The Canadian Atheist

Issue 7 Summer 96


Could it be those red herrings that are being floated around regarding the mysterious disappearance of the Murray-O'Hairs, arguably America's First Family of Atheism?

On September 4,1995, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, her son Jon Garth Murray, founder and president respectively of American Atheists, Inc., along with Mrs. O'Hair's adopted daughter, Robin, lawyer and atheist activist, left their Austin, Texas headquarters for a 'business trip'. On September 28, the three disappeared and have not been seen since. Nor, eight months later, has any of the 50,000 plus membership of American Atheists, Inc. received an official statement from the organization's board or a newsletter. The mainstream press all but ignored the story of the disappearance of the "most-hated woman in America" and her family, and when it was mentioned, it was always with the hint that they had possibly absconded with the funds.

Rumours flew of foul play but they were quickly shot down by inner circle members who ostensibly were 'in the know'. Everything is fine, we were told. Some people attested to a phone call from the Murray-O'Hairs reassuring them that all was well and to have patience. It will all come out in the wash and an explanation will be forthcoming, they told us. And still the speculations grew wilder -- of meetings with a secret potential backer, of a publicity stunt, of a physical and emotional breakdown by the ill and aging Madalyn O'Hair.

There has even been speculation that perhaps she felt that her demise was imminent and chose to make certain that, as she once wrote, "I don't want some religious nut to shove a rosary up the ass of my body, or a communion wafer down its throat." She also said, "I don't want some damn Christer praying over the body or even putting his hands on it." But over and over, we are being assured by certain members that they are alive and that they will return in their own time. We hadn't much choice other than to accept this quasi-explanation until a friend sent us an article from the May '96 issue of the 'Austin Chronicle' called "The Case of the Missing Atheists" by Robert Bryce. It suddenly hit us. When these famous, long-time thorns in the side of the Religious Reich mysteriously vanished into thin air, the question we should have been asking is: Why has there never been a missing persons report filed? The answer is chilling.

According to the Austin Chronicle, the only person "able to file a missing persons report" on the trio is William J. (Bill) Murray Ill, the disowned born-again-Christian son of America's most famous atheist, and father of her adopted-daughter, Robin. And guess what. He did not file a report and he has no intention of doing so!

Referred to as a "traitor" by his mother, Bill Murray's principal occupation for the past 20 years has been to deliver defamatory attacks against his mother and family in small fundamentalist churches in the backwoods of the nation, split the donation take with the minister and leave town. Jon had evaluated his brother, Bill, as a man who succumbed to the lure of money and joined in with the radical religious right. Ironically, the reasons Bill gives for not filing a search warrant on his missing family are that he does not want the bad publicity of appearing to be a money-grubbing grave robber (choke, cough) and that he does not want to search for people who don't want to be found. How considerate. Bill Murray also openly admits that he does not love his family and he does not want to know what is happening to them. Well, it looks like he is going to have his way. In fact, he's not even protesting the moving in to the family home of one of the American Atheist's staff! Now, wouldn't that ordinarily gall your average bible puncher?

So, along come the red herrings that are hoped will prop up the "they are still alive" theory:

* In answer to "They must be dead because they would never leave voluntarily without their beloved dogs who accompany them everywhere." -- two months after the O'Hairs' disappearance, their beloved pets mysteriously vanished from their locked compound behind the American Atheist headquarters in Austin. ("that proves they're alive! They've sent for their l'il dawgs!)

* In answer to "They must be dead because there are property taxes that are owing on the family home in West Austin." -- someone quietly paid the bill with a cashier's cheque purchased in Boonton, New Jersey. Even the monthly utility bills on the family home are being taken care of. (After all, only people who are alive and planning to return would arrange to see that their bills are being paid, right?)

What would be the advantages of a voluntary disappearance by the O'Hairs to the American atheist movement or to themselves personally? The answer is: none.

What would be the advantages of their disappearance to the enemies of the American atheist movement? They are manifest: for instance, the bringing down of the American Atheists, Inc., the disenfranchising of the 50,000 plus membership which was steadily growing, and the discrediting of the Murray-O'Hair family and the years they have worked and sacrificed for their (and our) principles.

Things were finally looking up for AA Inc. Their books were selling to stores, universities, colleges and libraries. They were planning great inroads in the publishing field, aggressively pursuing sales of strictly atheist-based books on the Internet. With monies bequeathed to AA, Inc. by the late Don Sanders, executive v.p. of AA, Inc., they were able to purchase new typesetting and printing equipment with which they had plans to reissue many old favourite books, along with a new work by Madalyn O'Hair and Albert Himoe that promised to be a "blockbuster that will cause much consternation in the land."

Theism is doomed . . . the advance of civilization to its heights has brought an increasing disbelief in all religion. The prospect is clear. No refinement of the idea of god can save it from disappearance. Joseph McCabe

But it looks like the 'atheist dogs' have been effectively called off and castrated. We have not seen a newsletter since their disappearance. There are months of backlogged book orders, their distribution of cable T.V. programs has dwindled from 140 outlets to 8, and newly-appointed Director of American Atheists' headquarters in Austin, Spike Tyson, says that one thing AA is unlikely to be doing any time soon is file any lawsuits in favour of state/church separation. This was always the very foundation of the work done by the Murray-O'Hairs (speaking of which, we wonder how many new foundations were poured about 7 months ago in the Austin area).

If you think we are being paranoid, the religious and government harassment suffered personally by this founding family of American atheism is well recorded, along with FBI and CIA infiltrations of their organizations. There was the COINTEL (counter-intelligence) operation against Mrs. Murray in 1963 personally authorized by J. Edgar Hoover in an attempt to defame her reputation. Their organization was driven from Maryland in 1965, stripped of all its assets, and the entire family were severely beaten by an infantry-type assault carried out by 27 Baltimore policemen who charged their home. Both Madalyn Murray and her 77-year old mother were hospitalized as a result of the attack.

The trail is cold now. It may be too late for the Murray-O'Hair family, but it may not be for the cause they have all so valiantly fought for.

Convinced that there is no eternal life awaiting him man will strive all the more to brighten his life on earth and rationally improve his condition in harmony with that of his fellows. Ernst Haeckel


As many of our readers know, we mailed 330 requests to supporters in early May urging that letters be written in support of a tentative recommendation to remove bibles and religious oaths from Canadian courtrooms. The recommendation is to be made at about the time you read this. The Federal-Provincial Working Group on Multicultural and Race Relations in the Justice System's British Columbia co-chair, Jacquelyn Nelson told us that they had not had input from the atheist community in Canada. We decided to make it a project to ensure that our concerns were heard. We know that at least 50 of you have written to the Group and we think that the total may be closer to 100 if we include those who wrote and did not send us copies. This is an astonishing response. Of course, religious groups will be seeking to retain some kind of so-called non-sectarian oath in courtrooms in the ridiculous belief that it stops liars from telling lies. One letter writer pointed to the folly of an atheist acceding to the god oath in the fear that not doing so could jeopardize the outcome of the case. So, an atheist could be forced to promise to tell the truth by first telling a lie. Think about that. The case for a completely secular courtroom is airtight. If you are as concerned as we are about this, why not join us and write to Justice Minister Allan Rock asking him to act on this issue.


10.  Changed his mind after he saw "Ernest Saves Christmas".
 9.  Afraid to travel in the Middle East.
 8.  Waiting for this AIDS thing to blow over.
 7.  So many Second Comings, so little time.
 6.  Hasn't received thank you notes from last visit.
 5.  Can't remember which darned planet we're on.
 4.  Having second thoughts about leaving heaven now that they just got cable.
 3.  Has decided to give humanity "its space".
 2.  Waiting for long hair to become popular again.
 1.  Already did return, but everyone thought he was Elvis.

Contributions never cover the cost of postage and printing. If you enjoy receiving this newsletter we will gladly accept any amount that you are comfortable with. Cheques should be made to: The Canadian Atheist Society. Thanks.


It has been suggested that we are up against an unassailable monolith in the fight for the atheist cause. Monolith, maybe. But unassailable? Never! We have high hopes for the advancement of rationality. This newsletter and the Society and readers it represents have objectives that are achievable, case in point, the removal of the courtroom oath. What next?

These may seem to be insignificant goals but the ultimate effect will be to place the issue of systemic discrimination against atheists and others on the national agenda and to move toward a society where rationality reaches critical mass and shunts religion far into the fringes of public discourse where it belongs. Dreamers? You bet!


Perhaps monkeys are the morally superior race and we devolved from them. Carl Sagan (with co-author Ann Druyan) wrote a book called "Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors". In it, he describes an experiment where monkeys were forced to choose between electro-shocking other monkeys and starving. Almost all the monkeys went without food for up to two weeks rather than hurt others. Writes Sagan, "These macaques- who have never gone to Sunday school, never heard of the Ten Commandments, never squirmed through a single junior high school civics lesson - seem courageous in their moral grounding and their resistance to evil . . . . If the situation had been reversed, and captive humans were offered the same deal by macaque scientists, would we do as well?"


The following are all genuine versions of Bible stories as retold by young scholars around the world:

------------------ In the first book of the Bible, Guinessis, God got tired of creating the world, so he took the Sabbath off. Adam and Eve were created from an apple tree. Noah's wife was called Joan of Ark. Noah built an ark, which the animals came on to in pears. Lot's wife was a pillar of salt by day, but a ball of fire by night.

* * * The Jews were a proud people and throughout history they had trouble with the unsympathetic Genitals. Sampson was a strongman who let himself be led astray by a Jezebel like Delilah. Sampson slayed the Philistines with the axe of the apostles.

* * * Moses died before he ever reached Canada. Then, Joshua led the Hebrews in the battle of Geritol. The greatest miracle in the Bible is when Joshua told his son to stand still and he obeyed him. * *

* David was a Hebrew king skilled at playing the liar. He fought with the Finkelsteins, a race of people who lived in Biblical times. Solomon, one of David's sons, had 300 wives and 700 porcupines. * * *

When Mary heard that she was the Mother of Jesus, she sang the Magna Carta. When the three wise guys from the East Side arrived, they found Jesus in the manager. Jesus was born because Mary had an immaculate contraption. St. John, the Blacksmith, dumped water on his head. * * *

Jesus enunciated the Golden Rule, which says to do one to others before they do one to you. He also explained, "Man doth not live by sweat alone." It was a miracle when Jesus rose from the dead and managed to get the tomb stone off the entrance. * * *

The people who followed the Lord were called the 12 decibels. The epistles were the wives of the apostles. One of the opossums was St. Matthew, who was by profession a taximan. St. Paul cavorted to Christianity. He preached holy acrimony, which is another name for marriage. A Christian should have only one wife. This is called monotony.

* * *

Citing the Bible as evidence for anything is like saying that the sun is in fact a chariot of fire that races across the sky because we read about it in Greek mythology. Stephen Ban

Thanks to: Don Morgan


What's wrong with the Ten Commandments? Plenty, according to Anne Nicol Gaylor, a founding member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation of Madison, Wisconsin. She concludes that these basic bible teachings "epitomize the childishness, the vindictiveness, the sexism, the inflexibility and the inadequacies of the bible as a book of morals."Gaylor points out that only six of the ten commandments deal with an individual's moral conduct; the first four in essence all scream that "the lord thy god" has an uneasy vanity that must be fed (not unlike the voracious man-eating plant in the cult movie "Little Shop of Horrors"). In short, there shall be no other god but him, and anyone who strays from him will be punished even "unto the third and fourth generation"! It is difficult to imagine anything as unfair as condemning future generations for the inability of their forefathers to believe. And yet Christians are supposed to respect the bombast and psychotic insecurity of these first four commandments.

The fifth commandment is an order to honour your father and your mother, an obvious extension of the authoritarian rationale behind the first four. This order is unconditional. The mere biological fact of motherhood and fatherhood is enough to warrant honour from children even though they may be enduring emotional, sexual and/or physical abuse from their parents. There are many adults today who can still remember the guilt and confusion they suffered as children under the shadow of this Procrustean commandment. "Honour only those who merit your honour" would have been a more appropriate and compassionate teaching, and if that includes your parents, great!

Commandments six through nine -- thou shalt not kill, commit adultery, steal or bear false witness -- obviously have merit, but Gaylor suggests these too are blanket condemnations and should not go unqualified. To kill in self defense, says Gaylor, is regrettable, but it is certainly morally-defensible, eminently sensible conduct. So is the administration of a shot of medication that will end life for a terminally-ill patient who wishes to die. (This commandment has always been easily ignored by Christian governments, however, who have military chaplains pre-bless their killing machines). Adultery, the subject of the seventh commandment, is another absolute that raises questions. Fidelity in marriage can make for happiness between couples, but some marriages may outlast affection causing some couples to agree to live by different rules. Until relatively recent times, the ban of divorce for Christians, coupled with the ban of adultery created great distress, and as ongoing studies show, it was an awful lot to ask of an animal that is not by nature monogamous. Adultery, after all, is an act between consenting adults. Gaylor suggests a much more relevant commandment would be one that forbids the violent crimes of rape and incest.

Another commandment that cries for amending clauses is "Thou shalt not steal." Surely this was designed to keep order and prevent the people who are cold or ill from stealing to ameliorate their situations. Napoleon really had religion figured out. He said, "How can you have order in a state without religion? For when one man is dying of hunger near another who is ill of (overeating), he cannot resign himself to this difference unless there is an authority which declares, 'God wills it thus.' Religion is excellent stuff for keeping people quiet."

To "not bear false witness", says Gaylor, was a dictum that in biblical times was a tribal commandment and was meant to apply only to a neighbour within the tribe. It was quite all right to bear false witness against 'strangers'. But if one construes this order to mean "thou shalt not lie", once again at face value it appears a noble concept but in fact some lies have saved lives, preserved relationships and often are a kind solution when attempting to prevent hurt feelings.

Finally, the tenth commandment. It's the one that forbids men (obviously) from coveting -- everything from his neighbour's wife, house, field, servants, ox, ass or any other of his nick-nacks. There is something in this edict to bother just about everyone: the feminists, for rating a wife as chattel along with an ox and an ass while it loftily overlooks the fact that she herself may have some desire for her neighbour's husband; the bible apologists, who say it really meant, in a more superstitious age, "to cast an evil eye"; and most folk, who find its triviality hardly worth the stone it was supposedly scribed on. So what's wrong with the Ten Commandments? They are irrelevant -- an archaic tool meant to keep some semblance of control over a raggedy-assed mob of desert tribesmen back in biblical times. Of course, anyone today could write a better set of commandments. But why would we need someone else to lay out a set of rules for us to live by? Surely we are all capable of establishing our own personal code of ethics, which can be as lofty as pledging our life to the betterment of the planet or as simple as making the conscious effort to be kind.

Somewhere, and I can't find where, I read about an Eskimo hunter who asked the local missionary priest, "If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?" "No," said the priest, "not if you did not know." "Then why," asked the Eskimo


No matter how you may define 'charity', when it comes to allowing an organization the tax benefits of 'charitable status', the federal government has its own definitive guidelines. In a letter to one of our readers from Deputy Minister Pierre Gravelle of Revenue Canada, he said, "An organization that is established, wholly or in part, for political or propagandist purposes would NOT qualify for registration, since such purposes are not charitable at law. A purpose is said to be political if it aims to influence policy makers or legislators, or if it seeks to sway public opinion on a CONTROVERSIAL ISSUE." So, what is propagandist, political as hell, and (as confirmed by Mr. Gravelle) a registered charity? Answer: The Vancouver Right To Life Society.

Talk about adding insult to injury! Hasn't this group of religious zealots cost the taxpayer enough, what with court costs for hearings and trials, extra policing, legal fees and bubble zone legislation to protect health care workers, aside from the human misery they have perpetrated in order to thrust their religious values on everyone. This organization has helped to push the amount of acceptable violence to a new high in the name of righteousness and martyrdom. Allowing them to enjoy all the privileges of a 'charitable' organization is patently stupid and irresponsible.

Mr. Gravelle finished his letter with these words: "I wish to assure you that the Department gives serious consideration to complaints about particular registered charities and investigates such situations as warranted. Where the charity's activities do not comply with the Act, the registration of the charity may be revoked." Mr. Pierre Gravelle, Deputy Minister, can be reached at Revenue Canada, Customs, Excise & Taxation, Ottawa K1A 0L8.


I will choose what enters me, what becomes flesh of my flesh. Without choice, no politics, no ethics lives. I am not your cornfield, not your uranium mine, not your calf for fattening, not your cow for milking.

You may not use me as your factory. Priests and legislators do not hold shares in my womb or my mind. This is my body. If I give it to you I want it back. My life is a non-negotiable demand.

Marge Piercy

The universe as a totality is without cause, without origin, without end. Karl DuPrel


Our own Ray Blessin came out of the bunker and went live (internationally) on CBC-Newsworld TV's "On the Line", Sunday, May 26th. He faced off with Gary Stewart, Member of the Provincial Parliament for Ontario, who presented a motion to allow the reinstatement of prayer in public schools in his province. It was passed with 80% of the members absent. Democracy at work. Ray was a study in patience as he endured this Neanderthal in a suit droning on about how our country has gone to hell in a handbasket ever since prayer in all Canadian schools was finally mothballed in 1992.

However, Mr. Stewart's call to march forward to the past did not go over in a big way with the callers. Maybe it's because he only opened his mouth to change feet. He yammered about how these school prayers would be "non-God driven" (huh?) and although he conceded it may be true that all religion is rage, he said "we need that enrichment back in our lives."

The only two who agreed with Mr. Stewart were a jackbooted populist who was adamant that the majority should rule no matter what (may we see a show of hands for public hangings?) and a screamster who chastised Ray for not believing in God, who is "a real person". He said there should be a law making prayer for everyone "mandatory"! (What a delightful word, mandatory.)

Ray remarked that the school boards will in all likelihood ignore the resolution. Still, it doesn't make us feel any safer in our beds at night.


Newfoundland's referendum was passed in the federal parliament this June, breaking the church's constitutional hold on "public" schools in that province. The feds voted 170 - 46 to allow the amendment to proceed. It may have had a lot to do with their feisty new prime minister, Brian "Fish Fight" Tobin of the famous Atlantic Cod War. Tobin went straight for the jugular when he said the church's position is based on one thing: "It's pure power. P-O-W-E-R. Power! And you can quote me." The amendment would take control of educational funds out of the hands of the church. We doubt whether this will have much effect on the amount of religious brain candy that is doled out in the classroom. But this remains to be seen; the church appears worried -- definitely a very good sign.


In a deadly game of 'Simon Says', Catholics in Vancouver still look to chief animal trainer for the Roman Catholic Church, Adam Exner, to tell them what to do. This time he has decreed it permissable for Catholic parents to have their children immunized with the measle vaccine because its production no longer requires the cells of fetal tissue.

Super! Now these Catholic kids will have a good chance of avoiding the measles -- only to contract AIDS when they're older because their church forbids the use of condoms. Religion should come with a federal health warning.


The following is the mission statement of a law firm working out of 1185 West Georgia Street in Vancouver:

1. To be a community of believers in which we will be transformed into the image of Christ.

2. To serve Him in obedience with all of our particular talents and skills; and

3. To offer ourselves: (a) as living sacrifices to the glory of God (b) as instruments through which God builds His Kingdom in this world.

Can you imagine the vibes in that office? Our minds are boggled! We've heard that an employee was fired when she laughed after reading the mission statement.


29 would be Christians
17 would have no religion
14 would be Moslems
13 would be Hindus
12 would be Buddhists
 9 would be Confucian and Shinto
 5 would be Animist
 1 would be Jewish


If you accept that:

God is a myth. Humankind's future is in its own hands. Prayers are what you say to yourself. Success in life depends on human effort. When you die, your life is over forever. Only your ideas can survive. The church and the clergy are in business for themselves. They have no more special knowledge about life than the average person. Humankind is responsible for what it does. There are no sins; crimes cannot be forgiven by religious rites, holy water or doing penance. The time to live is now, the place to live is here and the way to be happy is to make yourself and others happy.

Then you are an Atheist !


A minuscule percentage of our readers (two!) asked to be removed from our mailing list because of our item about the Keegstra case (A Premise gets played with - Spring '96 Edition).

They mistakenly took our criticism of the legal system that jailed convicted hate-monger, Keegstra, as defending his poisonous doctrines. (Voltaire must have got into the same hot water with his " . . . but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.")

So, we reiterate. It was about the right to due process of law. The procedural rules of due process under our British-based system safeguard the right of a citizen to a fair trial. The first of these rules is that the burden of proof is always on the accuser. In other words, the accused is always presumed innocent until proven guilty by the accuser.

Whether the charge concerns libel, hate or murder, we don't believe that this basic foundation of our legal system should be skewed, even when dealing with low-life bottom feeders like Keegstra and his ilk.

The Canadian Atheist
Published by
The Canadian Atheist Society

Publisher & Editor: Ray Blessin
Associate Editor: Fern Wayman

Researcher & Contributor: Laurence Wayman
Fax: (604)525-4911

P.O. Box 41613