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

Popular Right Now

When God Calls You To Change Your Life Plans, You Go

So what do you do when God calls? You go.

What do you do when God calls?

I have always been a planner. For as long as I can remember, I have always had a majority of my life planned out. The biggest detail I have always been certain of is my education and career. Since I was very young, I have always wanted to be a veterinarian. Maybe want isn't a good word considering I was DEAD SET on being a veterinarian.

That plan was still the same up until this summer, the summer before my junior year of college. I attended two years of community college getting my basics done, and finally, the moment was here to transfer to the school where the really important classes began. Over this summer, I decided to rededicate my life to Christ, and also decided to get baptized. Definitely best decisions of my life, but those moments began a chain of events that led to God changing my plans.

I never really believed in true signs from God. I always noticed that there were things here and there that seemed to point in a direction, but until I really gave my life to Christ, I never believed in Him showing real-life signs. I guess it began when I worked for several vets prior to starting school. As much as I admired them and what they did, I hated my job. I hated the loss. I hated seeing the pain the animals felt. I had breakdowns every time we euthanized an animal.

I couldn't handle it. But I still never saw it as a sign.

Then it continued with a tugging on my emotions that I just couldn't explain. I had just been accepted into a great school, was finally going to be taking the classes I was interested in, and everything was going as planned.

I should have been happy right? But I wasn't.

I would have breakdowns where I just wanted to go home. I would just sit in my apartment and cry. Before school even started, I dropped my pre-vet concentration. I felt a wave of relief. I would just stick with Animal Science because I knew I wasn't supposed to be a vet, but I had to stick with animals right?

Wrong. It wasn't enough.

After a semester of classes as an animal science major, I came home over Christmas break feeling lost and discouraged. But I couldn't change my major. What was I gonna do? I have always known I was gonna work with animals. But God finally got through to me...

Over Christmas break, I resumed some work with a Children's Hospital that I used to do in high school. A charity event, collecting toys for the children stuck in the hospital over the holidays. Then it hit me. The immense joy I experienced from helping those children.

I finally understood. My whole life God was preparing me for this.

Growing up, I never had the cookie cutter injuries most kids get, like a broken arm from playing sports. I was stuck in a gastroenterologist's office in 6th grade because I threw up my food every day and no one knew what was wrong with me. I was blind for 2 months and then had major surgery and stitches in my eye at 15 because a firework exploded in my eye. I have endometriosis that has been removed and keeps coming back.

All of these experiences were so hard because the children my age never understood and usually didn't have to go through these things. But it was God all along. He was molding me into a person who could understand. He was making me a voice for children.

So now I am a child development major. I will graduate with a bachelor's and a certificate in global child advocacy. After I complete my master's degree, I will become a certified child life specialist, which is someone who works in the medical setting and helps the children understand what they are going through, and helps the child and their family cope with it.

Where I am now is a far cry from where I thought I would be. But I have never felt more at peace and happy in my life. God has shown me my purpose. I'm not perfect, not even close, but the moment I allowed myself to follow God's will and get close to Him, my life began to make sense. It might have taken me six months or more to sort through the uncertainty and chaos, but now that I understand it is all worth it. God has a plan for all of us, He only wants us to surrender our worries and follow Him.

So what do you do when God calls? You go.

Cover Image Credit: Sydney Lind Moore

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

A Thank You Letter To Single Moms, From A Girl Who Was Raised By One

Thank you for all that you do.

Dear Single Moms,

You are the ones who are going at it alone.

The reason you no longer have a teammate is unknown to me. I do not know whether it was abandonment, abuse, death, adultery, an unright fit, or one of the other vastly possible reasons that has caused you to now be raising your child(ren) alone.

This is what I do know:

I know you are the strongest kind of person. You are the superhero that superheroes look up to.

I know you are the most selfless kind of person. You are the ones who are able to put someone else's life above your own.

I know you are the most dedicated kind of person. You are the ones who work at least two jobs, the one paying for groceries and being a solo parent.

I know you are the most compassionate kind of person. You are the ones who are making chicken soup and shouting "Have you been drinking that water I put next to your bed!" during flu season.

I know you are the most versatile kind of person. You are the ones who always know how to do everything right, from fixing a science fair project due the next morning to throwing the perfect surprise birthday party to knowing just what to say during that first broken heart.

I know you are the most loyal kind of person. You are not going anywhere during the toughest of times.

I know you are the cuddliest kind of person. You are the ones whose positivity and love radiate out making you the perfect companion for a cuddle session.

I could keep going forever so I will just conclude with this:

I want to say thank you to all the amazing single mothers out there, you are my role models.

And while one day, if I have children, I hope to have a partner. I also hope to posses half of the outstanding traits you do.


A Daughter

Cover Image Credit: Rachel Stone

Related Content

Facebook Comments