Some Neglected New Atheist History

Madalyn Murray O’Hair was the founder of American Atheists who paved the way for the New Atheist movement. In fact, activist Jerry Coyne described her “the earliest New Atheist of our era.” The Friendly Atheist even posted a tribute to her.

Here is an interesting fact about the earliest New Atheist of our era:

Unhappy with the United States policies towards the Soviet Union, Murray began attending Socialist Workers Party meetings. In 1959 to 1960 she attempted to defect to the Soviet Union, but the country denied her and her son citizenship.

My goodness. The earliest New Atheist of our era wanted to defect to the Soviet Union? Kinda makes sense. Clearly, O’Hair was no wishy-washy accomodationist.

Speaking of accomodationists, you have to wonder did Madalyn Murray O’Hair and her group have their battles with accomodationists of their day? It turns out they did. Jon Murray, who helped run American Atheists with his mother, was upset by the fact that other atheists were being too respectful of religion. They had been hardcore in the past, but they were going soft. And Jon did not like this one bit. So he fired off an article for their magazine, American Atheist.

Who were these other accomodationist atheists ?

The Soviet Union.

I kid you not. In 1987, Gnu atheist Jon Murray complained in writing that the Soviet Union was getting much too soft on the question of religion. Read it for yourself:


[Kindly uploaded by Freeman 78756FOX]

[The following excerpts were written by Jon G. Murray in the “American Atheist” of October, 1987.]

“…If you [an atheist] are confronted by religionists and you show any sign of compromise or indecision, it will be used against you as they go for the jugular. This is why the Soviet Union has guarded its internal affairs so since the end of World War II. It has been attacked and harassed more than any other nation on earth, with the possible exceptions of China and Cuba… The adoption of a hard-line internal policy has been a survival necessity, as has the dedication of a large proportion of the Soviet economy to “defense.”…If the West had left the Soviet Union alone, it might not have as much to harp about now concerning alleged human rights violations.

“Knowing the background of the situation as I do, I am deeply concerned about new Soviet policies with respect to religion….They must feel, knowing that religion versus Atheism is one of two basic factors that keep the cold war going, that they need to show the West over and over again that they are being fair to the religious. Such a policy cuts no ice with me, as an Atheist. I think that the religous in any nation should get what they richly deserve for setting back all of human culture for thousands of years.

“When a delegation of American Atheists last visited the Soviet Union, we had an interesting discussion with a high-level official with the Soviet Bureau of Atheism in Moscow. We asked if the official Soviet position was to allow parents or, particularly, grandparents to teach religion to their children, when they were being presented with public school instruction on Atheism? The answer was yes … We then asked if it would be all right for that same grandmother to teach her grandchild about the “superior values of capitalism.” The answer was a very firm no… We could not make our Soviet counterpart see that one was equally as dangerous to the overall future of his country as the other.

Wow. “I think that the religious in any nation should get what they richly deserve for setting back all of human culture for thousands of years.” Sounds like something Dawkins or Harris might say after a few beers.

Even more interesting is how the American Atheist was opposed to parents and grandparents teaching religion to their children. It was “dangerous.” As we can see, even the earliest New Atheists of our era were obsessed with other people’s children.

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6 Responses to Some Neglected New Atheist History

  1. Mark Plud says:

    Madalyn in her Playboy interview advocates adolescent sexual freedom starting as early as 13 for girls and 15 for boys. Yet I’ve heard from several sources that she made her younger son Jon Murray, who never moved away from home, live like a sexually abstinent Christian. He could possibly have died at the time of murder in 1995 lacking sexual experience.

    For some reason nobody wants to talk about this. Jon’s likely adult virginity conflicts with both christians’ and atheists’ propaganda that atheists enjoy liberated sex lives.

  2. mechanar says:

    As german chancellor Helmut schmith would say “What belongs together, grows together””

  3. The Deuce says:

    As we can see, even the earliest New Atheists of our era were obsessed with other people’s children.

    As were their forbears before them: The Soviets, Maoists, and every other “secular” totalitarian movement.

  4. WT says:

    It’s interesting to learn that Madalyn Murray O’Hair and her organization had much in common with atheistic governments, to the point of her trying to defect to one. That the organization was so partial to the Soviet Union that they directly encouraged the further abuse of parental rights is shocking. That common theme is indeed observable today.

    Here’s a recent example of a notorious loudmouth atheist, Richard Nikoley, known for blogging while drunk, openly plotting with a commenting atheist about meddling with other people’s children.

    “How to Be a Clever Devil and Get All Your Nieces and Nephews to be Atheists”

    They end up publicly making fools of each other in bragging about their pathetic obsession with sabotaging parents’ upbringing of their children. They also show a poor understanding of theism, despite the basic concept being on their minds constantly.

    While they’re both childless, they seem to long to be a part of a family, even if it’s someone else’s family and they’re trying to subvert the parents. Truly pitiful.

    Pride is a dangerous vice.

  5. GRA says:

    @ WT: Did you the read the comments on that article? i couldn’t help but laugh.

    “We’re raising two happy, atheist kids. From an early age, we simply told them, “Magic isn’t real.” Sometimes we make a joke about it: “Watch! I’m going to move that pencil with my mind!” Then, after straining a bit, “Oh shoot, I forgot that magic isn’t real.”

    Once they were exposed to the concept of gods in school, it wasn’t much of a leap for them to see that gods are the same as magic. Then when they would come hope [home] and report that, “Johnny believes in God,” we’d simply reply: “That’s OK. People believe all kinds of things. Johnny can believe whatever he wants.”

    In short, I think the approach of being casually dismissive of claims of magic, miracles, and gods — but not making a big deal about it — works wonders.”

    What’s interesting is that the tactics of “not making a big deal about it” and being casually dismissive are not actually disproving theism, or setting up a framework that the universe is godless.

  6. WT says:

    @GRA, oh yes, sound reasoning gets pushed aside in their echo chamber, and putting on the atheist hat doesn’t in any way protect against that. As much as they would like, they don’t suddenly become part of an intellectually superior club and automatically inherit a higher level of thought. (Their apparent expectation of that seems to indicate they do believe in a kind of magic after all.)

    It’s particularly funny to see the commenter’s example of man not being able to move things with his mind as a strike against theism: “if the natural cannot perform a certain act, then how can theists believe that the supernatural can do so?” Wow, do they try to misunderstand theism so badly, or does it just come natural to them?

    One thing I can say in favor of Richard Nikoley after reading his rants, is that since he’s somewhat libertarian-minded, at least he has the decency not to demand laws against religion. He’ll conspire with and encourage others in meddling with other people’s children, but he’s not as bad as the totalitarian-minded New Atheists.

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