Freedom Writer - January/February 1996 Woman, Atheist, Anarchist _Madalyn_Murray_O'Hair,_7
Freedom Writer - January/February 1996
Woman, Atheist, Anarchist
death_brought_to_mind__Freedom_Writer_'s March 1989
interview with the outspoken activist. Here are some
FW Were you always an atheist?
O'HAIR Oh no, not at all. I was born into and reared
in the Presbyterian faith. My father was a Presbyterian
and it used to be the obligation, the social obligation,
of women to take their husband's religion, no matter
what they [the women] were re
ared in. So my mother was a Lutheran, and the moment
she married my father she started attending a Presbyterian
church. She attended that church for 50 years. My brother
and myself were both brought up in the Presbyterian
FW At some point you must have changed your mind.
O'HAIR I sure did!
FW What happened?
O'HAIR I used to skip grades in school, and I'd been
reading since I was three. Just generally speaking,
my family's pretty bright, including my parents. One
weekend my father refused to take me to the library.
I used to go down and load up on libr
ary books, and when he wouldn't take me to the library,
I was forced to read the Bible from cover to cover.
I was either in the fifth or sixth grade. Now, you
know damn well I didn't understand everything that
I was reading, but I understood enough that I
thought it was pretty horrible. I thought that it
was violent, that God was pretty mean, and that the
visitations he made caused troubles of all kinds on
the chosen people. Then I started to read some of that
to my father and mother. I would pick out stu
ff that I thought was pretty horrible. My mother would
just look at me and say, "Oh, that's not in my Bible!"
FW Is your organization tax-exempt?
O'HAIR Oh, we are now, yes. We just finished winning
tax- exemption for every one of our organizations.
So, every single one is tax-exempt. Now let me tell
you about that because you probably have the same thing.
Are you tax-exempt?
FW Yes, we are.
O'HAIR Good, good. There are four kinds of tax exemptions.
Health, education, welfare, and religion. With health,
education, and welfare, you have to file Form 990.
With religion, they file nothing. Nobody can ask them
anything. That's a tax-exempt
ion we think they shouldn't have. They should be accountable
to the citizens of the United States for exactly what
they do with that tax-exempt money. Also, I think that
they're obligated to do something. Such as, there are
millions of homeless, and milli
ons of churches that are used one day a week. There
isn't a reason in the world that they can't let people
come in and sleep on the pews. There isn't a reason
in the world that they can't feed them. Most of the
churches have kitchens. And, they should do
this for love of Jesus Christ, not asking for a government
grant, or a handout. If they really want to say that
they are going to do it to the "least of these," then
let them do it.
FW Do you support religious freedom?
O'HAIR Oh, absolutely! I feel that everyone has a right
to be insane. And that they can do this any place at
all. If they want religious schools, build them! My
only problem with that is, do not ask for the land
to be tax-free. Do not ask for a gov
ernment grant to build them. Do not ask for money for
teacher's salaries, or more books, or anything else.
Just go ahead and do your thing, and do it yourself.
Just exactly the same as if you were a nudist. Somebody
doesn't get a tax break for being a Mas
on, or whatever they're interested in. And I feel that
religions can have administrative bodies, social services,
hospitals, anything at all, as long as they pay for
it totally themselves, and make certain that the people
who are involved with them are aw
are that they are basing their premises on religious
FW On the issue of censorship of pornography and rock
music, do you see that as a religious issue, too?
O'HAIR Yes, I do. Incidentally, I don't like rock music.
I never have liked it. I have never understood it,
and I can't hear the lyrics. I think that most people
can't hear them either. I'm still stuck with Chopin
and Beethoven and Bach, and all th
ose old ones. The whole point is, I feel that everyone
who wants to say anything, do anything, should be able
to say anything or do anything, within the limits of
not hurting another person. And I don't see how rock
music hurts anybody, or I don't see tha
t pornography hurts anybody.
Incidentally, one of the things that I learned very
quickly when I first met Larry Flynt — he wanted to
interview me for his magazine, and I went and met him
several times and developed a friendship with him —
one has to pay for pornography. It is not dis
tributed free anyplace in the United States. There
has to be a deliberate act of someone going in and
purchasing it. So, I think that's a hell of a lot different
than distributing leaflets or pamphlets on the street.
It's merchandise. If someone wants to
get involved in that, it's their business.
The relationships that people have — that are sexual,
emotional — these relationships are not open to supervision
schools, churches, or government. Nobody has any right
to intervene at all
in any kind of relationship like that.
FW What do you see as your greatest accomplishments?
O'HAIR Oh, one of the things that I am most proud of
is that people can say, "I am an atheist," in the United
States today, without being called a Communist atheist,
or an atheist Communist. I separated those two words.
I think that's probably the
best thing that I did. The other thing is, of course,
that we are developing something that we call "modern
atheism," or "American atheism," which is entirely
different from the materialism of the Greek philosophers.
What we are interested in is moving ou
t, in order to see that there is a more viable life
cycle for all people, and that the human condition
can be ameliorated somewhat by human beings working
in concert to do something. We must do something about
the pollution. We must do something about the
waste. We have to do something about the greed. We
must stop war. And we're not going to do any of those
things as long as we feel the solution is to go to
church on Sunday, or funnel our energy into prayer
or religious solutions. Everybody has to get mi
xed up in the problems, to try to solve them.
FW How would you like to be remembered?
O'HAIR I told my kids I just want three words on my
tombstone, if I have one. I'll probably be cremated.
One is "woman." I'm very comfortable in that role.
I've loved being a woman, I've loved being a mother,
I've loved being a grandmother. I want three words:
Woman, Atheist, Anarchist. That's me.
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