at this juncture, Talley and his landlord
removed the signs, leaving one cedar cutting
which "was expected to sprout soon." Since
all Atheist books had been boxed and
trucked elsewhere because of the anticipated disaster of the need to close down his
office completely, Talley felt that the better
part of valor was to move completely - and
that he did.
What can one expect when the governor
of Colorado agreed to be the honorary
chairman of the 1987 Denver crusade of Billy
Graham? Talley simply decided he would be
the honorary hosting chairman of the 1987
Seventeenth Annual National American
Atheist Convention in Denver, and he
started to turn the screw on The American
Atheist Center to see if he could not persuadethat.
In April, a well-known radio talk show host
entertained this Chapter's monthly meeting.
Then in May the Chapter protested religiously-oriented textbooks being considered for use in the public schools.
On May 31 and June 1 of this year, the
everywhere present Colorado Chapter participated in the Capitol Hill People's Fairas it does each year. According to the
Denver Post:
The annual two-day People's Fair at
East High School in Denver is an
event that has a place for almost any-

In February, Talley was visited by the

"lovely and fastidiously neutral zoning inspector" to see ifthe cedars really could take
root, and following that visit Talley decided
that he did not care to go either to court or to
jail (with a fine of $999.99) and hence would
comply with all zoning regulations.
However, the visit was not so happy for
one of the ministers who had threatened
Talley over his bookstore. That clergyman
was informed by the same inspector that the
church must hire a licensed sign contractor
to acquire a sign permit for $50.00.
In March, the zoning violations had
increased with yet another added to the list:
(6) it is unlawful to park cars on an
unpaved surface.
The Rocky Mountain News even ran a
story on Talley's zoning problems on March
19. Guess who came to the rescue? Guess
who offered to help? Guess who cared
enough to call and commiserate? Well, you
got it! That's exactly right: No one did. Did

Austin, Texas

September 1986

Page 23


thing: atheist dogma and dog adoption, social issues and somersaults,
and a host of arts, crafts, opinions,
orations, and rock-and-roll bands.
The fair, which continues today
[June 1], drew a crowd police estimated at 75,000. People came from
around the region to attend the event,
which has steadily gained popularity
since it began in 1972.
In the words of the July Colorado Atheist:
"The Capitol Hill People's Fair went far, far
better than our [the Chapter's] wildest
speculations .... Every time we have a booth
at the Fair, we are mentioned in the first
paragraph of at least one of the major dailies,
and it happened again. Lots of new names
for the prospect list, too." The Chapter's
annual participation in this event not only
exposes a great many people to Atheism, it
provides a lot of enjoyment to Chapter
members. Just after the event, Edith Fenn,
the Chapter treasurer, wrote to The American Atheist Center: "This is one event that
all the members can take part in. They love
to debate the people/Christians."
Later that month - June 13 to 15 - the
Chapter exhibited Atheist material at the
convention of the National Organization for
Women. This was the first time that American Atheists had ever been represented at a

convention of that organization, which this

year had 1,500 delegates. The exhibit was
well received by the feminists; one person
loved one of the exhibit signs so much
("Keep Your Church Out of My Crotch")
that it was given to her to use when marching past St. Peter's in New York City.
The Chapter officers and members were
so enthused by the response they received
from the public at these two events that the
July Colorado Atheist noted:
[Bob Fenn, Chapter Vice-Director]
concluded from that, we should be at
every community event and/or convention in the state every weekend
from now until we all burn out or turn
to brain-dead organ donors.
That same newsletter suggested that the
Chapter also go to the many area flea
markets and sell Atheist books, T-shirts,
caps, etc.
While all of this activity was going on, Bill
Talley, the Chapter's director, did not neglect making more formal protests against
the powers that be. A billboard company
was criticized for allowinggraphic portrayals
of Christ on the cross to be placed on their
billboards. It was pointed out to the company that such glorification of violence is just
what pornography's critics are complaining


about. The Denver Public School system

also heard from these Colorado Atheists; it
seems its psychology texts only discuss the
Christian "cure" for alcoholism: AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). Congresswoman Patricia Scroeder heard from Talley with his suggestion to rename Bennett's Department of
Education the Department of Indoctrination. A complaint regarding Alcoholics Anonymous was sent to Nancy Reagan, who is so
involved with the "war against drugs."
And all during this the Chapter has been
in the local news repeatedly. As this issue of
the American Atheist was nearly ready to go
to press, yet another clipping was received
from the Colorado Chapter. This time a
reporter's interview of BillTalley, the director, and Bob Fenn, the vice-director, resulted in a full-page article about the Chapter and a three-quarter-page review of The
X-Rated Bible in the July 9-16 issue of
Denver's City Edition.
With all this activity behind it for only the
first half of 1986, one might think the Chapter willrest on its laurels for the second half.
But that's not its style. It is all abuzz with
plans to increase its protesting activity and
with the possibility of sponsoring the Seventeenth Annual National Convention of
American Atheists in April 1987.


IN '2.000 YEARS._.


The telephone listings below are the various services where you may listen to short comments on state/church
issues and viewpoints originated by the Atheist community.
Tucson, Arizona
San Francisco, California
South Bay (San Jose), California
God Speaks
Denver, Colorado
Greater DC
South Florida
Atlanta, Georgia
Northern Illinois
Lexington, Kentucky
Boston, Massachusetts
Detroit, Michigan
Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota
Northern New Jersey

Page 24




Albuquerque, New Mexico

Mid-Hudson, New York
New York City, New York
Schenectady, New York
Reno, Nevada
Columbus, Ohio
Portland, Oregon
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


Austin, Texas

(512) 458-5731


Houston, Texas
Outspoken Voice of Freedom
Salt Lake City, Utah

September 1986


(713) 664-7678
(713) 527-9255
(801) 364-4939

American Atheist

John M. Allegro

of religious loyalties has
disastrous for humanity, as we

know all too well. Wars fought to assert the

claims to supremacy of rival theological systems, or even of differing ways of serving the
same deity, have been among the most ruthless and bitter. In so individual a matter as a
man's relationship with his god it is not surprisingthat there should be great differences
among the creeds and rituals of people living
in widelydifferent environments. Such variations willbe very largely the product of local
needs and customs, and it is in the nature of
a system that seeks to establish a long continuity of relationship between a people and
its deity that religious thought is essentially
conservative. Innovations are viewed with
suspicion and, where reluctantly accepted
under political or ecological pressures, must
be seen to have roots deeply set in the soil of
local tradition. Thus regional and ethnic
variations of common religious themes
assume an importance in the eyes of their
adherents that tend to obscure more basic
concepts shared with alien faiths.
In a rapidly shrinking world and ever
closer interdependence of ethnic and political groups, there is no room for religious
intolerance. The recent interest in some
form of religious ecumenism is but one
aspect of a growing awareness of the need to
reappraise man's common concerns and
heritage. If it is too much at this stage of our
intellectual development to ask that some
less emotional motivation should determine
our understanding of the world and human
destiny, we should at least appreciate that
man's search for a god stems from a discontent that is part of his genetic background.
Primate Parallels
The primates are social animals. The way
they associate and the precise relationships
among members of each group varies considerably with the species. But, in general,
monkeys and apes live in close proximity to
others of their kind, and their individual wellbeing depends upon their relations with one
another. The defensive cohesiveness of the
group, for instance, is of special importance
to a species livingin open country and facing
constant threats from predators. This kind
of recurrent danger needs a strong disciplinary organization based upon a rigid domi-

Austin, Texas

nance hierarchy and chain of command.

Every animal must be aware of its position in
society and its defensive role. The leadership may normally only be challenged when
the dominant male can no longer command
the respect of his inferiors and thus becomes
a menace to the welfare of the group. This
kind of hierarchical organization also has
advantages in the processes of selective
breeding. The dominant male secures the
females of his choice when they come on
heat and thus maintains the strain of the
species at its optimum for survival.
But in the relative security of the forests
this kind of ruthless tyranny in social relationships is unnecessary, and some more
relaxed attitude prevails among group members. Thus among chimpanzees and gorillas,
dominance behavior is minimal, although
the differing social status of young and old,
inexperienced and mature, male and female,
is clearly recognized. There are, however,
no permanent leaders of such groups, and
the dominant males exercise no exclusive
rights over estral females, as do, for instance, monkeys and baboons.
As far as social grouping is concerned, it is
the small, highly mobile gibbon which comes
closest among the apes to the pattern of the
human family. The male gibbon accompanies a single female and two or three offspring of different ages. The families maintain a strict territorial discipline, and when
the male adolescents grow old enough to
present a challenge to their father's authority, they are driven away to establish new
territories of their own.
Physically closer to man, the gorilla moves
around more widely through less clearly
demarcated territories, carrying or leading
his young. But the gorilla paterfamilias is less
possessive than the gibbon; he allows a few
unrelated males to accompany his family
and even to take their turn with an estral
female. Only when they make some overt
attempt to usurp the father's authority does
the silverback see them off.
Somewhere along the evolutionary path a
radical alteration in primate sexuality occurred: It became necessary for the development of permanent pair-bonding relationships for sex to mean far more than a mere
device for fertilizing the female. Sex had to
be extended into a means for drawingindividuals together and holding them at least
until their offspring had survived their

September 1986

uniquely prolonged infancy. The male needed to be continually attracted to his mate,
not merely for the few hectic days around
her period of ovulation.
In looking across at these forms of family
and social grouping among living primates,
we may recognize elements in each reflecting the human situation. It is true that no
species of the larger apes adequately represents man's nonestral pair-bonding arrangement for the care of the newborn or
approaches the human potential for creative
thought. Nevertheless, with care it is possible to supplement the sparse fossil and
archaeological information on the social
behavior of our forebears with observations
of our primate cousins in the wild.
As far as numbers are concerned, it is
reasonable to assume that small groups of
hominids would have stood a better chance
of survival in times of drought and widely
dispersed food supplies than larger populations foraging together. The African hominid
Australopithecus ("Southern Ape") probably lived in communities of no more than
twenty or thirty, grouped around home
bases consisting of simple stone windbreaks.
If, in times of extreme heat or cold, they
sought out caves or overhanging cliffs for
shelter, it would probably be only in daytime,
for the caves were also the lairs of more
efficient killers, and, until the invention of
fire, the hominids would have fared better in
the open.
The older males, by virtue of their superior strength and mobility, must have provided the first line of defense and have been
individually responsible for the welfare of
each family. The prime role of the females
would have been dictated for them by the
overriding demands of motherhood, although, in this pre-hunting situation, both
sexes would have been equally adept at food
collection, in grubbing for roots and capturing slow game.
More important for our study are the psychological consequences of the continuous
presence within each family group of a single
dominant male, on the assumed lines of a
gibbon-gorilla type of paternalism. This must
have given rise to a number of potential
areas of stress between parents and their
young, especially between the father and his
male offspring. The infant would have found
himself torn between wanting to keep close
to his mother, as the prime source of food

Page 25

For what religious man came eventually to think

of as "conscience" is simply the faculty that
enabled his hominid ancestors to inhibit their
programmed responses to stimuli in the interests
of some longer-term advantage.
and comfort, and having to avoid provoking
his father into a display of jealous hostility
that could end by the youngster being driven
from the family group. All the evidence of
primate behavior suggests that the presence
of another male within such a close-knit
social group would have appeared to the
adult as an actual or potential threat to his
authority and sexual rights.
The Australopithecus paterfamilias is thus
confronted within his family circle with what
appears to be a threat to his supremacy. Ifhe
does not immediately respond to the danger
signals and see the intruder off, it can only be
that some other, more powerful factor is
overriding his natural inclinations. Even if,at
this early stage in hominid development, we
should hesitate to ascribe such restraint to
pure reason, we are justified in recognizing
here the beginnings of rational self.control
and the dawn of an awareness of social
responsibility. In the interests of the common good, the primate has learned to stay
his hand, to hesitate before yielding to the
prompting of his instincts, and to consider
an alternative line of action.
When the hoininid thus responds consciously to the constrictive demands of life
within a close-knit family group, evolution
has entered a new phase. Increasingly he will
learn to cooperate with his fellows for the
well-being of the community, and, as he
crosses the threshold of reason, his culture
will enable him to control his own environment and thus his own development. Rationality willbegin to moderate the random
forces of mutation in the evolutionary
Evolution And
The Oedipus Complex
That the australopithecine father did learn
to live with junior, and junior to behave circumspectly within the familycircle, is proved
by the survival of the species for hundreds of
thousands of years. But the achievement
was bought dearly. The kind of stress
involved in this primitive father-son relationship has been seen by some as the ultimate
source of that anxiety state known since
Freud as the "Oedipus complex." The Viennese psychologist believed that he could
trace the neurotic condition of some of his

Page 26

male patients to an overwhelming fear during their formative years that their love for
their mother would incur their father's
Freud's basic assumptions, methods, and
the validity of his patients' revelations under
psychoanalysis have all been brought seriously into question, especially in recent
years. But the neurotic symptoms with
which the master of psychoanalysis tried to
deal are real enough, and it may well be that
many of our modern sexual neuroses have
their origins in this formative period in
hominid psychological development. Our
ancestors were trying to move away from a
large, baboon-like pack grouping into a
smaller, family-based arrangement of living.
The adult male had become an integral part
of the family circle, continually attracted
sexually to his mate, and sharing in the
upbringing of their offspring. He had to be
able to assert his authority in times of
danger, and yet to relax his jealous aggressiveness in the interests of domestic harmony and the rearing of his young. Small
wonder if this change in a long-established
behavioral pattern at such a crucial time in
hominid development should have left its
mark in human psychology.
Freud suggested that his "Oedipus complex" was not only one of the most important sources of obsessional guilt among neurotics, but that man may have acquired his
sense of guilt generally from the deep-seated
trauma. He even saw it as the prime source
of religion and morality. There is, of course,
far more to religion than a sense of guilt, but
we have to agree that the sources of man's
"divine discontent" are as deep in the human
psyche as the peculiar evolutionary circumstances that have produced in Homo sapiens our strangely ambivalent attitudes to
parental love and human sexuality. For what
religious man came eventually to think of as
"conscience" is simply the faculty that
enabled his hominid ancestors to inhibit
their programmed responses to stimuli in
the interests of some longer-term advantage. "Guilt" is the unease that accompanies
and sometimes motivates that control, and
"god" is the idealist projection of the conscience in moral terms. Through his religions man both dramatizes the conflict and
seeks its resolution. Unhappily for our peace

September 1986

of mind, that unease is an integral part of

human nature. The spur that was necessary
to drive the primate into intelligent manhood
remains with us as the energy that motivates
our conscious minds to ordered thinking.
When man's remote ancestors developed
a taste for meat to supplement their largely
vegetarian diet, they set in train a whole
series of physical, psychological, and social
changes which crucially affected the development of Homo sapiens. Keen stereoscopic vision the primate already had, a legacy of
his move from the forest floor to the trees.
Now he would need to pit his wits and body
against the animals of the plain, fleeter of
foot, and already long adapted to the crafts
of stalking prey and ambush.
Physically he grew larger and joined that
select band of big mammals which demand a
disproportionately greater expanse of territory per head than is justified on grounds of
individual bulk. A large animal needs more
room for eating, drinking, and for daytime
concealment and nighttime sleeping than a
smaller creature. A carnivorous hunter will
extend his range of movement to match the
availability of his prey and his own capabilities. Small monkeys do not usually roam
beyond a half-mile radius of their forest feeding grounds; baboons in troops of forty can
range over some forty miles; gorillas in much
smaller groups normally keep within ten
miles of their home base. The early Nimrods, "mighty hunters," would eventually
traverse hunting territories as great as those
of wolves and wild dogs, who move in packs
of ten over hundreds of square miles.
Such expeditions would require of the
hominid participant a high degree of collaborative effort, foresight, courage, and singlemindedness of purpose, as well as physical
agility and stamina. He needed to be able to
make fire to defend himself at night and keep
warm, as well as the skill to make stone tools
for skinning his prey and weapons to bring
them down. Above all, hunting on this scale
demands the ability to think logically and to
communicate with his fellows, and both
activities require speech. Homo erectus
360,000 years ago had fire, and he had
almost certainly developed the very considerable anatomical prerequisites of speech,
made initially possible by the erect stance
that opened the valve of his pharynx. The
fact that he was now an accomplished hunter and had the elements of a social organization is evidence that he had also achieved
the fine neural and muscle coordination
necessary for articulate speech. Perhaps
this facility above all won him eventual domination over his greatest hominid rival,
Their journeys farther and farther afield in
search of game presented man's hunting
ancestors with fresh challenges and enriched
their store of experiences. The inadequate,
or plain unlucky, ones perished in the open

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country; the successful returned to their

mates to breed offspring more likely to
prove themselves "mighty men" when their
turn came to leave home.
The First Golf Widows
Longer missions in the field, however,
necessitated social and biological adjustments, which in turn gave rise to psychological stresses that would endure into modern
man. Already certain physical differences
between the sexes had been accentuated.
The male frame was better adapted to make
the best possible use of his newfound ability
to run on two legs, and the wider-hipped
female could not keep up with him in the
hunting field. She was left behind to bear and
care for her offspring, now no longer able to
cling to her on the move. In any case, the
extrauterine development required by the
young hominid demanded the mother's fulltime attention in more settled conditions
than a hunting expedition would permit. A
monkey's infant is helpless for only the first
year or so of its life,the young of the ape for
two or three years, but it has been estimated
that the Homo erectus baby of half a million
years ago would have needed four or five
years to attain a degree of self-sufficiency
that would enable it to fend for itself.
During that time the hominid mothers
would be left by their mates for increasing
periods, as the hunters undertook even
more adventurous expeditions away from
home. They were thus deprived of male
company at the very time when practical
assistance and protection would be needed
most. If sexual activity had by now assumed
a nonestral continuity, and the family unit
had become accepted as the customary
grouping of the species, the absence of the
male partner would have been more deeply
felt than a mere wish for sensual gratification
in coitus. Eroticism was already taking on its
wider, social significance; sexual relationships were beginning to demand those qualities of constant comradeship and mutual
comfort that we associate with human love.
For the males, long periods away from
their mates may have encouraged homosexual activity, the more sensually acceptable now that automatic hormonal control of
sexual behavior had given way to a free
selection of partners. If so, this biologically
sterile deviation may well have contributed
to the increasing dimorphism of the species.
The female's need to recapture the attentions of her returned consort from his male
companions would have tended to favor
those females exhibiting more pronounced
secondary sex characteristics to compensate for the diminishing effect of periodic
estral signals. Among the hominids this matter of overt "sexiness" became a matter of
crucial importance if the species was to survive, and the female responded by develop-

Austin, Texas

ing as permanent features of her physical

appearance certain areas of swelling, sensitivity, and coloration normally associated
only with periods of sexual anticipation. Her
mammary glands expanded far beyond any
functional necessity, perhaps, as has been
suggested, to mimic those other large global
appendages, her buttocks, developed before she changed her coital presentation
from back to front. The swelling and reddening of her "lower lips," the vulva, during
intercourse became the permanent aspect
of the everted and pigmented margins of her
mouth. The primate female's estral flushing
signals, hitherto confined to the genital
areas, extended to other regions of the body
as sexual display signals not confined to
periods of "heat," and now more permanently in view with the loss of body hair.
Where hair was retained, in the armpits and
around the genitals, it served to distribute
the odor-producing substances secreted by
the apocrine glands with which the female of
our species is far more richly endowed than
the male, to advertise her sexual receptivity.
In short, the exasperation of the modern
"golf widow" has a long history in primate
development; her recourse to the beauty
parlor and plastic surgeon was foreshadowed in her hominid predecessor's anatomical adaptations to enable her to compete
more effectively in the mating game.
But too much sexiness can be a bad thing.
Continual receptivity in the female is an
open invitation to promiscuity, which is a
threat to parental pair-bonding. It must also
aggravate the sense of deprivation among
less favored suitors. Neighboring young
bloods have, as it were, to restrain their
ardor and be content to stand on the sidewalk and wolf whistle. It hardly needs pointing out that the stresses in society which this
new situation engendered persisted into the
next evolutionary grade of Homo sapiens.
Man has found it necessary to adopt a
number of measures designed to dampen
down our instinctive responses to sexual
display signals. Among the most primitive
people livingin the hottest climates it is often
customary to wear some garment to cover
the genitalia and other powerfully evocative
display regions of the body, or to adopt
some cultural means of physically separating the sexes until they are in a position to
establish a permanent pair-bonding relationship and bring up children.
Such artificial restrictions to free sexual
indulgence have their price. A perpetual
state of tension arises between the natural
inclinations of the sexually alert adolescent
and the demands of family and communal
life.From being a reflex action for reproductive copulation, triggered by certain visual
and olfactory stimuli, sex has become an
end in itself, involving a wide range of emotions, many of them in continual conflict.
The sex urge in man has therefore a wider

September 1986

and more emotive significance than obtains

in the lower animals, and commands more of
our attention than its biological importance
would seem to warrant.
Sexual frustration and deviation are the
unhappy by-products of man's evolutionary
and technical progress. While such emotional instability can give impetus to creative
thought, it produces an area of discontent
which family intimacy and mutual reassurance can only partly assuage and must in
many respects only exacerbate. The oedipal
stresses that modern man has inherited are
just one product of conflicting sexual interests within the family.When parental ties are
broken by the needs of a hunting economy,
the lonely mother must seek elsewhere for
her comfort. It has been suggested that the
incest taboos that are almost universal in
human societies stem from this stage in our
evolution. Certainly, the avoidance of sexual
relations between parents and their children, or between sibs, is not instinctive, in
the sense that the male baboon will instinctively spurn a female not in heat. it is rather a
cultural inhibition derived from the kind of
situation prevalent in any hunting community when the patriarchal male is absent for
long periods from the family. But the taboo is
so deep-seated and ubiquitous that one is
tempted to believe that its transmission is
genetic, that is, that the guilt and abhorrence
that incestuous behavior arouses in most
humans must be somehow programmed
into our genes.
Eventually such sexual customs and inhibitions acquired a religious authority, and
their observance was laid upon the pious
conscience of the believer. But the motivations for such deep-seated and probably prehuman taboos must have long preceded the
concept of a tribal god as the custodian of his
people's sexual discipline; and their ultimate
sanction was less concerned with fear of
divine retribution, such as overtook the libidinous city of Sodom, than with the disruption to be expected in a hunting community
when social rivalries threaten its cohesion.
Partitioning The Mind
That unease of conscience that man developed as a means of exercising control over
his primary instincts is a unique characteristic of Homo sapiens. The separation of the
mind into subconscious and conscious levels which is implicit in the supervisory process makes logical reasoning possible. While
the one level freely indulges itself in receiving
and recording instantaneous impressions
from the senses, the other tries to sift and
marshal the information they convey into
the straight lines of conceptual thought. If it
is at this level that we organize our daily
lives, it is from that rich storehouse of past
experience, individually perceived or, as
some would maintain, genetically inherited,

Page 27

that the religious visionary obtains his

glimpses of "reality"; it is his window onto
heaven. By dulling the critical faculties of his
consciousness through some form of self.hypnosis, the mystic pulls aside the curtains
of the subconscious and allows himself to be
dazzled and overwhelmed by the intensity of
images projected from the past.
The prophet shares his ability to dissociate mentally with the creative artist and the
schizophrenic. Genius, as we know, often
borders on madness, and society has shown
itself willing to extend an unusual tolerance
to such gifted individuals in recognition of
the benefits their visions and voices might
bring to the "sane" world. The manner and
degree of their ecstasy ("standing outside
oneself') varies greatly according to local
cultural traditions, but all share the underlying belief that it is possible to penetrate the
limits of human awareness by spontaneous
intuition, and thus bypass the normal reasoning process. However sceptically we
may treat such "instant" revelations, recognizing them for the most part as being no
more than the disordered impressions of
past experience, the prophet finds many
ready to accept his claims to special knowledge and to believe that he has indeed seen
the face of god and heard his word. His
"revelation" finds a response in the hearts of
his followers because he is drawing ultimately upon that reservoir of human experience that is common to us all. And because
the believer can find here the comfort and
reassurance of shared understanding, he
will be inspired with renewed confidence in
himself and his mission in lifeand find peace
of mind amid all its uncertainties.
The price demanded for the intellectual
and spiritual benefits of man's divided mind
is the clash of conflicting desires. Popular
psychology has acquainted us all with the
dangers of frustration through the suppression of our natural inclinations, and it may be
that an obsession with these fears has led to
the excesses of self-indulgence characteristic of some aspects of our "permissive"
society. But some frustration of our impulses can be intellectually rewarding if the
damming of the libido in one direction leads
to the application of compensatory effort
elsewhere. Examples abound in the arts and
sciences where the attainment of exceptional skills has been bought at the cost of
satisfactory sexual and family relationships.
It seems, therefore, that in every field of
human endeavor, in the arts, sciences, and
in religion, the divided mind bequeathed to
us by our evolutionary heritage has been the
greatest single factor in our success as a
species. Whether we shall survive to enjoy
our triumph for long depends largely on our
ability to resolve this inherited discontent by
other means than self-destruction. For while
it is one thing for the creative artist and
scientist to sacrifice his peace of mind for the

Page 28

sake of his genius, the emotional stress for

most of us cannot be directed outwards to
great works. It tends to build up within us,
threatening our equanimity and the harmony of our social and family relationships.
Some would maintain that religious faith
provides that necessary relief for our inbuilt
anxieties, and define this aspect of religion
as a system of shared experiences, emotional, physical, and intellectual, directed to
just that end. Certainly today the religious
phenomenon is so universal among men
that we must assume that this inclination to
dissociate periodically from more rational
thought and constructive action is a kind of
release-valve designed to relieve the stresses
imposed upon us by the divided mind. In that
case, we might expect to find such "displacement activity" already indulged in by
those lower primates whose life-style might
otherwise lead us to think that they are similarly subject to the emotional strains of conflicting urges.
Defying The Storms
Something of the kind may be the explanation for a remarkable ritual dance performed by chimpanzees in the rain forests of
Tanzania, suchas was observed by the naturalist Jane Goodall. As the first heavy
drops of an approaching rainstorm were felt,
she watched a party of chimpanzees plod up
a steep grassy slope towards the open ridge
at the top. There they paused. Then the
storm broke, in torrents of rain and a mighty
clap of thunder. As ifthis was the signal, one
of the seven big males in the party stood
upright and, as he swayed and staggered
rhythmically from foot to foot, he uttered a
rising crescendo of pant-hoots. Then off he
charged, flat out down the slope towards the
trees he had just left. He ran some thirty
yards and then, swinging round the trunk of
a small tree to break his headlong rush, he
leapt into the low branches and sat motionless.
Almost at once two other males charged
after him. One of them broke off a branch
from a tree as he ran and brandished it in the
air before hurling it ahead of him, The other,
as he reached the end of his run, stood
upright and rhythmically swayed the
branches of a tree back and forth, before
seizing a huge bough and dragging it farther
down the slope. A fourth male, as he also
charged, leapt into a tree and, almost without breaking his speed, tore off a large
branch, leapt with it to the ground and continued down the slope. As the last two males
called and charged down, so the one who
had started the whole performance climbed
from his tree and began plodding up the
slope again, the others following suit. Then
they repeated the whole performance, with
equal vigor, watched by the females and
youngsters who had climbed into the trees

September 1986

at the top of the slope to watch the show.

As the males charged down and plodded
back up, so the rain fell harder and harder,
jagged forks or brilliant flares of lightning lit
the leaden sky and the crashing of thunder
seemed to shake the very mountains. Miss
Goodall adds: "I could only watch and marvel at the magnificence of those splendid
creatures. With a display of strength and
vigor such as this, primitive man himself
might have challenged the elements." (In the
Shadow of Man, Fontana/Collins, 1974, p.
62 f.)

Clearly the violence of the storm had

evoked this defiant response from the animals; the alternative would have been to
huddle paralyzed with fear beneath some
rude shelter and allow their natural anxieties
to have the upper hand. Rather than submit
to the humiliation of acknowledging the superior power of the elements, the chimpanzees
sought refuge in a pattern of behavior,
clearly long established and ritualistic, which
restored their self-respect. Performers and
onlookers shared in this reassuring experience and together achieved their object of
mental equanimity. Had the animals bf"m
human beings, we might have been tempted
to assume that the intention of the dance
was to avert the rainstorm or to appease the
god of thunder. But the purpose here was
clearly subjective, to seek relief for their own
immediate distress.
In a human situation, some similar tensionrelieving "displacement activity" has been
noted among the Samburu tribe of northern
Kenya. In this case it is a natural response to
the buildup of stress in virile young men who
are sexually repressed. The younger warriors of the tribe, called morons, are obliged
from the years of fifteen to thirty to live as
bachelors, and to remain thus in a state of
prolonged adolescence. They find relief from
their frustration in periodic lapses into a
state of trance, marked by uncontrollable
body-shaking. Typical trigger situations
include the out-dancing of one group of
morons by rivals, humiliating them before
their women, or when one of their women is
led away in marriage, or when the morons
are undergoing the rigors of the initiation
ceremonies, or when they are being replaced by a new age group of younger men.
These shaking fits may occur on parade or
when a party is ambushed in the field. The
trances are not regarded as shameful or
deserving of rebuke, but are considered
quite normal by the rest of the tribe. When
the morons are eventually received into
adult status and marry, the shaking bouts
cease and would thereafter be considered
inappropriate to their new situation.
Similarly, among the Abelam tribe of New
Guinea, young deprived bachelors sometimes dissociate mentally and run amok in
bursts of uncontrolled violence, making hysterically agitated gestures. This disruptive

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behavior is also tolerated by the community

and, indeed, earns for the young men some
measure of respect.
Such human religious rituals and symbolism share a common function in relieving
stress, but their overt actions and invocations may be directed to fulfillingquite dissimilar subsidiary purposes like rainmaking,
inducing crop and animal fertility, and success in battle. We tend to regard these
secondary motivations as primary, and
anthropologists categorize religions on that
basis as nature religions, fertility cults, veneration of the martial arts, and so on. But if
we are to understand what makes human
beings religious we should look deeper into
the evolutionary origin of those psychological stresses that make us seek reassurance
in some power outside ourselves. At least to
the stage of Homo erectus we can find here
common ground; thereafter it is possible
that the various hominid subspecies went
their separate ways geographically and
crossed the sapiens threshold independent1yat different times (see my All Manner of
Men, Charles C. Thomas, Springfield, Ill.,
1982). It would be reasonable, then, to
expect "knowing man" to express his religious impulses in a variety of ways to suit his
racial characteristics and local environment.
Again, the precise means of obtaining
emotional relief must depend upon the depth
of ecstatic trance demanded by individual
needs and tribal custom. The formal worship of Anglican Christianity in an AngloSaxon community, for instance, operates
usually within very restrained and conventionallimits compared with the less inhibited
Afro-American Bible sects of the Deep
South; even the impassioned oratory of a
Methodist revival meeting in England would
seem to the average churchgoer a breach of
good taste and an unwarranted display of
emotional extravagance. More primitive
peoples in their religious festivals deliberately set out to disorientate their minds by
such methods of mass-hypnosis as dancing
to the point of exhaustion, monotonous
repetition of words and phrases, rhythmic
drumming or stamping, uncontrolled jerking,twirling, or head-shaking, thereby inducing in themselves and their companions a
"hypnoid," or trance, state, in which the
conscious mind is opened up to the "inspiration" or suggestion of its subconscious levels. At the same time, free rein is also given
to suppressed emotions in a socially acceptable way, thus forestalling more dangerous
The Trance
The psychological mechanism of the religious trance is well enough known; in fact, it
is essentially the same as that employed by
the shock therapist treating a neurotic
patient. He willtry, through hypnosis, drugs,

Austin, Texas

But if we are to understand what makes human

beings religious we should look deeper into the
evolutionary origin of those psychological
stresses that make us seek reassurance in some
power outside ourselves.
or electrical shock treatment, to produce a
crisis state in his subject's nervous system
that willarouse him to "abreact," that is, to
rehearse in his conscious mind the traumatic events that brought about his hysterical condition. For example, a victim of shell
shock can be made to relive the nightmare of
the trenches that so disturbed his mind, and
which thereafter he has tried to blot from his
memory. By forcing it to the light of consciousness under controlled conditions, the
patient can be persuaded to go once more
through that dreadful experience, step by
step, horror by horror, until at last, goaded
to breaking point by the psychiatrist's
remorseless probing, his nervous system
breaks down and the subject suffers a complete collapse. When he returns to normal,
he will often express his relief in floods of
tears, or in shaking his head and smiling, and
pronounce himself wonderfully free of the
burden of anxiety that had beset him. From
then on he willbe able to recall the events at
will, so that the awful memory is not left to
fester in his subconscious, exerting its baneful influence on the balance of his mind.
This treatment has produced remarkable
results among victims of battle neuroses in
two world wars, but the principle involved
has a much wider reference for the human
condition. Through such climactic orgasms
of excitement, it is possible to relieve
stresses and strains that are more persistent
and deep-seated than those generated by a
single traumatic shock. The psychiatrists
found that it was not always necessary to stir
the excitement of the neurotic patient by
concentrating his attention upon the particular situation that caused the initial trauma;
any fear-provoking stimulus could be used
to create the necessary crisis and thus clear
the brain of its accumulated tension. So,
over a much wider field of human experience, the strains that must inevitably
develop in the divided mind of Homo sapiens
can be relieved periodically by similar emotional crises aroused in a variety of ways.
Religious sentiment embraces many kinds
of emotion, including fear, sorrow, joy, lust,
hatred, all of which can be carried to
extremes. In the less inhibited cults, the
intensity of excitement generated during
worship can drive the devotee into a trance
or "possession." In this highly suggestible

September 1986

state, some areas of the brain become sensitized and receptive, while others may
suffer strong inhibition, amounting even to
paralysis. Thus, on the one hand, the subject
may feel himself divinely inspired and credit
every random impression received from
without, or projected from his own subconscious, as a "revelation" of eternal truth,
and, on the other hand, become inured to a
level of pain that would be otherwise well
beyond his normal threshold of tolerance. In
every case, the usual processes of the mind
are disturbed, critical faculties suspended,
and the believer is suddenly freed from the
burden of his own individuality. He can
resign himself to being "taken over" by the
god or controlling spirit, and achieves thereby a wonderful sense of inner peace.
It is this psychiatry that motivates the revivalist meeting and the political convention.
The hellfire speaker and the ranting demagogue can so stir their audiences into a state
of extreme emotion that the more susceptible souls present will pass into a hypnoid
condition, where they are easily persuaded
into adopting beliefs and attitudes they
would otherwise reject or ignore. Such
"conversions" may not be so sudden as they
seem, for the stresses and anxieties that
brought their subjects to the mission or convention may have been building up for some
time previously; it needed but the mounting
excitement and the hypnotic effect of the
speaker's words uttered in an atmosphere of
tense expectancy to trigger the release
mechanism. The wave of emotion breaks,
and the "convert" responds unreservedly to
the call of the Master. His doubts and personal misgivings are swept aside, for now he
is a child of his god (or the State), his sins (or
deviation isms) are forgiven, and he knows
the "peace which passeth all understanding." This sense of well-being may not last
long; it is likely that a new set of inhibitions
will gather around him, encouraging fresh
doubts and building up another head of
emotional steam that willneed some further
climactic release.
The increased suggestibility of a hynoid
subject is a factor that the practicing psychoanalyst watches carefully. It is too easy
for the patients repeatedly treated in this
way to suffer what the Freudians call a
"transference situation," in which. in his

Page 29

state of extreme sensitivity, he fastens upon

every word uttered by the psychiatrist as
inspired, and every wish or suggestion as a
divine command. The evangelist and the politician may welcome this attachment, supremely confident that their way and teaching is the best, and that they are themselves
the servants of Truth. The wise psychiatrist
knows better and tries to divert his patient's
devotion into more discerning and critical
The true shaman, or inspired priest,
invites his audience to identify themselves
with him in his seance, but only that they
may thereby share his communion with the
elemental powers in the universe. The
rhythmic music and singing, and later the
dancing of the shaman, gradually involve
every participant more and more in collective action. The tempo increases until the
audience enters a state of mass ecstasy
which is scarcely less intense than that of the
shaman himself. Afterwards those present
can recollect various moments of the performance when they have attained the
heights of psycho-physiological emotion and
can recall the hallucinations of sight and
hearing that they have experienced. They
then have a deep satisfaction - much
greater, we are told, than that produced by
theatrical and musical performances in a
European cultural context, because in shamanizing, the audience acts and participates
in the shaman's experience.
In a more secular context, much the same
hysteria occurs among teenage girls at pop
festivals, under the inspiration of their
guitar-twanging, pubes-thrusting "shamans"
on the stage. The main difference between
these and more serious release rituals is that
there the control of the participants, their
initial stimulation, their urging to a climax,
and, most important, their gradual rundown
to normality is firmly in the hands of the
dance leader and his acolytes; we have to
call in the police and the ambulance brigade.
But, then, true religious release rituals are
not games and weekend frolics; they are
necessary devices by which communities try
to relieve the bio-psychological tensions in a
way that offers the individual support and
the social group a vehicle for joint action.
The object of adoration is of less moment,
provided he, she, or it can serve as an acceptable focus for the congregation's emotions
and invite some measure of self-identification. The wise shaman, like the practicing
psychiatrist, will avoid the kind of personal
transference openly courted by the pop singer and the political warlord through their
publicity agents.
The essential feature of alleffective release
rituals should be one of emotional relief and
inner contentment, with the participant left
feeling guilt-free and relaxed. If it is otherwise, some vital element is missing or, as is
particularly common in over-rationalized

Page 30

faiths, some unacceptably precise formulation of theological concepts has hindered

the complete absorption of the conscious
mind and demanded of the intelligent worshipper an intolerable sacrifice of his intellectual integrity. The resultant anxiety then
merely adds to the burden of guilt, since the
harassed religionist seems to be faced with a
choice between honesty and piety. Such
"rational religions" were desperately sought
among Christians of the nineteenth century
to counter the influence of those new schools
of biblical criticism whose intent seemed to
be only the discrediting of traditional interpretations by exposing the inconsistencies
of Holy Writ. But no philosophy or dogmatic
theology can adequately fulfillthe function of
religious absolution, however intellectually
satisfying. The Greeks, with their flair for
compromise, managed to combine mysticism with a healthy, rational skepticism.
Their mockery of the traditional gods and
goddesses indulging in amorous buffoonery
in the Olympian bedchambers did not prevent intelligent Greeks from acknowledging
the need of ordinary mortals for some emotional release from the pressures of everyday living. They made their mythologies the
stage on which to enact religious dramas
that offered them release from their frustrations, and they threw themselves into the
emotional embrace of their mystery cults.
They did not fall into the error of their more
pedantic cultural successors who demand
that biblical myths be historical fact, and
prophetic oracles some kind of Old Moore's
Our own tormented Christian civilization
is seeking some similar solution, either by
rejecting the Church's dogmaticism in favor
of the esoteric teaching of the Eastern guru,
or, more sadly, by piously reverting to the
uncritical days of "fundamentalist" Christianity and the call of the Bible-thumping
salvationist, and, even more ominously, to
the persuasive oratory of the "born-again"
political warlord.
In summary, the stresses imposed upon
Homo sapiens by the need to control his
instinctive drives in the interests of social
and domestic harmony can find some relief
in mental dissociation. In religious terms,
this has given the mystic and the shaman a
means of access to a rich store of subconscious impressions whose immediacy and
vividness have claimed for them a divine
origin and authority. For lesser mortals, the
transports of religious ecstasy in church or
village square have offered a controlled and
socially acceptable outlet for suppressed
emotions. The problem that has grown with
man's increasing self-restraint is that to avail
himself of this psychological therapy he
must relax that very faculty for rational motivation that has brought him where he is;
the cause of his distress is the chief obstacle
to its relief.

September 1986

It may be that, despite our rightly-prized

rationality, religion still offers man his best
chance of survival, or at least of buying himself a little more time in which to devise some
more reasoned way out of his dilemma. Ifso,
it must be a faith that offers something more
than a formal assent to highly speculative
dogma about the nature of a god and his
divine purpose in creation; it must promise
its adherents a living relationship that
answers man's individual needs within a
formal structure of communal worship. It
has to satisfy the emotions without violating
the believer's intellectual integrity, and it
must avoid the tragic divisiveness of ethnic
or social affiliations by finding a common
reference in our biological heritage. We all
traveled the same evolutionary road to
manhood and so share the same deep sensibilities about such matters as the good
earth, sexual and family relationships, and a
due regard for the balance of nature. Racial,
climatic, and geographical differences have
imposed local variations on man's responses
to those fundamental perceptions, but in the
depths of his consciousness there is a common awareness of basic needs and responsibilities. Upon such conceptions it should
be possible to found some universal and
cohesive faith.
Historically, the cult of the Earth Mother,
the ancient religion of the witches, has probably come nearest to fulfillingthis role, and
being sexually oriented has been especially
concerned with this most disturbing and
potentially disruptive element in man's biological constitution. Perhaps in our present
concern for ecological conservation, with its
constant cry for preserving this or that species of wildlife, we are moving towards a
revival of the old Nature religion, and rediscovering in the terrestrial womb that gave us
birth the allegiance we owe our lost gods. It
may be that in our growing appreciation of
the delicate balance that has to be maintained if life on this planet is to survive, we
can subscribe to a common creed that does
not mock reason, and whose intellectual
discipline willyet allow for that periodic surrender of ourselves into ecstatic sensuality
that is the price demanded by our evolutionary heritage. Such a faith allows of no frontiers, and can resist the war cries of religious
bigots and chauvinistic shamans. ~


John M. Allegro is best known for his
work on the Dead Sea Scrolls and
his position on the international Dead
Sea Scrolls editing team. Articulate,
controversial, and consistently
thought-provoking, he is the author of
a dozen works and numerous articles
in learned and popular journals.

American Atheist


When the first installment of a regularly scheduled, fifteen-minute, weekly American Atheist radio
series on KTBC radio (a station in Austin, Texas, owned by then-president Lyndon Baines Johnson) hit
the airwaves on June 3, 1968, the nation was shocked. The programs had to be submitted weeks in
advance and were heavily censored. The 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. 92, first broadcast on April
been exploring with you the history
and religion, particularly the

Roman Catholic church. However, it is also

necessary to explore Protestantism and
medicine after the Reformation, for no sudden change in the so-called "sacred theory"
ofmedicine derived from the break with the
Roman Catholic church at all. The Protestants were just as "hard-line" against medical science as the Roman Catholics before
them had been.
Luther again and again ascribed his own
ailmentsand diseases to "devil's spells," and
declared that "Satan produces all the maladies which afflict mankind, for he is the
prince of death," and that "he poisons the
air," but that "no malady comes from God."
From that day to this we see Protestants
inallnations seeking the cause of disease in
Satanic influence and its cure in fetishism.
The best known Protestant church phase in
respect to medicine was the French theologicaldoctrine of the efficacy of the royal touch
in sundry diseases, especially epilepsy and
scrofula, the latter being consequently
known as "the king's evil." This mode of
cure began with Edward the Confessor in
the eleventh century and reached a climax in
England. Henry VIII, Elizabeth, the Stuarts,
Charles, and James I engaged in the sport.
The Protestant church gathered as much
evidence as possible to support this theory,
but of all evidence that is extant, that concerning the cynical debauchee, Charles II, is
the greatest in volume. He "touched"
100,000persons. For each one a gold medal
was issued, and in some years the cost of
gold medals issued to the afflicted on these
occasions rose as high as 10,000 pounds.
John Brown, Christian Protestant Surgeonin-Ordinary-to-His-Majesty, recorded accounts of sixty cures, and Sergeant -Surgeon
Wiseman devoted one book to prove the
reality of the cures.
Dr. White, in his A History of the Warfare

Austin, Texas

of Science with Theology in Christendom,

Yet it is especially instructive to note
that, while in no other reign were so
many people touched for scrofula,
and in none were so many cures
vouched for, in no other reign did so
many people die of that disease; the
bills of mortality show this clearly, and
the reason doubtless is the general
substitution of supernatural for scientific cure.
Mythmaking and marvel-mongering were
everywhere put to work. A change in royal
succession did not interfere at all with the
miracles, and the greatest court doctors
continued to testify to cures. Only the proliferation of scientific thought combated it, or
it would continue today.
Other monarchs did not engage in this
game, and some had sufficient courage
against the clergy to aid the scientific community. Emperor Frederic II, from time to
time, granted permission to dissect human
subjects. Since the bodies of the dead were
to rise when Jesus Christ appeared in his
second coming, no bodies could be mutilated for dissection. Only nonbelievers killed
in the Inquisition and in religious wars were
bodily mutilated or burned to prevent their
resurrection. That a king would give permission for some dissecting for scientific research was a radical movement at the time.
In 1391, John of Aragon gave the University
of Lerida the privilege of dissecting one dead
criminal every three years. That is one for
the "How Generous Can Christians Be"
department. But the work continued as
Mundinus, Professor of Medicine at Bologna
early in the fourteenth century, dared to use
the human subject occasionally in his lectures.
But the decretal of Pope Boniface VIIIwas

September 1986

yet everywhere, universally construed as

forbidding all dissection and as threatening
excommunication from the church against
those practicing it. Two great theological
tenets were involved. The Bible said that Eve
was made by an almighty god from a rib
taken out of Adam's side. Therefore, there
must be one rib fewer on one side of every
man than on the other. The creation of Eve
was a favorite subject of literature, legendmakers, sculptors, painters, illustrators.
Dissection dealt a deathblow to this sacred
theory, and therefore brought the forces of
ecclesiasticism sternly down upon its practitioners.
The second theory tested by dissection
was that of "the bone." Throughout the
Middle Ages it was believed that there
existed in man a bone "imponderable, incorruptible, incombustible." (Note those three
words and remember the magic number of
three!) This bone was the necessary nucleus
of the resurrection of the body. This hypothetical bone was held in great veneration,
and the theorists in anatomy sought to discover it. Even the renowned and eminent
surgeon Riolan consulted the executioner in
his day to find out whether - when the
executioner burned a criminal - all the
parts were consumed in the fire!
The first man to break from the veneration of Galen and the old forms of religious
or "sacred" medicine was Vesalius. To do
this, he risked the most terrible dangers, the
most formidable of which was the charge of
sacrilege of the teachings of the church. He
fought ecclesiastical censure, great opposition in his own profession, and popular fury.
No peril, however, daunted him. To secure
material for his investigations he haunted
gibbets (gallows where criminals were hung)
and charnel houses (houses where the
bodies of the dead were deposited awaiting
burial). He carefully examined and observed
the human body. This was his first and great-

Page 31

est sin, and from it, at age twenty-eight, he

gave to the world his great work on human
anatomy. In the preface to his work he
argued for his method and against the
parrot-like repetitions of medieval religious
medicine, The theologians moved in, and
Vesalius was saved only because Emperor
Charles V made Vesalius his own physician.
But when Phillip IIcame to the throne, VesaIiuswas charged with dissecting a livingman,
and he was forced to become a wanderer.
Finally, on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land,
apparently undertaken to atone for his sin of
thinking, he was shipwrecked, and in the
prime of his life and strength lost to the
He had won in another way: Because of
his work, licenses to dissect soon began to
be given by sundry popes to universities and
were renewed at intervals of from three to
four years.
The students of human anatomy had to be
giants of strength and conviction. Religious
medicine had been developed from various
theological doctrines regarding the human
body based on arguments showing what the
body ought to be. Anatomical science
showed what it was and is . . . and, the
theological doctrines had to fall.
Religious medicine - let me give you several examples of the kind of medicine and
ideas of medical science that were supported by religion and that sometimes lasted
for a thousand years. Sample: During the
twelfth century a popular theological-medical idea was that during the year in which
the cross of Christ was captured by Saladin,
children, instead of having thirty or thirtytwo teeth as before, had twenty-two only.
This was medicine.
But, let us look just briefly, too, at another
more modern example. In 1847 James
Young Simpson, a Scottish physician, advocated the use of anesthetics in obstetrical
cases, that is - to assist women in childbirth. This was met with a storm of opposition. Scotland had an ancient and timehonored religious belief to the contrary that is, that women must bring forth their
children in pain. The Bible said so. As far
back as the year 1591, the records of Scotland show that Eufame Macalyane, a lady of
rank, was charged with seeking the aid of
Agnes Sampson for the relief of pain at the
time of the birth of her two sons. For this,
Lady Macalyane was burned alive on the
Castle Hill of Edinburgh. This theological
view persisted even to the middle of the
nineteenth century.
From pulpit after pulpit, Dr. Simpson's
use of chloroform in childbirth was denounced. The usual declaration was that
this procedure was "to avoid one part of the
primeval curse upon women." Simpson
wrote pamphlet after pamphlet to defend
the blessing he was bringing to the birth
process. He finally was forced to charge in

Page 32

his pamphleteering, "My opponents forget

the twenty-first verse of the second chapter
of Genesis; it is the record of the first surgical operation ever performed, and that text
proves that the maker of the universe before
he took the rib from Adam's side for the
creation of Eve, caused a deep sleep to fall
upon Adam." The response was typical. The
deep sleep was all right for a man to have a
rib operation, but not to help a woman in
childbirth, for the Bible condemned women,
and I read it to you: Woman had tempted
man to eat of the tree of knowledge when
Eve tempted Adam, and in Genesis 3:16,
god himself said to Eve and to all women, "I
willgreatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children." God had spoken.
The battle was in every aspect of medicine. When inoculation as a preventative of
smallpox was introduced in France and then
in England, Protestant theology being in the
fore, condemned it in pulpit and writing. In
1772Rev. Edward Massey issued his famous
blast that diseases are sent by Providence
for the punishment of sin; and that the proposed attempt to prevent them was "a diabolical operation." Even after that, in respect to inoculation alone, the struggle went
on for thirty years.
Don't laugh. It is serious. It was serious
enough even on this side of the Atlantic.
America is Protestant. See what happened
here in the good old U.S. of A.: In 1721 Dr.
Zabdiel Boylston made an experiment in
inoculation, one of his first subjects being his
own son. The hostility was so bitter that the
selectmen of Boston forbade him to repeat
the experiment. His religious opponents
urged the authorities to try him for murder.
They insisted that smallpox is "a judgment of
God on the sins of the people" and that "to
avert it is but to provoke him more" and
that, further, inoculation is "an encroachment on the prerogatives of Jehovah, whose
right is to wound and to smite." The words of
Hosea were resurrected, although not even
to point: "He hath torn, and he will heal us;
he hath smitten, and he willbind us up."
So bitter was the opposition that Dr.
Boylston's life was in danger. It was considered unsafe for him to be out of his house in
the evenings. He faced the sternest of
charges: "unfaithfulness to the revealed law
of God." Boylston persisted and in about
two years inoculated nearly 300 persons in
Boston and neighboring towns. Six of the
persons died. In the same period, out of
6,000 persons who had taken smallpox naturally and received the usual medical treatment, nearly 1,000 died.
By 1798 an "Anti-Vaccination Society"
was formed by physicians and clergymen in
Boston to suppress vaccinations as "bidding
defiance to Heaven itself, even to the willof
God" and declaring that "the law of God
prohibits the practice." As late as 1803, in

September 1986

addressing the University of Cambridge,

Rev. Dr. Ramsden thundered against vaccination.
One particularly unfortunate occurrence
took place in Canada in 1885. That is merely
eighty-five years ago! Smallpox broke out
among new immigrants coming in to Montreal. There, the Protestant population had
subscribed to vaccination, and they escaped
the disease almost entirely. The Roman
Catholics refused vaccination and suffered
fiercely. The plague became so serious that
travel and trade fell off greatly and quarantine began to be established in neighboring
cities. An effort was made to enforce compulsory vaccination, but large numbers of
the Roman Catholic working population
resisted and even threatened bloodshed,
while the Roman Catholic clergy tolerated
and encouraged this conduct. One priest
declared, "Ifwe are afflicted with smallpox, it
is because we had a carnival last winter,
feasting the flesh, which has offended the
Lord; ... it is to punish our pride that God
has sent us smallpox." The Board of Health
struggled against this superstition and addressed a circular to the Roman Catholic
clergy imploring them to recommend vaccination. Only two or three replied to this; the
great majority were either silent or openly
hostile. The Oblate Fathers, whose church
was situated in the very heart of the infected
district, continued to denounce vaccination.
A great procession was ordered with a
solemn appeal to the Virgin, and the use of
the old rosary was carefully specified.
Meanwhile the disease had nearly died out
among the Protestants while it increased
among the Roman Catholics until the truth
was obvious - that it was contagious - and
proper measures were enforced and the
plague was contained and then stopped.
We see everywhere in all of this, that as
religion prospered and spread its influence,
alleviation of human misery and death from
illnesses waned, but as the science of medicine increased in application and knowledge, religion waned. History repeats and
repeats to us over a thousand years - when
the idea of miracle cures is combated, we
have some chance against disease ... and
miracle is the essence of religion's approach
to disease today, everywhere, from faith
healing to the miracle of the grotto at
Lourdes. ~
Sepher Tolduth Jeshu
(The Jewish Life of Christ)
Translated by G. W. Foote and J. M.
Wheeler in 1885, this has all the elements of the Jesus Christ story - and
predates it by hundreds of years. (50
pp.)(51 08) Send $4.00(including postage and handling) with this ad to:
American Atheist Press, P.O. Box
2117, Austin, TX 78768-2117

American Atheist

100 Years Ago ...
1986 may have presidential candidate Pat
Robertson, but 1886 had the "God-in-theConstitution" party, as this excerpt from the
September 4,1886, Truthseeker shows:
"The God-in-the-Constitution party held
a convention at Saratoga last month which
was well attended and markedly enthusiastic and vigorous. The sole reason for the
existence of this party is to extend the Christian features of our government, and particularly to put the names of God and Christ
into the Constitution, At the Saratoga convention addresses were made by Miss
Frances E_Willard, president of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, and
other theologico-political workers, Jo Cook
wrote his sympathy with the movement, and
Daniel Webster was eulogized to the skies
for his erroneous declaration, in the Girard
willcase, that Christianity was a part of the
common law of the land.
"It is commonly accepted as an American
principle that government derives its just
powers from the consent of the governed_
But our Christian oppressors hold that
government derives its powers from 'God,'
an extraneous personage having no property or voting interest in this world, and consequently no sympathy with the people of
the United States, Christ, another superfluous office-holder, they claim is the rightful
king of nations. The assumption made by
the Christians for these two alleged beings
does not, however, in our opinion, entitle
them to rule the United States, The true
meaning of the National Reform people is, as
we have before pointed out, that the earth
and the fullness thereof belongs to the Lord
and his saints, and that the Christians, being
the saints, desire to enter at once into possession. This is something that is not at all
likely to come to pass so long as a reasonable degree of vigilance is exercised, but that
the Christians are becoming more and more
aggressive, and determined to have the
earth, is plainly to be seen. They are seeking
to hand this government over to a foreign
power, for themselves to run, and no one
can doubt the substantial benefits that
would inure to the church should they succeed. Our children would be taught to reverence this foreign power above the people's
chosen officials; they would learn in school a
system of religion that is false; free speech
would be a thing of the_past, and every citizen would be compelled to pay taxes to
support the worship of this foreign power,
and for the maintenance of his ministers.
The God-in-the-Constitution party, therefore, is preaching treason.

Austin, Texas

"It may be cruel to suggest such a thing,

but how would it work to get the officers of
the National Reform Association to hold a
convention in Chicago, where they could be
indicted and tried for their incendiary language? No doubt a jury could be found
which would convict them of murder, and
they might expiate their offense upon the
gallows. They and the Anarchists are in the
same boat."

the material and intellectual progress of

man. Mr. Lewis also maintains that there is
no such thing as 'sin'; there are wrongs and
injustices, but no sin; that man is no more
sinful than any other form of life, since all life
on earth is tied together by the thread of
"Mr. Lewis hurls this challenge of public
debate at Evangelist Billy Graham; he must
either defend himself or stand convicted of
fear of defeat .... "

35 Years Ago ...

10 Years Ago ...
The following editorial from the September, 1951,Liberal shows that the Atheists of
yesterday were as concerned about the
theopolitical situation as those of today:
"As we go to press word comes from California that more than enough persons have
signed the petitions for a referendum on the
question of granting tax exemption to private schools. The chief beneficiaries of
exemption would be the R.c. parochial
schools and the Hierarchy and its followers
did all possible to intimidate or discourage
petition circulation and signing. They will
now try to get court action of some sort,
possibly to have some petitions declared
invalid. They sneaked this legislation
through and are afraid that if it is put to a
statewide vote of the people it will be repudiated. California is the only state which
taxes church schools and eliminating this
would be a great victory for Rome. On the
other hand, if the Hierarchy is defeated and
the tax is retained it willserve as a precedent
for similar efforts in other states .... "

20 Years Ago ...

Before the world even knew the catchword televangelist, The Age of Reason
Magazine frequently lambasted the televangelist of the day: Billy Graham. The September -October, 1966,issue of it carried this
article under the headline "Joseph Lewis
Challenges BillyGraham":
"In New York, in Miami, and in other cities
throughout the United States, Joseph Lewis
has pursued, vigorously and unrelentingly,
Evangelist Billy Graham. Mr. Lewis maintains that Billy Graham's 'Crusades' are
productive of no good, morally or ethically.
"Mr. Lewis questions with boldness the
efficacy of his gospel preaching, and demands proof of the fulfillment of his promises.
"Mr. Lewis charges that Billy Graham's
stock in trade is SIN. The theological belief
of SIN has been responsible for the FEAR
complex that has plagued mankind for centuries and which has been so destructive of

September 1986

Religion, and the Roman Catholic religion

particularly, has done much to harm the
human race. Frequently, Atheists have
referred to theism's activities as a "war" against reason, against science, or against
rationality. It has become common in modern times for offending nation-states to pay
penalties, retributions, for engaging in or
provoking war.
With that in mind, ten years ago an international group of Atheists suggested that
the largest church in the West make retributions to humanity - and to Atheists. This
report on that demand is from the December, 1976, American Atheist.
"A multinational group called the United
World Atheists demanded on September
25, 1976, that the Roman Catholic Church
pay a $100 million 'retribution' to Atheists
and 'stay out of the bedroom.'
"United World Atheists said in a statement that its president, Madalyn O'Hair, delivered the group's demands to the Vatican
Secretariat for Non-Believers, organized by
Pope Paul VI to find a common ground with
"The fiery Dr. O'Hair of Austin, Texas,
won some notoriety in church circles in 1963
when she led the successful Supreme Court
battle to ban Bible reading and prayer in
U.S. public schools.
"Warning that 'the future of the church in
an Atheist-dominated culture tomorrow
depends upon the actions of the church
today,' the group's first demand was for
'retribution of $100 million for the atrocities
perpetrated against all Atheists during your
"The Vatican Secretariat for Non-Believers could not be reached for comment but
Vatican sources termed the group's statement 'absurd.'
"The group in addition said the Vatican
must 'surrender a symbol of one of its tyrannies (the Spanish Inquisition): the crown
given to the Papacy by Ferdinand and Isabella' of Spain."

Page 33


o matter what one's opinion of the
Judeo-Christian Bible, one thing can
be said of the book in its entirety and with
what might be called universal agreement: It
is controversial!
From a theological standpoint, the Bible,
in its many versions, has been highly argumentative, even among the so-called religious scholars of history. It has had more
rewrites, more additions and/or deletions,
more editorial adjustments than even the
mightiest of Hollywood scripts. The fact of
its many and varying "interpretations," the
inclusion or exclusion of the various
"books," even the wording or arrangements
of chapters and verses within the "books" is
fairly well-known.
Can there possibly have been any original
atrocity, any single inhumane practice including wars between nations - that has
not resulted directly from exaggerated differences between varying religious opinions? Even trivial disagreements over otherwise inconsequential use of language,
premises, or speculative ideologies have
proliferated human violence. No, I think that
I stand on firm ground, even so far as religionists are concerned, when I say the Bible
is controversial.
The thousands of denominations alone
bear out that fact. From present-day "standard" to orthodox, from conservative to liberal, from fundamental to aesthetic, the differing attitudes and acceptances can only be
regarded as monuments to the fluidity of
Judeo-Christian religious beliefs.
What of the other side of the coin - the
religious skeptics, the Bible critics? Can any
Western mind, even one bordering on infirmity, be unaware of the literary attacks that
have been made against this so-called word
of god? Could there possibly be any Atheist,
even among those who pompously call
themselves "agnostics," who has never
questioned, openly and objectively, the
validity of scriptural nonsense or read any of
the thousands of critical analyses written by
noted opponents of religious fraud? Hardly!
Yet, with all this controversy swirling
about, both religious and irreligious, there is
an area that has never been explored. The
very utterance of the religionist's claim to
have heard the alleged "word of god" should
have triggered an immediate and very simple
refutation by any and all unbelievers from a
purely technical standpoint. Yet, all that has

Page 34

been done in the way of refutation by philosophical procrastinators is to offer loquacious diatribes and counterclaims. I have
stated many times in previous articles that
philosophical differences cannot be resolved
by philosophical arguments. Differences of
opinion can only be resolved by material
evidences. To determine what is and what is
not possible cannot be left to the whims of
imagination or speculative "guessology."
So, here, let's explore the task of publishing the Bible from a purely technical viewpoint. Let's assume for a moment that you
and I own an early Eurasian print shop.
Although we have no electricity, no printing
press, no typewriters, or other modern facilities and accoutrements, no wire service,
perhaps not even an adequate mail delivery
system through which we might send and
receive information in a relatively timely
manner, we still manage to piece together
fairly decent volumes suitable to the times.
No matter how scrupulously we attend
our trade, whether we are conscientiously
discrete in our publications, or whether we
prefer to follow the literary "rag" practices of
National Enquirer, there is one thing which
we, indeed, which all printers, must have: It
is called, in the industry, "copy." Yes, we
must have material in the form of handwritten (or otherwise transcribed) information
that we can scribe, typeset, or prepare in
some mechanical way in order to produce a
book - whether that book is to be published on ordinary bond paper, vinyl acetate,
parchment, or on the walls of a cave! The
point is that words are the basic ingredient
essential to any printing shop. It does not
matter whether we are ancient Egyptian
scriveners chiseling a Rosetta stone or
whether we perhaps may be the heads of a
laser printer operation for the Washington
Post - we must have "copy" to print.
The question is, where and how do we get
this copy so that we can publish our Bible?
Remember now, the first thing in the morning we have to hand our scribes some material - something in writing - so that they
willbe able to hand us back a few laboriously
drawn pages that can be gradually accumulated in order to finally calendar and collate
them into our desired masterpiece.
My first discussion willpertain to the problems faced in the acquisition of copy for the
New (Christian) Testament, although problems are by no means limited to the Chris-

September 1986

tian myth. There are similar problems,

which we shall explore, concerning the Old
(Judaic) Testament, further along in the
study. You will, of course, note that one
does not have to be a publisher or a biblical
scholar to ferret out the problems of Bible
publication. One only has to know something of the procedures necessary to the
publication of any book, booklet, pamphlet,
or tract.
First, manuscript copy must be given to
the prospective publisher and, as one might
suspect, it must have an author, or at least
someone who has collected or assembled
the information (i.e., a source - even if the
information was orally transmitted). This
"author" would necessarily fall into one of
two categories: 1) a fiction writer who would
only need a measure of imagination suited to
the topic, or 2) a documentary writer who
would necessarily be burdened with the systematic collection of data, either firsthand or
otherwise acceptably accredited, to be
included in the manuscript portfolio.
Now, as publishers, let's give our "author"
an unlimited measure of room in which to
operate. Let's accept him or her as a documentary author whose material we are prepared to openly accept as either the word of
a god or of "our Lord." Trying to maintain
confidence between ourselves and our customer/readers, we must hold one slight
reservation in our author/publisher agreement: We must reserve the right to clarify, to
our satisfaction, any claims the author might
allege. Still, as publishers in dire need of a
new "best -seller," we have every intention of
being lenient even in this trivial qualifying
reservation. In order to assure our author of
our intended leniency we relate to him or her
a strictly hypothetical story, as follows:
We're at a drinking party. Suddenly one of
the heavier imbibers needs to avail himself of
the urinal. Unfortunately, the door to the
restroom is locked - the facility is in use!
Not to be discouraged in such a critical
situation, our tipsy but resourceful reveler
simply detours out back to a sparsely
wooded area and proceeds to relieve himself
behind a scrub cedar tree - out of view and
earshot. Upon his return to the party he
humorously spins an incredible story about
a gnome who, he says, happened to have
been hiding behind the same tree for the
same purpose. After his loud narration,
which everyone in the room could hear, our

American Atheist

storyteller's even more drunken friend

believes (or pretends to believe) the story
completely - end of story. So, remaining in
our hypothetical stance, we tell our author
that, putting ourselves in the place of our
storyteller's friend, we would have reserved
the right to only one question in order to
verify the information: Was anyone else
present to assure that the gnome was actually there, and that a conversation actually
took place between the gnome and our
friend. If not, we could only assure anyone
else to whom we retold the story, by way of
publication, that this was an alleged conversation, accepted on the word of the only
available witness - and who happened,
according to his claim, to be one of its two
participants. Now, surely, that could not be
regarded as an overly stringent "reservation" by any stretch of the imagination.
Regardless of our explanations and apologies, our imaginary author indignantly responds, "Absolutely not! Positively no reservations will be considered." Either we
publish his information as unquestioned
fact, or he will not allow us any publishing
rights whatsoever. "OK," we agree. Times
are bad and we sorely need the business!
But, we say to him, sometime, somewhere,
sooner or later, some ungrateful reader is
going to want the information, or at least
some verification of it, that we asked to be
ableto give them.
Essentially what we have here is the situation under which all Judeo-Christian Bibles
have been printed since their beginnings
hundreds of years ago - as far as the biblical
scribes (printers) have been concerned.
Somebody - some pious cleric - walks
into a publisher's office toting an armful of
"the word of god," shoves it in the printer's
face, and says, "Print it!"
Getting back to our ancient Eurasianprint
shop, recall that up to now, so far as Bibles in
general are concerned, the New Testament
does not exist. It is up to us to now print this
masterpiece and thus change the direction
of humankind forever. Here comes the
"author" - or rather, the (ex-)rabbinical
joker who got all of our copy together. All
you and I have to do is proofread it, arrange
it in proper sequence (according to the
divine instructions ordered by the geezer
who delivered it to us), and hand it over to
our scribes. Remember, we agreed that
there would be no publisher's disclaimers or
editor's comments whatsoever. What an
easy way to make a million shekels!
As we read this monumental mountain of
journalistic dung, however, something begins to bother us considerably. Certain (numerous) scriptural passages are indicated to
be published in red ink because they are the
literal "words of Jesus." As we read on we
find that, of the twenty-some-odd books of
the New Testament, at least eight of them
contain such verses. Keep in mind, how-

Austin, Texas

ever, that we are not highly educated biblical

scholars - only inky-fingered printer/publishers. We dare not question any of these
precious "words of our Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ." Yet, in the quiet and late
hours when no one will know, we secretly
investigate the massive amount of this redinked information and chart the characteristics thereof. Our tally reads as follows: In the
eight books - Revelation, I Corinthians, II
Corinthians, Acts, John, Luke, Mark, Matthew - there are a total of ninety-nine chapters which contain direct verbiage, straight
from the mouth of the LORD!Of these chapters, 1,659 verses are indicated to contain,
either partially or in total, the "divine" utterances allegedly delivered in situations with
more than one individual present - mostly
to groups of individuals. Then, another
batch of eighty-four verses were supposed
to have been delivered by Jesus directly to a
single person - no one else present. To
round out the count - now get this - three
verses from the book of Matthew were private, confidential communications between
Jesus and the devil! That's real heavy talk.
Between Revelation, John, and Matthew,
there are five entire chapters of nothing
other than lengthy orations by Jesus, including, of course, the famous "Sermon on the
Mount." Also to be noted, in Luke and Matthew there are five verses delivered by this
god in which he commanded that these particular utterances were not to be divulged or
repeated to others.
Let's see now, in adding up the score we
find, by allowing an average of twenty-three
words per verse (feel free to make your own
word per verse estimation), that there are
40,158 plus or minus words, presumably
uttered in an ancient language to an indeterminate number of people, and over an
extended (and unknown) period of time. An
interesting point to note is that the vast
majority of these "witnesses" to the words of
Jesus were illiterate. And many of these
"witnesses" who perhaps might have been
literate were, to say the least, hostile toward
this would-be "king of the Jews." Inasmuch
as the alleged members of Jesus's gang of
apostles were not present at all of his public
and/or private appearances, and there
seems to be no mention anywhere in the
Bible or its contemporary historical annals
regarding such job opportunities as professional shorthand stenographers or the like,
and to my knowledge there were no tape
cassettes or reel-to-reel recording devices, I
am left with a nagging question of detail:
Who wrote all of this crap down? Who took
all of the on-the-scene, verbatim information, in written form, on their legal/memo
pads? Come n now, folks! It would have
taken an army of professionally trained,
competent reporters to record all of these
alleged "divine" orations purported to have
been delivered over a number of years.

September 1986

Even ifthe alleged public speeches, where

groups of listeners were supposed to have
been present, were excluded, what about
the statements made to individuals when no
other witnesses were present? Who wrote
down those golden words? What about the
instances where Jesus "commanded" that
the communications should not be repeated
to others? I somehow doubt that they were
recorded for posterity. And, should allother
doubts be miraculously whisked away, what
about those confidences between Jesus and
ole Beelzebub? Are we to think that Satan
took notes and then rushed them to the local
newspaper? Or, was it Jesus himself who did
his own press releases?
From where I sit now, it seems reasonable
that my tale about the drunken party boy
and the gnome is a more believable story. At
least their little outdoor bathroom episode
was "reported" by one of its two alleged
participants, and the information could as
easily have been written down. But could it
have been written, then rewritten, word for
word, with total accuracy, without references being made to the original copy? So
tell me, how did anyone ever know that
Jesus and the devil had some little talks or
what was supposedly said in those talks?
Nowhere in the scriptures is it stated that
this information was repeated to the press,
Jesus's followers, or even his closest supporters. How in the hell did you and I, as
printers many years after the fact, come to
be holding "transcripts" of this nonexistent
information now?
You had better be thinking up some
answers to some of these questions, because I have a gut feeling that some damned
Atheist in about the "year of our Lord"
nineteen-hundred eighty-six is going to be
asking these same damn fool questions!
But, to get back to our investigative study
concerning whether it could have been
technically feasible, or even possible, to
assemble all the so-called "original" quotes
and/or detailed descriptions of events that
were not, in many cases, witnessed. Let's
venture from the ridiculous to the really
stupid! Up to now we've been talking about
the New Testament. We can really have
some belly laughs in the Old Testament.
Page 1: Genesis - concerns the "events"
of the "Creation," during most of which
there were no humans at all. They were not
yet "created," right? Yet, here we are with
transcripts again - the copy from which the
Bible was eventually compiled. Whodunnit?
While god was flitting around zapping the
"firmament" and the "light" and the "darkness" and the earth, heavens, etc., not only
was he creating, he was also mumbling to
himself, wasn't he? He was saying little gems
like, "it was good" and was naming inanimate objects like heaven, earth, day, night,
and so forth. Each time he made something,
it must have turned out peachy keen,

Page 35

because he kept commenting on how good it

all was. So, are we not compelled to wonder
who was writing allthis crap down as well, so
that later some print shop could publish it all
- in chronological order? Did god make his
own notes? Perhaps he kept a diary or a log.
H not, he must have done a lot of personal
interviews or radio talk shows afterwards.
Otherwise, no Bible.
So you see, it really doesn't matter who
the "author(s)"of the Bible was (were) that's academic. The book, from a purely
technical standpoint, could (and should)
never have been considered documentary
(portraying actual events) in nature. As you
can see by the basic considerations herein, it
simply is not possible to print stories about
things when there were no witnesses to
those alleged things, no on-the-scene writers
of verbatim copy, no recording devices, nor,
in some cases, persons when people had not
yet come into existence. As for the printing
industry, god and/or Jesus, Satan, angels,
fairies, gremlins, and/or other "spiritual
beings" would have had to retell the entire
contents of all the books of the Old and the
New Testament to some person, sometime,
and someplace if anything was ever to be
published in book form.
Therefore, not being documentary in
nature, the Bible can only be regarded as
fiction. That's the only other possible category. And being fictional, the author(s) are
entirely at liberty to make any fantastic


claims they choose, even to the inclusion of

scattered actual historical events. The
blending of historical fact with fiction has
long been the practice of fiction writers. It
helps to make their fairy tales more realistic
and therefore more believable by persons
with borderline intelligence.
There never has been a need to make
philosophical evaluations of biblical fiction.
Such studies have never been made of any
other fiction stories. It could not matter less
whether the inscription allegedly placed
over Jesus's head at the crucifixion might
have read: "The King of The Jews," as in
Mark 15:26, or "This Is The King of The
Jews," as in Luke 23:38, or "This Is Jesus
The King ofThe Jews," as in Matthew 27:37,
or "Jesus of Nazareth The King of The
Jews," as in John 19:19.The important thing
to remember is that all these statements are
taken from a work of fiction. There was no
Jesus, so there could have been no crucifixion of him. Therefore, no inscription was
placed over his head - philosophical discourse or not.
There are several problems that have
allowed human beings to invent and perpetuate their stupidity as regards religion: 1)
conformity to whatever manner of religious
belief had become the whimsical fancy of
various kings and rulers of the day, usually
enforced by death penalties; 2) simple coercion, either by legal, economic, or socioparental means in the various cultures

themselves; 3) stifling of education in all

fields, especially in the sciences; 4) the continued efforts of "intellectual" gasbags who
endow themselves with something they call
"philosophical genius" in efforts to "understand" god(s) or other things that do not
materially exist or which, as yet, may not be
empirically studied through scientific (technological) observation; 5) the ever-present
ignorance of the masses who, except for the
efforts of a very few brilliant (Atheist) minds
down through the ages, would still be swinging happily and innocently through the trees
with the rest of the apes.
But, what the hell, there's no use complaining. Things are not likely to change a
great deal in the near future. We'll still go on
printing "the word of god" and other trivia.
We always have!
Ink up the plates, Jim. Let's get started
printing this damned Bible. After all, business is business. ~
The "common sense" man of Atheism,
Mr. Tholen is the product of
the Gulf Coast marshes of Texas.
While he's not slaving over
the American Atheist
as its Assistant Editor,
he's writing poetry of which
an Atheist movement can be proud.


ttUUl 9AIT'lA"TS

~f"'O Me"'EY io 1:



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TE.\..\. I"\ORf "OP1.f"'{1)


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Page 36

September 1986

American Atheist



"to the shame of Christ a man of Jewish origin
was come to occupy the chair of St. Peter"
St. Bernard

I grew up listening to pastors, preachers, priests,

Spent ritual days enjoying festival feasts
To celebrate God and all of the good things
That I had received and for that I should cling
To a God filled with wrath if you did him wrong
But too he'd forgive if you'd believe his song
Of salvation and love-heaven in the end
Oh, and don't forget, your offering to send
It's just a few dollars to give God a chance
But don't ever question his position or stance
Because if you do you'll sure go to hell
Isn't that what man's religion really tells
Or is it for those who need to belong
To some off-beat group a happier throng
Who guide even your thoughts of life after death
Who direct your ideas and all of the rest
Let's grow up and begin to live our own turf
Get out of your fantasies and begin real peace on earth!
Summer Madison

Where would it be,

your Christianity,
without the Jews?
Where would it be
if Jew-bern Jesus
had lived his life
in obscurity a prophet with no honor,
no notoriety?
No crucifixion, no Christ;
no Christ, no atonement;
no atonement, no redemption;
no redemption, no salvation;
no passion, no play.
No Jew-born Simon,
no Jew-bern Saul,
to be a church's Peter,
the Gentile's Paul.


If Adam and Eve
were the only two;
Then they must have had daughters
as well as sons who,
could then sleep with mother
and sisters too.
For there was no one else;

Why this Christian condemnation

of their agents of salvation?
It is I who should eschew
the religion-rabid Jew
for afflicting me
with Christianity.

And don't forget dad,

remember Adam who,
already a sinner,
do you think he just sat there,
lonely and blue?

Robert R. Hentz

If Eve and her daughters,

were the only girls,
And if Adam and sons,
were the only men;
Then what a close little family,
it must have been.
James Holland

Austin, Texas

September 1986

Page 37



in our nation's history, in what was
one of the most regrettable decisions
made by governments at any level, churches
were granted exemption by the federal
government from any of the taxes which are
compulsory for all other institutions and
persons. Since then, state and local governments have systematically exempted
church land, church wealth, and church
income from taxation, and recently, the IRS
agreed to revise its procedures to allow
exemption of church hospitals, old-age
homes, and other lucrative church businesses from taxation or financial disclosure
requirements by allowing churches to define
their enterprises as "religious ministries."
The effect of church exemption from tax
and disclosure laws has led churches to seek
exemption from all other laws - claiming
that this is mandated by the Free Exercise
Clause of the First Amendment. Recently,
churches have sought exemption from criminal as well as civil law in what has been
termed the "Santuary movement."
In a surprisingly well coordinated effort,
the churches - led by the Roman Catholic
church - are targeting moderates and liberals who oppose American militarism and
corporate exploitation in Central America.
Polls over the past two years reveal that less
than fifteen percent of the American public
supports aid to the Contras, and only forty
percent approve of U.S. policy in El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras. (The percentage who approve, among informed Americans who can correctly identify who we
support and/or oppose in those nations, is
less than ten percent.) Playing on traditional
liberal opposition to exploitation of the weak
by the strong (the peasants by the U.S. multinationals) and sympathy for underdogs,
the churches claim to be giving sanctuary to
political refugees who fear persecution in
their native countries. They cite a line from
the Refugee Act of 1980,wherein the federal
government will allow aliens to stay in the
U.S. ifthey are "unwillingor unable to return
to their native country because of persecution, or a well-founded fear of persecution on
account of race, religion, national origin,
social status, affiliation, or political opinion."
Many well-meaning people, genuinely concerned about the conditions in Central

Page 38

America, are being drawn into support for

the Sanctuary movement and a hidden
agenda of the churches, thinking that they
are improving conditions for Latin Americans and striking back at "the Establishment."
Concern for the refugees is not why
church leaders support Sanctuary. What
they really want - and what they think they
willeventually get - is an exemption from all
civil and criminal laws. The churches involved in the Sanctuary movement know
they are breaking U.S. law, and they have
admitted this in statements to the press and
in court. They claim to be obeying "higher
laws" (their own), and they are telling the
courts, the press, and everyone else that
they will continue to push their case.
Since 1982, over thirty Sanctuary cases
have gone to trial, and several more are
scheduled to be tried over the next year. In
the few decisions which have been handed
down, the church workers have been found
guilty of violating U.S. immigration law or
harboring aliens illegally. The Justice Department has successfully argued in the
courts that the refugees are seeking better
economic conditions and not fleeing from
political persecution. Government prosecutor Donald Reno stated that the church
leaders didn't understand the Refugee Act of
1980 and that their religious feelings did not
justify circumventing the law. Reno is right
on the latter point. Regarding his first point,
the intent of the Act is revealed by who has
been allowed to immigrate to the United
States since it was passed. In 1985, 78,000
immigrants were granted citizenship. Of
these, 3,000 were from Latin America and
nearly 59,000 were from eastern Europe or
the U.S.S.R. Of the 3,000 Latin Americans,
two were from Guatemala, 300 were from
Cuba, 60 were from Nicaragua, and 935
were from El Salvador. Nearly all of the rest
were from Mexico. Since 1980, more than
three quarters of the immigrants granted
U.S. citizenship have been from the
U.S.S.R. or other communist nations. All
persons applying for U.S. citizenship must
establish that they have a religious preference and that they have in no way ever
supported any communist organization or
government. Soviet Jews and other religion-

September 1986

ists have comprised the majority of those

granted citizenship because they serve the
administration's propaganda ends by perpetuating the myth of religious persecution by
Atheists in communist nations. But religionists in the United States desire the same
freedom to be parasites as their colleagues
in other nations.

u.s. Immigration
The church leaders, in their efforts to
"sell" the Sanctuary movement to the American public, have attempted to rewrite history. They claim that they are only continuing a tradition - extending a hand to "your
tired, your poor, your huddled masses
yearning to breathe free, ... " or running an
"underground railroad to freedom." Since
U.S. immigration laws have never been
intended to grant freedom, and since
churches were not significantly involved in
opposing slavery, a brief history lesson is in
Immigrants were brought to the United
States by the millions in the 1800s to satisfy
the demands of robber-baron capitalists
who needed cheap labor. The fact that most
of the immigrants spoke no English, and
knew no one, made them easy to exploit and
control. In fact, the least desirable qualities
for immigrants were a broad education and a
knowledge of English. Many immigrants
were refused admission because they did
not appear physically capable of performing
hard work for long hours. A steady supply of
new labor kept wages low and profits high.
Quotas were established to balance the
desire for cheap labor with the costs of controlling an exploited citizenry. Too many
immigrants out of work or too many immigrants in one place with common ethnic
roots would threaten the power structure.
As a "divide and conquer" tactic, some
groups were granted police power or positions in local government. Members of other
groups seized power when their numbers
grew to sufficient size in U.S. cities. The Irish
and other ethnic groups who spoke English
were occasionally promoted into positions
of power with the rise of managerial (rather
than owner) capitalism. In areas where large
groups of persons with common ethnic ori-

American Atheist

gins were settled, they organized and voted

representatives into positions of political
power over other groups of later immigrants. As economic growth slowed, particularly during the depressions and panics of
the late nineteenth century, popular pressures and political radicalism caused the
federal government to act to place restrictions on the numbers of immigrants - not
because it was good for the common people,
but because it was hard for the ruling class to
control the increasing number of exploited
citizens. Remember that until 1912,senators
were appointed by state legislatures, and
congressmen represented only those who
could afford poll taxes, or who were land
owners until late in the 1800s (until 1964 in
the Deep South). Women weren't allowed to
vote at all.
To obfuscate the fact that immigration
policies and laws were only made to satisfy
the nation's economic elite, elaborate procedures were established to limit the number of persons allowed to immigrate. Intelligence tests, literacy tests, and numerous
other devices have been used to screen
immigrants as the U.S. population has
increased sufficiently without immigrants to
satisfy the needs of big business. At present,
the U.S. economy is growing more slowly
than the population in real terms, so there is
no need for immigrants. The only reason
immigration is permitted is so that government and business leaders can perpetuate
the myths about the U.S. as a unique land of
unlimited opportunity - and pummel everyone with anti-communist or pro-capitalist
The churches said nothing about corporate exploitation and never opposed black
enslavement or the "coolie trade," a euphemism for Chinese slavery. The poor
have always been a foilfor the churches. The
U.S. has always been a land full of poverty
and economic inequity. The churches have
never done anything about that. Instead,
they have cooperated with those in power to
control the general population. The most
bigoted, prejudiced, racist institutions in
America have always been the churches.
The churches, for the most part, were all
dead set against the abolition of slavery: one
group of persons forcibly holding another in
bondage. The Christian churches all taught
that white Christians were spiritual beings
- not mere animals. Non-white, non-Christians were merely "body people," a lower
order of life between humans and other
animals, who needed "salvation." In southern states especially, miscegenation (interracial sex and marriage) was regarded as a
form of bestiality. Women were less than
mere "bodies"; in Judeo-Christian teaching,
they were evil earth creatures who led men
into evil acts. Churches have always opposed (and still oppose) equal rights and
privileges for men and women for this rea-

Austin, Texas

son. It was freethinkers and Atheists who

used their homes as stops on the "underground railroads" and who fought for women's rights. And it was the Atheists who first
opposed U.S. policies and multinational
corporate activity in Central America, who
pointed out how the Roman Catholic church
kept order and cooperated with the CIA and
military governments in brutal repressions
of the people. So church claims about concern for the poor or concern for people's
safety just don't ring true.
Sanctuary: History Of An Idea
The notion that certain places, especially
churches or temples, were safe havens from
the outside world goes back to ancient
Greece and ancient Judaism. In Medieval
Europe, the Roman Catholic church's edifices were always sanctuaries from the law.
As long as criminals were serving the interests of the church, the church officialswould
not turn the criminal over to political authorities. The church maintained that it served
"higher authorities" and obeyed "higher
laws" than the temporal powers. This only
worked to the advantage of the church and to the detriment of the local political
establishments. Knowing that churches
were not to be trusted, and that claims of
access to "greater wisdom" than other mortals were false, the ruling class in the United
States affirmed at the founding of our nation
that no organization may violate the law.
In every sanctuary case which has been
brought to trial, the church defendants cite a
religious excuse for their actions. And in
nearly all cases, the principal defendants are
clergy, primarily Roman Catholic. It is significant that all of these defendants have lost
their cases because they cannot produce
one decision from U.S. case law which
affirms that churches have a right to show
contempt for law, breaking it at whim. Even
more significant and revealing, they cannot
produce evidence which demonstrates a
pattern of church activity showing a commitment to either political freedom or justice
for anyone. This is because, except for a few
individuals who wield no power in their
denominations, freedom has never been the
objective of religionists. Church leaders who
encourage breaking the law are treading on
thin ice; not only are they exhibiting bad
citizenship with their open contempt and
defiance of law, but they are engaging in
political activity by inciting others to violate
the law, something they are forbidden to do.
Additionally, churches - again led by the
Roman Catholics - are pressuring city
governments and state legislatures to declare cities and states to be "sanctuaries."
They argue that this is a matter for local
governments and communities to decide.
Religious rhetoric aside, "sanctuary" is
unknown to American law. In cases where

September 1986

individuals or organizations attempted to

grant sanctuary to military resisters or
deserters, the law has been held to supercede personal or religious convictions. The
fact that the churches have never been able
to accept this, and are now going all out to
establish a precedent whereby they can
exempt themselves from laws, should alarm
all good citizens. If the churches persist, it
would be appropriate for the government to
move to eliminate the privileges the offending churches currently enjoy, including their
tax exemptions.
While it may appear that the Reagan
administration and the churches might have
reason to cooperate in an effort to affirm
"states rights" and local option over federal
law, a closer look at the Sanctuary issue
reveals conflicting objectives of the U.S.
government and major churches. The government's primary purpose is to serve the
economic elite. Toward this end, funding for
programs which benefit the middle class has
been gutted, the control and regulation of
commerce have been eased, and through
the tax system, wealth has been transferred
"upward" from the poorer to the wealthier
classes. Religion is used to control the people by getting them to concern themselves
with things irrelevant to their needs, like
prayer, afterlife, and god ideas. Religion is
given rewards (like tax exemptions) if it succeeds in keeping people subservient and
passive. Religious groups, however, seek
power for themselves, independent of the
economic and political powers which exist in
the United States. They want to exempt
themselves from (and even undermine) the
authority of all governments and control
people without sharing power. It is clear that
government has given too much to religion
and that religious groups are using their
economic power to usurp political power. In
essence, the economic and political elites
have been betrayed and double-crossed by
the churches.
Central America Reconsidered
In targeting moderates and liberals, attempting to enlist their support for the Sanctuary movement, religious literature and
rhetoric focuses on the socioeconomic conditions of the people in Central America. To
frame public opinion, religious leaders have
pretended to be "rescuing" poor Central
Americans from oppression and have attempted to play on anti-Reagan sentiments
by claiming that the court cases brought
against them are a form of harassment and
persecution. The slickest material comes
from the Jews and the Roman Catholics.
Jews focus on the so-called Holocaust and
the biblical tale of Exodus, while Roman
Catholics speak in broad, vague terms,
using juxtaposed symbols (i.e., Jesus as a
liberator, and the Statue of Liberty). All of

Page 39

the churches scrupulously avoid ideological

labels and never discuss the internal politics
of any nation - it's a deliberate effort to
obscure the true cause of the problems.
They use symbols, rather than facts, to
mobilize public opinion into political action.
While it is difficult to discern a Jewish
interest in Central America, the Roman
Catholic interest is obvious. Nearly all of the
persons in Latin America are forced to grow
up Roman Catholic. The church is attempting to increase its influence on American
politics and establish itself in the U.S. as it
has established itself in Latin America. Resettling people in the U.S. and calling them
refugees is an insidious ploy. If the persons
are women, and many of them are, they can
become pregnant and have children. U.S.
immigration law permits a pregnant woman
to remain in the U.S. if she is pregnant and
has a "sponsor." The church acts as a
"sponsor" during the pregnancy. After the
pregnancy has gone to term, Immigration
officials are often reluctant to send the
mother back to her native country, separating her from her child. The women are frequently married in the church prior to
becoming pregnant, often to a legal alien or
U.S. citizen, making it even more difficult to
send them back.
The people of Central America and South
America are fleeing from poverty, disease,
malnutrition, lack of health care, and the
brutal police or military establishments set
up by the ruling elites to control the burgeoning masses of people. All of these social and
economic conditions have arisen because of
the policies advocated by the Roman Catholic church.
A brief look at any "Roman Catholic"
nation shows that they are all pretty much
alike: millions of poor people, high crime,
military and police repression of the masses,
starvation, illiteracy, inadequate health care,
disease, squalid or filthy housing, and conspicuous economic inequity. This is the inevitable result of prohibiting birth control and
abortion and warpinghuman sexual expression. It is impossible to take church or religious leaders seriously when they express
concern for the conditions which the refugees must face if they are returned to Central America, since the churches have had
the power to improve conditions for centuries and have not.
If the Sanctuary workers were serious
about ending economic exploitation by U.S.
multinational corporations, they would attack the multinationals directly and focus on
the facts of that exploitation, and the links
between the CIA, the corporations, and the
Vatican. They would also see that population control and family planning would be
important for improving peoples' lives.
These issues are not even discussed by
Sanctuary movement leaders. This is because the Presbyterians, Methodists, Ro-

Page 40

man Catholics, and other mainline churches

have heavy stock holdings in the multinational corporations, and therefore they
benefit from the system as it operates now.
The churches use starving people to raise
money for themselves all the time, so they
know the strategic importance of food. The
Pillsbury Corporation, General Foods, United Fruit, Beatrice, and other major corporations own millions of acres in Costa Rica,
Honduras, Guatemala, and other Central
American nations. They do not grow basic
grain foods for the native people; instead,
they raise beef cattle, manufacture alcohol
fuels, and grow cash crops and products
which they can sell in international markets.
The large, poor populations are useful,
cheap labor. All of these corporations rely
on the CIA to wage political warfare (keeping undesirable groups out of power) and
prop up militant anticommunist governments. The churches' "assignment" is to
anesthetize the people: to divert their attention from the real misery and privation they
experience and urge them to retreat into the
fantasy world of religious belief.
In most of these nations, "associations"
and groups must be approved by the
government, and political parties other than
those in power are generally illegal. The only
groups and associations which are permitted are the ones which keep people in line under control or where they can be monitored by the corporations and the governments. It is clear that the churches serve
this function well, since they are omnipresent. In the one Latin American nation which
has opted out of the "system," Cuba, the
standard of living for most citizens is far
above that of any other nation. It is also
interesting that the one thing which former
CIA director, George Bush, never fails to
mention when criticizing Nicaragua is that it

J---.J --

'-~CJ ; .:~
ictlJiS/C =:J~~
. =-

does not support the church or it is hostile to

the pope. If the CIA and the Vatican were
not working together, why would this even
be of concern to Bush?
The Vatican is now cooperating with the
U.S. government under the current pope to
crush "liberation theology" and other ideological movements which will change the
present socioeconomic order in Central
America. But the pope has not endorsed any
of the specific proposals or policies of the
administration to date. He has only voiced
support, in a general way, for militant anticommunism, which to him means anti-Atheism.
The Sanctuary movement is an exercise
in deception. It is an attempt by the Vatican
and other churches to undermine state/
church separation. Incredibly, it has divided
the ranks of Atheists (Idon't know ifthis was
intended, or merely an incidental benefit to
the churches), so that many of them are
working with the churches! None of the
churches want liberation for the people or
have any interest in political freedom: They
are merely using people to further their own
ends. They want power and want to usurp
power from citizens and government. All
Atheists should oppose the Sanctuary movement and work to expose and stop it. ~
Brian J. Lynch is the former Director
of the Massachusetts Chapter of
American Atheists and thecurrent
Media Coordinator for'the
national office. With a BS/BA from
Babson College, he has often debated
on such topics as religion, Atheism,
politics, the arms race, history,
and science.

=;.-=: '


.JIii!f/~~ .~-

=--.;..' .

_ ..

"I tell uou, I've been on the force twentq ueors, but the next time 1hear
someone soq 'Ood's wm' or 'The Lord works in mqsterious woqs' about
something like this, 1swear I'll shoot."

September 1986

American Atheist

"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 2117, Austin, TX 78768-2117)
should be 700 to 900 words long.
writing this letter to comment on the
March 1986 issue of the American Athe-

ist magazine. Overall it is great. Its coverage

of the Soviet contribution to the UN debate

on Atheist rights is excellent. However, in
the "News and Comments" section on page
14 and elsewhere American Atheist commentary shows a gross misunderstanding of
the sources of religion and of the nature of
the Soviet economy.
In "International Rights of Atheists,"
(March 1986), one of our columnists complainsabout the Soviets providing buildings
and priceless objets d'art for use in religious
ritual, and that they provide this service
Unlike in capitalist countries, the church
does not own and cannot own and sell such
edifices and art objects, and these objects
are not things that can be or are sold to the
church. They are, in fact, properties owned
by the state and the people through the
state. There is no point in the Soviet
government imposing a tax on them which
would amount to a tax on itself.
Soviet churches have no commercial
wealth as do churches in capitalist countries. They cannot buy TV and radio stations, negotiate bank loans on the basis of
personal (objets d'art) and real estate property holdings, like hospitals, schools, etc.
On page 27 in Burnham P. Beckwith's
article, it becomes clear that some Atheists
stillthink that the roots of religion are ignorance and parental upbringing, period. But
they go much deeper than this. And herein
lies the difference between the communist
Atheists' and the bourgeois Atheists' approach to eradicating religious ignorance.
It is the misery; poverty; distress; man's
subjection to uncontrolled, seemingly uncontrollable forces (i.e., disease, inflation,
unemployment, weather, poverty, etc.)
which give rise to the religious reflex. Under
capitalism man cannot even control his own
economy, and communist economics is only
seventy years old. It is by eliminating what
causes man to look for happiness beyond
the grave that communists eliminate religion. Religion is irreconcilable with dialectical materialism, Marxism, scientific com-

Austin, Texas

munism, and so we must fight it relentlessly.

But we must know how to combat religion.
As Vladimir Lenin wrote:
The fight against religion must not be
confined to abstract ideologicalpreaching or reduced to such preaching ....
Why does religion retain its hold over
the backward sections of the urban
proletariat, over the broad sections of
the semi-proletariat. ... Because of
the ignorance of the people, replies
the bourgeois progressivist, the radical, and the bourgeois materialist.
And so down with religion and long
live atheism! ... This is not true, it is a
superficial view and narrow. . . . In
modern capitalist countries these
roots are mainly social. The deepest
roots of religion today are the social
oppression of the working masses and
their apparently complete helplessness in the face of the blind forces of
capitalism, which every day and every
hour inflicts upon the ordinary working people the most horrible suffering
... a thousand times more severe than
. . . ordinary events, such as wars,
earthquakes, etc.
Here, Vladimir Lenin is talking about the
small owner's "sudden," "unexpected,"
"accidental" destruction, ruin, pauperism,
prostitution, and death from starvation or
malnutrition. Communism is an economic
philosophy. We do not alienate religious
people from the class struggle simply because religion may retard the class struggle.
We always oppose religion, but we always
subordinate our opposition to religion to the
class struggle's long-range interests. Workers and peasants and intellectuals who are
religious and believe in socialism must not be
estranged because of their religious belief.
Communists believe in freedom from religion and religious freedom as well. Does not
American Atheists?
Communists do not have to elevate the
struggle against religious ignorance to a level
it does not deserve, because religion is a
dying ideology. We take the fight against
religion seriously, but we do not exaggerate
it. We attack the sources of the religious
reflex, and not just religious dogma.
It is apparent to allthat forcibly attempting
to stamp out religion can produce quite the
opposite effect. This does not mean that
churches should ever be allowed to engage
in criminal conduct or serious counterrevolution with impunity. The Soviet Union
is no longer in its revolutionary infancy, and
thus cannot justify extraordinary measures

September 1986

against deadly religious counter-revolutionaries and reactionaries or the fertile ground

in which they might breed. It is a well-known
fact, however, that in the U.S.S.R. the youth
of today are overwhelmingly Atheist. Look
around. The more human misery in a country you see, the more religion and religious
superstition you'll find. There are more
Christians in a U.S. ghetto than in Beverly
Hills. There is more religion in impoverished
countries than in developed ones. For many,
capitalism offers religion, a better lifebeyond
the grave only; communism offers a better
life before the grave. To the capitalist, this is
supreme heresy.
The Soviets restored a few churches
because this is the best way to fight religion
in the U.S.S.R. today - not to promote it as
Beckwith suggests. There are a few old folks
in the U.S.S.R., and many people in the
U.S.A., who would like the Soviets to give a
higher priority to combating a moribund philosophy. Why should the Soviets refuse to
open a church for old people and a few
young reactionaries if it will only speed the
demise of religious superstition?
During the early years of the proletariat
revolution in the U.S_S.R., the Soviets had
to be more forceful with reactionary
churches, that often sided with the Nazis,
than it has to be today. Today the Soviets
are allowing the churches to die a silent
death. It might well be said we, the proletariat, are killing religious superstition with
kindness. To most Soviet youth, a church is
a dance hall. And they have reason to rejoice
over the demise of a pernicious tradition of
religious idealism.
Communists do not insist that the poor,
the destitute, the wretched, those with no
future in life, believe in Atheism. We do not
expect those who are subject to some of the
worst conditions life has to offer to be content without hope before and beyond death,
just to satisfy Atheists with the academic
position on whether or not there is a god.
The reason Communists oppose belief in
gods in the first place is to get people offtheir
knees, away from praying, on their feet fighting. If one's beliefs have no such practical
consequences or purpose, it is a mere useless academic exercise. So what if the world
is Atheist if that does not change the world?
Our purpose is not a naked academic one to
reeducate that there is no god or gods. Ours
is to change the world for the better, and
religion is an obstacle to such change. Religion is now, as it has generally always been
at all times and in every epoch, from the
prehistoric to the present, reactionary.

O. Locks
Page 41


New Zealand
I write to confirm that the material delivered at your 1985 Convention about religious affairs in this country by Mr. Jones of
the Auckland Rationalists is very accurate in
my opinion. The later data ["New Zealand New Era," February 1986] he supplied in
another issue of the results of a public opinion poll relating to the stance of the general
public here to our own equivalent of the
"Moral Majority" lobbies is even more
deadly accurate to real sociological currents
of religious observances than the numerous
spurious claims being made by orators.
The church/state separation issue has
been significantly dramatized of late by a
private member's billby the parliamentarian
Fran Wilde. This bill, which is loosely called
the "Homosexual Law Reform Bill" here,
has led to some weird demonstration antics
outside Parliament buildings by right -wing
fundamentalists that came over on our television like one corner of a Nuremburg rally
with leaping fundamentalist zealots and
national flag troopings. Donnybrooks broke
out among fundamentalists in grotesque
costumes, gays, constables, and civil libertarians.
But large blocks of mainline churches
have opposed the antics and tactics of some
of these churches (or enclaves within these
churches), and radio newsreaders here
lately speak of "the radical right" or "the
militant right" instead of "moral majority."
Brian Bell
New Zealand

One-Fourth Dozen Comments

In listening to radio evangelist James (airhead) Kennedy the other day, as I sometimes do, as well as to other evangelical
goofballs as a study in abnormal psychology,
he related a story about Clarence Darrow as
a lifelong Atheist who, while on his deathbed, according to his physician, began to
have second thoughts about god, so asked
the physician to call in three clergymen of
varying denominations. Upon their arrival,
so the story goes, Darrow began to recant,
stating that during his lifetime he just might

Page 42

have been wrong and saying, "I wish each of

you would intercede for me with the almighty," or some such baloney.
1 vaguely recall hearing this story before
and, of course, it sounds phony as hell. I
know that it is sometimes difficult to prove
that something didn't happen, but has there
been any reliable information to refute it?
As an aside, 1heartily agree with Andrew
Vena (American Atheist, "Letters to the
Editor," March 1986, p. 42) when he says,
"it's silly and irrational to continue to 'celebrate' a natural, astronomical, cyclical phenomenon like the solstice." The applicable
Christian holidays were not stolen from us,
they were stolen from people even more
ignorant than the Christians.
1 also agreed with Adolf Bossart (American Atheist, "Humanism & Christianity,"
April 1986, p. 26) when he says, "Many of us
consider it inadmissible to destroy unborn
life and, thereby, the future of a sentient
being when we are dealing with a healthy life
- itself pregnant with (a) future," and all of
the rest of what he has to say on "Interruption of Pregnancy." The argument that a
woman should have complete control of her
body is specious in light of the presence of
living tissue over which she has abandoned
control. As a rational human being, I can see
it no other way. The go, no-go decision
should be a medical one, and the whole issue
is an ethical one and is neither religious nor
I realize that this is a multi-subject letter,
but I would like to see it in print with your
reaction on the last two items, or to get the
reaction of the readers.
Keep up your excellent work.
Joel H. Johnson

Too Long Or Too Short?

I must agree with "Letters to the Editor"
writer Dennis McManus [May 1986] that
your magazine has become "too heavy"
since Jon [Murray] took over the reins.
1 remember when it had good gut level
humor and guest editorials. Now (maybe
with the computer) it is like reading a court
Please lighten up!
Carroll Brooks
1disagree with Andy Vena, who says that
articles in American Atheist are too long and

September 1986

too "heavy" to keep interest ("Letters to the

Editor," April 1986). Longer articles, with all
the footnotes, abbreviations, and references, make the articles more in-depth and
informative. The average reader can learn a
lot and improve his/her reading capability.
This only serves to show that Atheism is
improving the mind. Simple and easy articles
can be found in Guidepost and Christianity
Today. Keep it up!
Stuart Smith
1think no more than two pages should be
allowed to any writer in the monthly magazine. Wish you all well.
Samuel Cembalest
New York

Bible Criticism
In the May 1985 issue of your magazine
there was an article entitled "Slavery And
The Bible." The author, Merrill Hoste, said:
"In this day of science and high technology,
there are many people who still believe the
Bible to be the very word of a god. More
people should read that book. They would
find that it contains myths, fables, legends,
and a little one-sided history written by
priests to promote their particular interests."
First of all, the line "more people should
read that book" doesn't jive with the American Atheist Bible sticker that says, "Warning: Thinking people have determined that
this book is dangerous to your mental
health." Secondly, people who have been
told all their lives not to question "the word
of God" are not likely to question anything
they read in the Bible, no matter how
absurd. It therefore does no good to advise
people to look for absurdities in the Bible unless they have not had any religious
Robert M. LaFrana

He Will Return!
In a childish search for a supernatural
blanket, the Christian develops on his mental boob tube a fuzzy mirage that he calls
"god," who/which is out there somewhere/
someplace and is someone/something with
headquarters in a place called "heaven,"

American Atheist


location unknown, from where he-she-it
oversees it all, including watching sparrows
and counting hairs,
By a bit of mental maneuvering and convoluted logic, he convinced himself that this
boom-bah was the great architect of the universe who built the earth in six days even
with non-union labor, made old Adam out of
a pile of dust, took out a rib and made him a
bed-mate called Eve, and then, abracadabra, sweet spirits of niter and raisin-jack, he
created each and every species of animal,
mineral, and plant life, as well as every virus,
bacteria, and disease germ that ever existed,
A few thousand years later, byextraterrestrial remote control supernatural artificial
insemination, he impregnated poor old Joe's
virginwife here on Earth, This hanky-panky
resulted in a male offspring destined to
become the superstar of the universe. He
grew up to become a celibate itinerant
preacher who was later executed as an
undesirable troublemaker- But what-a-youknow, he didn't stay dead, and a few days
later he crawled out of his tomb and went
right straight up to that place called heaven
where he now sits and waits.
General MacArthur got a lot of mileage
out of that one-liner, "I shall return," but our
boy coined the phrase about two thousand
years ago, and his sheep-like minions here
on Earth eagerly await the day when J_ C
Superstar revs up his spaceship and zooms
back down to Earth to pick up what is left of
the morons who have been killingeach other
in holy wars for the past fifteen hundred
years, all in the name of the prince of peace.
They have a problem though, for it is written that it willbe easier for a camel to crawl
through the hole in a needle than it willbe to
get a reservation on that spaceship for the
return trip. So unless some creation scientist creates a king-sized needle or a gnatsized camel, it willbe Katy-bar -the-door for a
hot time on the old Earth tonight.
Here's the kicker: These brainwashed
grovelers actually believe that anyone is out
of his cotton-pickin' mind who doesn't buy
this "Fantasy Island" rerun.

Catholic fascist stormtroopers (Heimwehr),

and Roman Catholic reactionaries in the
Austrian armed forces (Bundesheer) enabled Dollfuss, in a military coup (Putsch), to
proclaim himself "chancellor" (dictator) of a
Roman Catholic totalitarian fascist state.
Opposition leaders were either jailed, killed,
or driven into exile. All parties were outlawed. (Iwas attending high school in Vienna
at that time.) The stench of forced religious
insanity and Roman Catholic terror was
everywhere. In February 1934 Dollfuss
crushed with artillery and tanks a revolt by
the Social Democrats against his Roman
Catholic Mafia regime.
After Dollfuss was killed in a Nazi uprising
(7-25-34),Kurt von Schuschnigg was Roman
Catholic dictator until March 1938, and he
also committed many crimes against the
people of Austria. On March 11, 1938,
Hitler's army occupied Austria. On April 10,
1938, the Nazis held "elections." You could
vote "yes" or "no." Austrian Roman Catholic bishops in a nationwide letter - read
from all pulpits - exhorted their sheep to
vote "yes" (for Hitler), This great success
emboldened Hitler to demand the Sudetenland. (Czechoslovakia's encirclement by the
Wehrmacht was now almost complete.) On
September 29, 1938, in Munich, Chamberlain, Daladier, Mussolini, and Hitler signed a
paper that detailed the destruction of the
independent state of Czechoslovakia to
"preserve the peace." But Hitler was still not
satisfied. On March 15, 1939, Nazi troops
occupied Prague. (The U.S_S.R., France,
and Czechoslovakia had a mutual defense
treaty signed in May 1935_) According to
Hitler, Czechoslovakia was a "bolshevist,
atheist bridgehead" in the heart of Europe.
Czechoslovakia was betrayed by the West,
as was the Republic of Spain. On April 1,
1939, the fascist hordes of Franco - a
Roman Catholic monster - marched into
Conclusion: I maintain that if democracy
in Austria would not have been destroyed by
the religionists (the Vatican), history (in
Europe and maybe the world) would have
taken a different (less disastrous) turn.

B. R. Hill

Louis Werner
New Jersey

The Vatican And The Nazis

Many know the Vatican's role in Hitler's
rise to power. But very few know that in
Austria in 1932Engelbert Dollfuss destroyed
democracy with the help of the Vatican.
Count (Graf) Ernst Riidiger von Starhemberg, the leader (Fuehrer) of the Roman

Austin, Texas

Thank you for sending me some literature

regarding American Atheists.
While studying your material, I came to
notice that your organization seems to be
quite preoccupied with Christian and Mos-

September 1986

lem theology, while almost ignoring the

father of both religions - Judaism.
I consider myself totally non-theistic and
without any preference towards a specific
supernatural bigotry, and since Judaism
represents the philosophical foundation of
religious racism as demonstrated by presentday Zionism, I am somewhat surprised - to
say the least - how little your organization
discusses this regrettable phenomenon in its
After all: If we Atheists want to expose
religion for what it is, and always was,
namely a very efficient tool for smart but
unscrupulous minorities to exploit the superstitious majorities, by calling a spade a
spade, then we should also call a Nazi a
Nazi, whether he or she is of Germanic or
Hebrew ancestry.
Please inform me of your opinion regarding this matter.
August Ummenhofer
The American Atheist Press publishes a
variety of criticism of the Talmud and of
Judaism. In fact, it is frequently accused of
being excessively anti-Judaism.

So That's It
The other day while enjoying my American Atheist magazine, a thought came to
mind that I would like to share with the other
God doesn't work in strange ways. God
works in strange people.
Jim Radebaugh
New York
P.S. Congratulations on the excellent job
you are doing with the American Atheist
magazine. It is the only voice of sanity in my

"Letters to the Editor" must be
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American Atheist

Beyond Tomorrow
A Rational Utopia

as having terminal cancer he arranges for the Los Angeles

Cryogenic Laboratory, on July 10, 1982, to deep freeze his
body so that it can be revived when a cure for cancer has
been found.
He is brought back to consciousness in the Los Angeles
General Hospital- but it is five hundred years later. The
author has a straight-forward, simple style of writing that
sweeps one along. There are no pedantic verbose philosophical explanations. The world has changed. This is how
it is and why it is, logically, and to the point. Every
explanation is stripped to its bare bones.
It is easy reading - full of hope and of goals. In a first
person tale, the author's cancer is quickly arrested and
cured by orally administered chemicals. He then slowly
regains his memory and begins his learning and adjustment
period. It is an educational process on which he thrives as
he explores this utopia. In medicine, science, transportation, housing, agriculture, foresty, education, energy, one
gasps as the realization hits one again and again, "Why, we
could do that now! That's logical. Of course. Why aren't we
trying this method?"

Burnham P. Beckwith

One of the most often asked questions of any American

Atheist spokesman is, "Oh yeah, well, you tell me what kind
of world you Atheists would have?" Our stock answer has
always been a phrase credited to John Adams, the second
president of the United States, "It would be the best of all
possible worlds - if there were no religion in it."
What indeed would an Atheist world be? It would be one
in which economic, social, and cultural problems were
solved by the use of pure reason. The possibility of such a
world is with us today. We have, now, the technology, the
educational facilities, the communication, the science, the
administrative knowhow, to make it all happen. It cannot
come together as long as irrational thinking predominates in
politics, international relationships, economics and

What happens with crime, prostitution, drug addiction,

gambling? Can the institution of the family survive? How
fares feminism? Will one world government work? Has the
earth's mushrooming population growth been stopped?
Has the problem of hunger in the world been solved?
No, this reviewer will tell you nothing of those solutions
-not even a hint. But, there is a new language, a new
calendar, a new identification system, a new interpretation
in regard to politics, government, economics.
Living in our world, it is essential that we be optimists. As
events spin out and irrationality more and more envelopes
the planet, a voice such as Beckwith's can give us the
courage to go on. Humans can solve human problems.
Humans can plan fora human culture which can furnish to
not alone the United States but to the world the fulfillment
of a dream once proposed several hundred years ago by a
handful of extraordinary men at the beginning of our nation.
There can be a time and a place where "the greatest good
for the greatest number" can become an actuality.
Beckwith leads the way.

We are very pleased to have another scholar, Dr.

Beckwith, whose field of expertise is economics,associated
with the American Atheist Center at this time.
Born in Missouri, he graduated from Stanford University
with a B.A. in Philosophy three decades before most of our
readers were even born - in 1926. He spent the next two
years at the Harvard Business School, and after. three more
years of full-time graduate study, received a Ph.D. in
Economics from the University of Southern California in
1932. He held a post-doctoral research-training assistantship at Teachers' College, Columbia University, from 1935
to 1937. He also taught Economics at the University of
Kansas, Queens College (New York City), and the University of Georgia before going to work for the War Production
Board in D.C., in 1941. From 1945 to 1948 he worked for the
War Department in France (Biarritz American University)
and in Germany (OMGUS, Berlin).
Dr. Beckwith writes of a future Atheist society and yet
there is not one word concerned with Atheism in the book.
He depicts simply a future state of affairs where reason and
logic are used as the basis on which to build a society and in the last analysis - that is exactly what Atheism is all
The author wants to juxtapose our current value systems
and our society against such another society. He does this.
with an acceptable contrived tale. Having been diagnosed .

The book, because of its controversial subject matter,

was - of necessity - published by the author. This is a
hardback book of 188 pages, 9K' x 6" priced by the author
at $9.00.
You will want to own the book for it is the stuff of which
hopes are made. American Atheists working together could
turn it into reality.
Notice: This is a limited edition work.

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Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the
ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched.
They ascribe to the men of the preceding age
a wisdom more than human, and suppose
. what they did to be beyond amendment. I
knew that age well; I belonged to it and
labored with it. It deserved well of its country.












Laws and institutions must go hand in hand

with the progress of the human mind. As that
becomes more developed, more enlightened,
as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change
with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with
the times.






Thomas Jefferson
The Writings of Thomas Jefferson
Paul L. Ford, Editor





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