Madalyn Murray O'Hair And The Women Of The Secular Movement

Madalyn Murray O'Hair And The Women Of The Secular Movement

When will we start to recognize them?

It’s not difficult to see that there are many groups and communities still dominated by men today, especially in the secular community. All the well-known secular people are men and most of them are white. When you think about the secular community, you don’t really think about women or anybody else. This current lack of diversity in the community can create problems when trying to get people to feel welcome and not excluded.

I would like to point out that there is one woman in the secular community that has made a major historical impact: Madalyn Murray O’Hair. She was the founder of the Society of Separationists which is now known as American Atheists. This was after she filed a lawsuit against her son’s public school when they made him attend Bible readings and harassed him when he refused to participate in 1959. Her landmark case was decided on June 17, 1963 and concluded that state-mandated prayer and Bible readings in public schools were a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

She kept up her activism as she helped with other separation of church and state causes. She fought against the tax exempt status of churches, created the Freethought Society, published newsletters, made TV appearances, and gave speeches. She caused a lot of stir when she was vocal about her beliefs about the role of religion in the American public. This led her to be defined by Time magazine as the most hated woman in America. Not only was she critical of religion and religious leaders, but she was also critical of other atheists. She would kick out many American Atheist members she deemed unworthy and who would refuse to believe in the same views she had on what atheists should be like.

Although she made an impact and became well-known for her role in the secular movement, she is sadly more known in the nation for her death. On August 27, 1995, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, her son, and granddaughter disappeared. There was also $600,000 missing from American Atheists and a horde of gold coins and many believed that they embezzled and ran off. Religious leaders and people who didn’t like atheists were very likely to believe they did that. It wasn’t until January 2001 that David Waters confessed to “kidnapping, extortion, and murder of the Murray-O’Hair family.” When their remains were recovered, they were reburied by William Murray (her other son) in “an unmarked grave in an undisclosed cemetery [sic] near Austin, Texas.”

Madalyn Murray O’Hair is one of the few women who made a major impact on the secular community. She also impacted other groups with her court case that ended mandatory Bible readings in public schools. But there is still the question of why we don’t automatically think of her when we think about the people who are the voices of the secular movement.

There are many reasons. Sexism could play a major part in this. While she did make history, the patriarchy still likes to play its role in making sure the men in history are known and women unknown. Anyone who has taken a history class at all should be aware of that. Another reason could be that we focus on secular figures the same way we focus on celebrities. Those who cause the most controversy become well known within the community. Why else would Richard Dawkins be the name that appears in people’s minds when they think about the secular movement?

Furthermore, it is important that we start recognizing and remembering the other important secular people who not only defied religious norms, but had to face other obstacles like defying gender norms as well in order to move the secular movement forward as well.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia

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12 Bible Verses For Faith In Hard Times

Remind yourself that God is always with you.

Lately, I have felt lost at what God wants for my life. Ever since I've come back to UWG everything has been horrible. It seems that I can't catch a break. I'm trying my best to focus on school, work, and extracurricular activities. But it's hard when I'm having issues with my apartment/roommates and knowing my family back home is struggling and needs many prayers. All, I keep thinking is maybe Carrollton isn't where I belong anymore. I've asked God if He can guide me in the right direction. Below, I have found Bible verses that have helped get me through these rough, past couple of weeks.

1. Isaiah 43:2

"When you go through deep waters, I will be with you."

2. Psalm 37:5

"Commit your way to the Lord. Trust in Him, and He will act."

3. Romans 8:18

"The pain that you've been feeling, can't compare to the joy that's coming."

4. Proverbs 31:25

"She is clothed in strength, and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future."

5. Joshua 1:9

"Be bold. Be brave. Be courageous."

6. Ecclesiastes 3:1

"There is a time for everything and a reason for every activity under the heavens."

7. Isaiah 41:10

"Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand."

8. Isaiah 66:9

"I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born, says the Lord."

9. Psalm 91:4

"He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings, you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart."

10. Psalm 62:1-2

"My soul finds rest in God alone, my salvation comes from Him, He alone is my rock and my salvation."

11. Philippians 4:13

"I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength."

12. Jeremiah 29:11

"For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

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Jesus Empowers Us To Rebuke Negative Self-Talk

The same Spirit that won victory over sin and death is available to us for victory, too!

As I come up on celebrating my third year in the intellectual and emotional battle arena that is the college/university experience, I have observed a very consistent struggle to afflict and harm many of my fellow classmates:

Negative self-talk.

I find it so common in college students: expressing how poorly they think they will/think they did do on an exam, verbalizing self-doubt about their abilities to complete course material, or balance their schedules...the list goes on. Negative self-talk is a pervasive poison that not only is spoken into existence by many college students, but I know that it is just as prevalent within their own inner monologues...because it 100% is prevalent in mine!

Negative self-talk is a mental sickness that poisons and weakens us!

In my own experience, I struggle daily with the lies and accusations that I am mysteriously tempted to hurl at myself. As a Christian, we call this mysterious, unexplainable force "the accuser" (in Hebrew, שָׂטָן, or "ha satan"). In Scripture, this mysterious force is characterized in many ways. In one of the creation accounts at the beginning of the Biblical story, it is depicted as a slippery serpent, who converses with a character named Life (or in Hebrew, חַוָּה, "chavvah").

Okay, let's back up because this all seems weird. What does a snake talking to a character named Life have to do with college students and negative self-talk?

I think it's important to recognize where these inner, accusatory thoughts come from. Are they truly a part of us and our identity? If we truly want hurtful, negative self-talk gone, then they surely must not be intrinsically a facet of who we are. They are accusations that we condition ourselves to make over and over, forcing them to become second nature...but that's where the story of Jesus is good news!

Negative self-talk is a mental sickness that poisons and weakens us...but through Jesus' Spirit, He empowers us to stomp out and conquer that sickness!

In that weird story with the talking snake, both "Adam" and "Eve" (two characters representing all of humanity) decide to choose to define good and evil for themselves. This leads to a fractured, broken relationship. But God sees all of this and knows that at the heart of this human brokenness and giving into temptation/accusation is the serpent — that mysterious yet real and urgent force able to communicate to all of us. God makes a promise to humanity, saying how "[He] will put enmity / between [the snake] and the woman, / and between [its] seed and hers; / he will crush [its] head, and [it] will strike his heel" (Genesis 3:15, NIV).

We have to recognize that Jesus is that "snake-head-crusher!" Jesus came to destroy the root of our problem, the one with our own thoughts and hearts. He knew that it wasn't about overthrowing physical systems of oppression, but rather it was (and is) about overthrowing and rebelling against the universal oppressor, the satan!

In the letter to the Hebrews, it is explained like this: "Since the children have flesh and blood, [God] too shared in their humanity so that by His death [as Jesus] He might break the power of him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil [the satan]" (Hebrews 2:14, NIV).

Jesus, born as a descendant of this Eve character, is a fulfillment of that seed promise: He conquered death, the greatest weapon the accuser has. And now through God's Spirit, the source of Jesus' triumphant power, we now can find that same victory, the same conquering of the satan, the accuser, the negative self-talk poison.

The "fruit" of the Spirit (the things that are brought to reality because of the Spirit) being in us and giving us that victory is "love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV).

And while practically this will look different for everyone (mentoring, counseling, journaling, openly sharing, and calling out those lies and accusations), this power and conquering is accessible to everyone! Through Jesus, all who choose to follow Him and allow God's Spirit to rest upon them will find healing and victory!

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