I’ve just finished reading “My life without God,” the autobiography of the son of Madalyn Murray O’Hair, who founded ‘American Atheists’ and was a force behind the removal of prayer in American schools. The author, William J Murray, heard the Bible and the Lord’s prayer in school, which incited Madalyn to start the campaign. He became a Christian as an adult.
It doesn’t paint a very pretty picture of the woman. In fact it says she was a violent, abusive, selfish, greedy, anti-Semitic communist; while publicly painting atheism and humanism as a more positive and progressive option. A hypocrite.I’d be interested to hear from any atheists who have read it as to their views. I’d imagine most would disassociate themselves from her behaviour. But it did prompt a few thoughts and I’d be interested in getting the views of people in the blogosphere.
- Christianity is often criticised for the behaviour of some of its claimed adherents, e.g. Crusaders, paedophile priests etc, as if it reflects on the religion. Yet Madalyn seems to be an example of the same for atheism. But at least with Christianity, we have a set of rules by which we can judge the behaviour of the Inquisition for example, and judge that it contradicts the teaching of our founder, Jesus. Atheism doesn’t seem to have that – Madalyn’s behaviour contradicts no teaching of atheism, because there isn’t any. Also, she was an early pioneer of secularism; her language and arguments sounded very familiar and are still being used today. How can atheists criticise the wrongs done in the name of religion, when fellow atheists are behaving in the same way?
- William was clearly indoctrinated with atheism as a child, without being able to give it much thought. One would think that if Madalyn ran a school, she would also indoctrinate her children with atheistic views. Yet the teaching of religion to children is criticised by many atheists; but in a ‘secular’ system how would they also ensure that atheistic views are not forced on children and all views are presented equally? And even if you did this; you are presenting religious belief in a way that it is merely a choice of belief, rather than reflecting any particular reality.
Is it right to criticise a group that thinks differently to you, for faults that are prevalent in your own group too? Hypocrisy, unkindness and dogmatism are present in all culture groups. But in Christianity, we have teaching that tells us that these are wrong, and gives a solution. Of course some people ignore this, but is it fair to characterise a group on the worst behaviour of its members?