Madalyn Murray discusses her family history, feminism, and theology
BROADCAST: Dec. 13, 1966 | DURATION: 00:00:01
Madalyn Murray discusses her family history, feminism, and theology and how her experiences with those subjects have shaped her worldview.
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Studs Terkel I think one, certainly one of the most colorful women in America, one the most controversial, she has many detractors, but a surprising number of of supporters: Madalyn Murray. I imagine the name itself evokes a particular emotion on the part of the listeners. Madalyn Murray is the lady from Baltimore, the one from Baltimore, like Billie Holiday. An avowed atheist, in fact your case, several of your cases you brought to court, sort of altered American mores to some extent, haven't they? And I thought, Madalyn, before you begin about that, the idea of this would be: who is Madalyn Murray? Her background, how she grew to be?
Madalyn Murray Well, there are two cases that went to the United States Supreme Court. We won the first one and then the second one the United States Supreme Court refused to engage in battle with us. They withdrew, which necessitates, of course, filing of more cases which we will be doing later this year. The first case removed Bible and prayer from the public schools, when Bible and prayer is a religious ceremony. And the second case was to tax all of the real estate-.
Madalyn Murry Oh yes. Everything that I am fighting legally in the courts of the land is based on only one concept. And this is the concept of separating church and state in reality in America, because it is only separated theoretically. But not in reality at all. And I am striving for that actual separation in our mores and in our social- sociological cultural patterns. The second case, of course, was to tax the churches' real estate holdings. No matter what was on the real estate. This means that if a church was on the land I wanted the church taxed; if a parking lot was on the land, I wanted that taxed; if a factory was on the land, I wanted them to pay taxes on that. Anything that the churches owned. And this is the case that on October the tenth the United States rep- Supreme Court declined to engage in battle with me. I have been talking to a great number of legislative interpreters and news media men who are, of course, quite cognizant of what the situation is in America, and the interpretation of the Supreme Court's refusal is only one. I have only received one interpretation from everybody and it is also my own interpretation: that had the United States Supreme Court invited me in, they would have had to rule for me. They could have ruled no other way.
Studs Terkel Yeah. I suppose what's impressive about this, aside from the cases, one of which you won, and I say has created a great stir in America, in which we hear many people fundamentally inclined one way or another, inveighing against you and against the Supreme Court. In fact, that decision has made the Supreme Court, in the eyes of many as, as subversive as their decision on integration of schools.
Studs Terkel But I think what interests me, because I I think most listeners are acquainted with the stand of Madalyn Murray and whether you agree or disagree, her courage -- I think it interests me and perhaps many listeners is, woman battling against the odds and her her game is pretty big, it's a pretty big game she's hitting. Who is Madalyn Murray, how she came to be? How do you come to be the battler you are? Suppose we sort of start out, anywhere you want. Beginnings, was it Baltimore?
Madalyn Murray Oh, of course not. And I'll tell you again what I had told you when you first presented me with this idea: do you have 55 or 60 hours of tape? [laughter] In order to get this total concept of Madalyn Murray across. Incidentally, I am writing a book on the bible-prayer case and one of the problems, big problems, that I am having with the publisher is that they insist that I include a tremendous amount of autobiographical material, and this this would be 10 volumes, I'm sorry.
Studs Terkel [laughter] Well let's start, let's start with a one volume edition. Madalyn Murray's autobiography. Were you raised, was it, was it a home that was, how can I put it, quote-unquote God-fearing? Was it fundamentalist? Or was it liberal? Was it agnostic, atheistic, what was it?
Madalyn Murray No, it wasn't. As a matter of fact, it's a rather mixed background insofar as both politics are concerned and religion and some of the other concepts of our cultural mores. My mother had come from a family that was Catholic, and her father had married a Lutheran and the Catholic Church refused to give status to this marriage and because of this my grandfather refused to go back to the Catholic Church, so that we had a heritage on my mother's side of a fight over religion with a Lutheran marrying a Catholic. And my mother then was reared in a Lutheran home by her mother since grandfather dropped his total religious leanings after having had a battle with the Catholic Church. This is on my mother's side. And I was acutely aware constantly of religion, too, because of my father. My father's family has been in the United States for 16 or 17 generations. They came over from Ireland as indentured servants in the 1600s, and they won their personal liberties, and then they moved most generally into the law field. There are a tremendous number of lawyers and judges in my father's historical background in the United States, and they're very proud of having served in all of the wars. And my grandmother on my father's side belonged to the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Madalyn Murray Mmmhmm. So, we had a problem here because my father, of all things, suddenly decided that he would be a Presbyterian. Breaking away from some of the religious orientation of his family, which at that time was partly Baptist and pr- partly very obscure paganism of a hangover of Irish ideas that can never quite be tamed.
Madalyn Murray That's right. And when my father married my mother, of course, here again I became aware of something, because my mother and her mother had both been suffragettes in America. My grandmother was one of the very first women who ever went to work in an office in America. She was what was called in those days a stenographer and we called them a stenographer now, bless these pronunciations, [laughter] and she would tell tales of sweeping into the offices where the men threw cigar butts on the floor and her long dresses would catch up the cigar butts. So that my mother was a suffragette, my grandmother was a suffragette and despite this, my mother assumed a traditional, subservient role that the women have chosen to accept in America along the line, and this was placidly accepting my father's religion. If she married a Presbyterian, immediately she became a Presbyterian. She shed her colors. So I knew that here is my mother, married 50 years to my father before he died, always attending the Presbyterian Church and you ask her, what religion are you? You know, 50 years in attendance Presbyterian and she says, [finger snapping] "Lutheran."
Studs Terkel Yeah. You know I think right here we touched on something that it's hardly been touched on in the case of Madalyn Murray. The fact is that she is a woman. This is not a man who has been [the symbol?], a woman, and you just touched on the fact that you come from a family of suffragists who were firsts, and you just point the case of your mother, though the family has a certain rebellious history, accepting the traditional subservient-.
Madalyn Murray But I never accepted this. I think from the time that I was about three years old - when my mother said that she first caught me in full revolt against everything -- from that time on I, I will not accept the concept of woman and her place in our culture because I feel that tremendous values of the women have been distorted in a male culture and certainly Christianity is a male religion, despite the fact that some of your priests wear dresses. They are in a way identifying themselves with the female, [laughter] but on the other hand they are suppressing-.
Studs Terkel Yeah.
Studs Terkel I think this this aspect, Madalyn, let's dwell on this a bit because I think of the audience, too, listening -- since this is a morning show, primarily women -- the story of Madalyn Murray to me, just my one comment here, is that it's one of tremendous courage, but the womanliness here is is a part that hasn't been touched upon too much in the stories I've heard about you, so let's, let's dwell on that a bit, I think.
Madalyn Murray Well, this is one of the things that I would like to dwell on a little bit, certainly. The fact that I am very happy, very satisfied in the role of a woman. I do not want to engage in battle with the male, trying to live his way of life, primarily because I don't like it. I think that many males, and certainly our male-dominated society, have false values, and I would to restore the sympathy and the love that traditionally should go with the concept of woman. I like to look back in our history and see that the original societies were matriarchic and that these are permissive societies, not authoritarian, the male figure has always been authoritarian, and I think the female has always been permissive and warm.
Studs Terkel Yeah.
Madalyn Murray And this is a good, warm thing. And I think that the world really is a little bit hungry for a little bit of this very soft, persuasive, non-aggressive kind of gentility in love and all-embracingness that a woman can and should offer. Ordinarily people don't associate these terms with me. They say I am aggressive. Yes and no. You see, I'm not quite certain that I am aggressive in the way that they mean. I am aggressive in this way: I have something to say and I will say it.
Studs Terkel You know, I think of you, I I can't help think of someone else: Simone de Beauvoir. Both of you have been accused of being aggressive women, yet both of you are speaking for the idea of a woman having her place, not as a second-class person, but indeed her first book, the book for which she is known is called "The Second Sex."
Madalyn Murray Thrusts her ideas forward in a way, she does not thrust herself in the same way. And I I do this, I want the ideas heard. The ideas are important and the ideas are significant, not who carries them so much. And of course in our society the unfortunate thing is that the American woman is the American cow, as she placidly chews her cud and has her children and rears them within a masculine framework where the values and the ideals are not hers.
Studs Terkel Let me follow this Madalyn - Madalyn Murray, our guest for those who may have tuned in late - you are not challenging the male, you're simply saying that the woman has, you kn- do you remember, did you ever hear of Margaret Fuller?
Madalyn Murray Yes.
Studs Terkel A great [unintelligible] Margaret Fuller had, apparently she faced something very similar to what you faced, back in the early part of the nineteenth century. And she was saying, I'm not challenging man's place at all-.
Madalyn Murry This is true. The other thing, you see, the man is a masculine figure only when he is a counterparted by the female figure. And without the feminine, there is no masculine, and I think this is some of the reason why the male has lost his virility and has lost his masculinity in America because we are, we do not have any femininity either. And incidentally I -- this book of Simone Bea-.
Madalyn Murray Yeah.
Studs Terkel When were you first, let's go back to childhood, where was this? When you first became aware of something not quite being right. Here you are little, where where was this? I wa- I associate you with Baltimore but-.
Madalyn Murry Oh no, no. My family --Clearfield County in Pennsylvania is about 60 percent Mayses. There's a tremendous big colony there. My maiden name was Mays, M-A-Y-S, and my father lived with my mother in Pittsburg for about 50 years, so that our roots and our foundations are in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There is another enormous segment of the Mays family in Baltimore, Maryland. And my father in his later years went over there to be associated with some of his relatives in the Baltimore area. We have only lived there, or we lived there for 13 years, but the first 50 years of my family's living was in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. And I think that I found immediately numbers of things wrong from as far back as I can think. The concept of injustice has pressed upon me in all, from all sides constantly. I had this today, if I go to the grocery store I get angry about false packaging. If I get on a transit company's bus or streetcar, I get furious because of the poor service and the high rate of pay. If I go in to buy a dress, I get excited over the idea that all women look like little boys these days and that the bust is erased and the waistline is erased and the emphasis is on the straight woman, the little stick, the little girl. There is no femininity, there is no age-.
Madalyn Murray [laughter] I certainly am not. But every place I go I am struck with this sense of injustice. I pick up a newspaper and there is such a conglomeration of lies thrust upon us through advertising and through slanted editorializing. I get angry about th- I'm constantly angry. When I read the novel or the play, I've forgotten which one it was, about the last angry man. I thought, well all right, that's fine. But I'm the first angry women, [laughter] woman and there's going to be many many more after me.
Madalyn Murray Apathy and acceptance. You see life is for living. This is the only thing one can do with it. And unless one is completely occupied with living, and energetic about it constantly, and being aroused emotionally with the tenderness of love, or with the appreciation of the beautiful, or with the anger of resentment, what is the use of being alive? And in an unending stream as far back as I can think, I have had this. Also I have been extremely inquisitive and my mind, I feel, has been assaulted by ideas from books. I love them. I read incessantly, and I find my greatest friendships with authors, and I can argue with them. I pick up a book and the first page I'm happy with what they say, the next page they contradict something, [laughter] and away I go into a tremendous emotional response to everything. This is all one can do.
Madalyn Murray Well, you see, my father was a building contractor. And despite the fact that he was on the side of management, and he was on the side of wealth in the community, he had the concept of the fairness of trade unions. So that he as a contractor himself was very actively involved in helping to organize trade unions. And we have a tremendous history of trade unionism in my family, with my father involved in this, with his brothers involved in it. As a matter of fact one of the finest trade union leaders in the United States today is my mother's brother. This is Gus Scholl, who's the head of the AFL-CIO in Michigan, and he is the one who brought the case of one-vote one-man to the United States Supreme Court.
Madalyn Murray Oh, yes. I think that this perhaps is one of the things that my father taught me, not so much my mother, but my father. But my mother also, although she would accept religion, she revolted against other things. She was one of the first women in America to bob her hair. [laughter] Which, was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when she first went out on the street with bobbed hair, she had a terrible excitation among the women in the grocery stores and on the streets. When she first went down to buy the first hat with bobbed hair, they were aghast that a woman would cut off tresses that my mother had. And, oh, they were beautiful.
Studs Terkel Gee.
Madalyn Murray And as I say I was reared in a home in which there was religion. My father believed that the word bi- of the, of God was in the Bible. We went to Sunday school and we went to church, and we went one time during the week and I loved it. I loved the stained-glass music, the stained-glass windows, stained-glass music too, I guess.
Madalyn Murray And I loved the hymns, and the beautiful, swelling organ. I loved the smell of the wood. I loved the people all in there in their nice, polished clothes, and the ladies who smelled very fine from good perfume. I liked to be able to go into my class and be able to read better and get the assignments better. I won all kind of prizes for being able to interpret little Bible stories better than anybody else. And I adored this, I got -- this was exciting to have the minister get up there and browbeat people all over the place.
Madalyn Murray Yes, a tremendous amount of all of these things and I enjoyed this very much until one day I sat down and seriously read the Bible and I thought, ah, this part isn't true. I've forgotten what it was I think, as I recall just dimly, that it was something about Jesus walking on water. And I was very small then, but I decided that this absolutely could not have happened.
Madalyn Murray Please.
Studs Terkel Or sh- should I say, rather, God's advocate, [laughter] for a moment, and say that the Bible, let's say, interpreted as a metaphor. This was done metaphorically rather than realistically.
Madalyn Murray Well, a lot of people say this but, you know, to those persons who wrote the Bible, when they were writing it, this wasn't metaphor. They believed this down the line. And I feel that it is not our province to reinterpret something that was written by persons who felt that they were writing the truth as they saw it. Now we can be suave and sophisticated and very 19- or twentieth century-ish, because we have certain knowledge that they didn't have, but they thought Jesus walked on the water.
Studs Terkel I must ask you this now in the twentieth century, mid-twentieth, we know a great deal of, you know, the development of ecumenism and particularly among young clergyman, you know, the questioners--
Madalyn Murray Well yes, I feel, of course, with everybody that when an idea is institutionalized, then the idea loses its original freshness and the really conceptual values of that idea. I dread the thought of organized atheism. This will be horrible.
Studs Terkel Let's talk about that a little. That's interesting. So it is organi- it is not so much religion, because religion can be interpreted many ways. Life could be a religion to you. But organized atheism you're opposed to, you are opposed then to organization that would inhibit an individual, is that it?
Madalyn Murray Well, yes and no. Because, you see, some of the ideas that are organized are a little bit more horrible than some of the other ideas that are organized. For instance, we had the very wonderful concept of people organizing together to see that their hours are reduced and their wages are bettered. And what comes out of it? A completely corrupt labor organization, a structure that we have in the United States, and even the finest org- union persons in America realize that the AFL and the CIO now is almost completely corrupt, and has lost its original intent and force. Now here was a good idea that became corrupt. But there are also bad ideas that become more corrupt. Such as the the idea that man cannot rely on himself. Now I am, I am opposed to this. You have been able to become a a radio personality. You did this. Nobody invaded your body and took over and did it for you. You have had to rely on your own intelligence, your own perseverance, your own ability to organize your thoughts, your ideas, and to present them in such a way that you have something good and decent. And I think that this whole concept of a reliance on God - placing our faith, and our trust, and our hope [and/in?] something external to us - this is a bad idea. I think that we should rely on ourselves and be able to reach within us and find intelligence enough to cope with our struggles, abilities enough to cope with our problems in our ordinary living, and joyousness enough to have good human relationships.
Madalyn Murray Please.
Madalyn Murray Alright.
Studs Terkel Well, this, you feel then, something organized, that is that is you feel is somewhat corrupt in its organization, whether it be religion capital R, is a an inhibition, is a weight upon the natural or could be, the natural joyousness within man?
Madalyn Murray This is true. You know I absolutely floor everybody by saying that I see something good in Barry Goldwater, and they're horrified and they say, oh what? I said if you remember the last election who was the only person in America who talked about individual liberties, though he talked about it with one hand and denied it in his other, he was the only one on the American scene who talked about the necessity for individual freedom. And this to me is such an essential part of living that if I cannot order my own life, I don't want to live anymore.
Studs Terkel Yes, if I may just follow this, I know that you disagree, of course, with Barry Gold-. Some would say, well I refuse, I'm opposed to open occupancy because it offends my sense of individual liberty to sell my house to whomsoever I please. He will say to you.
Madalyn Murray Well, yes and no. This is true and this is not true, this whole concept of open occupancy. These people are not afraid of a Negro. If the Negro who would move in would be a Ph.D. with a $20,000 a year job. What they're afraid of is the Negro who does not have a good job, who will tear down the rental values, who may not be as clean as they are. This is what they're afraid of.
Madalyn Murray Oh.
Madalyn Murray National, in national, a national figure. And although he is reactionary, this man told me that he was one of the persons who fought to have a Negro move into his community, and the Negro is in a home next door. No, I think that there's a tremendous economic fear, and there is also this other fear: white men are afraid of Negro men because they have sexual fears, too.
Madalyn Murray [That's?], this is true. And I think that some of these fears have to be opened up. And we have to say, well you are afraid of the Negro because, number one, you are afraid that he's more masculine than you are, and more virile and that he may win the white woman. You are also afraid of him because he may be your economic equal.
Studs Terkel Well, we know that quite realistically today in America the great, the overwhelming antagonism to a Negro in the neighborhood comes from lower, what we call -- though the phrase working class just apply to America, there's no way -- but the lower middle class or the newly arrived, who fears competition more than [unintelligible]-.
Madalyn Murray Who fears competition, and they fear it rightly because one day we're going to be automated and they are going to be out of a job just the same as they are forcing the Negro to be out of a job now. But when a Negro gets a four-year college education and at the end of this time, he goes in and he's offered a job as an elevator operator, you don't think he's going to embrace you and say, Brother.
Madalyn Murray But I do feel that the fears are numerous. They are sexual fears, they're economic fears. And then of course the Negro is very easily identifiable. But the Jew had a horrible time in America, and the Irishman had a horrible time in America. The Italian did also.
Madalyn Murray This is true. And I think that the other thing is that many many people feel that if the Negro had had anything on the ball they wouldn't have stayed as chattel, because if the Italian comes over and within two generations he's able to pull himself up, he wonders why the Negro was here for 20 generations and did not pull himself up. And then he is not taking into consideration the social conditions where the Negro can one, be identified -- this is always it -- and artificially restrained or held down, such as they certainly have been in the southern areas, and in the north too.
Studs Terkel If we can come back then. This all started because I asked you about -- you were talking about the individual. At the same time, you know there's a play "Marat/Sade," that's going on now, in which de Sade is for the free individual, no matter what, no matter how anti-social it might be. You don't subscribe to this?
Madalyn Murray No, I do not because you see I can only be free and I can only be individual so long as I recognize that everybody else has this same right. And if I overlap and say, my freedom is such that I can tread on you. You know one of the things is in our American history, is this magnificent flag that we had with a coiled ratter- rattlesnake-.
Madalyn Murray It said, don't tread on me. This is more or less what I feel, certainly as a woman. I don't want the male to tread on me, and I don't want the religionist to tread on me. I want the right to speak, to breathe, and to have personal liberties. But what I can't say that my personal liberty is such that I must stifle a race of people in order to have this.
Studs Terkel And so we come back, so we come to the end of the cycle, for this one, that the opponents of the open occu-: I will rent to whosoever I please. But by God if I want not to. What he really is doing is trampling on the right of someone to a fundamental right to live-.
Madalyn Murray The other thing is that these people who do this are only those people who are so insecure that they must trample someone else down in order to rise. As long as they can keep somebody lower than they are, then they're on a higher plane. But just the moment that these people are equal then the then the person who pound them down have this feeling of inadequacy.
Studs Terkel So we come to the matter of the woman, Madalyn Murray, again. So you had these questions, these doubts, but it was this question of joy. You you touch on this, and I I feel this is somewhat important here, that something that overwhelms you with taboos, that you feel are unnatural.
Madalyn Murray Well, you know, the Bible and certainly all of religion says women shall bring forth in sadness. They talk about being born in original sin. The whole concept of religion and of the male authoritarian society is that something's bad someplace and we had better smoke it out, and I don't feel that the woman has this. I think that I was born out of love and I think that my children-.
Madalyn Murray No, definitely not. And I think that my children were born out of love. And I had an absolutely delightful time with my pregnancies. I enjoyed them no end. And when my children were born I thought, hallelujah, look at what I did -- you would have thought nobody else was involved in it -- because I'm able to reproduce life, and it's a magnificent and thrilling thing. And I believe that life is color-filled, music-filled, beauty-filled. I just flew over to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania yesterday to do an hour and a half television program, and I came back from there just choked up because, this is my hometown, but those mountains are magnificent. That city is the most beautiful city in the world. Well, maybe outside of Chicago.
Madalyn Murray Because I just drove, I just went down Chicago's waterfront today in order to go to a friend's, the home of a friend's son. And this is a magnificent view there, but nature crowds in upon me as being wonderful. The seasons are all beautiful. I don't know that I can - summer is better than fall and fall is better than winter but winter is better than something else. And and I have, I'm struck-.
Madalyn Murray I like the season changes. I love color. I love music. I love flowers. I love woods. What a beautiful home you have here with these paintings and with the the flower arrangements, everything--
Madalyn Murray It strikes me all the time that life is good and beautiful and wonderful and love-filled. And when people go around saying, oh no, we were born in sin and we're going to burn in purgatory and everything is against me. You know, I get angry. For instance I say, what is wrong with the body? What is wrong? Why can't I stretch my legs and take a walk? Oh, it's a good feeling.
Studs Terkel I think you should remind the audience [unintelligible], this is the infamous Madalyn Murray talking here [coughing] about life. Let's continue further, Madalyn, about you see you had these thoughts, these ideas and bit by bit something was in your mind, you're getting madder and madder about what you felt was an unnatural restraint upon natural man.
Madalyn Murray But this isn't the first national fight I've had. The larger American audience does not know about my natural fights, but one of the first things that I did was try to organize women into move- into a union movement. I was one of the first white collar worker organizers, and of course my family sometimes gets aghast at the things I did. I I was one of the very first-.
Madalyn Murray Relatives, cousins, aunts, uncles, and so on and they just get aghast at some of the things that I espouse. But for instance I'm one of the very first persons in the United States who fought the McCarran Act. I'm one of the first persons who have fought the House Un-American Activities Committee. I have been an integrationist, 17 years ago when there wasn't a Negro on the street, I was outside picketing saying, you let those Negroes eat in here. And then I would get so furious because there were only a couple of white people on the line, and I would go out and grab my Negro friends and say, why don't you get in this line? and they'd say, oh oh, that's dangerous.
Madalyn Murray Well, you know though, people call me all kind of things, but they're always afraid to call me a kook because if I get in an argument with them I win most of the time, so that they stay away from a couple of words. One of them is a kook, that they stay away. The other thing is that they stay away from, they very few people accuse me of trying to be male because I do-.
Studs Terkel Haven't you asked -- don't you wish, you being the angry person you are -- I say a person now, I'm avoiding woman for the moment - person you are, and being quote-unquote aggressive on things, they're saying she really wishes she were born a man?
Madalyn Murray No. This is anybody who has ever met me or talked with me or had any kind of an encounter with me they immediately forget this. I'm never accused of it. There are a number of things, there are feminine things that I love to do. As I say, the pleasure of having children. This cannot be surpassed and the pleasure, the wonderful wonderful pleasure of having a man make love to me. [laughter] This I couldn't pass up for anything, it's magnificent. The enjoyment of of sex as a woman.
Madalyn Murray Mmmhmm.
Madalyn Murray No, I cannot repress anything. I do not feel that we should repress anything. I think if we're angry we should express it. If we're happy we should express it. But always one thing we should be involved, all the time. I get so involved with cooking. I love to cook and I make magnificent dishes of all kind because I think, gee, look what I did. And I knit and I sew and I I make all of my own drapes. I make all of my children's clothes. I used to design and make all of my own clothes and I don't have any time anymore.
Madalyn Murray Oh yes, among - yes, I spent 11 years in colleges and universities, and it's took me 20 years to unlearn all of those things that I learned there [laughter] that were wrong. But among other things, yes, I I am a lawyer, you know.
Studs Terkel Yeah.
Madalyn Murray This is true. Absolutely. Also a woman, for instance, who becomes pregnant and decide she wants to abort. This is her decision. This is her decision, and I should not say one thing about her decision as long as it doesn't interfere with me. Now if it happened to me she wanted to abort, you know, if it had been my mother I'd have been pretty unhappy.
Madalyn Murray no Madalyn Murray. But everything I think is to individual equations and individual ideas. I think women should move out, and be doctors and lawyers and Indian chiefs. And I think women should move out and say, all right. I do not care for the marriage situation, and this is why. And then do what they want to do. But always do what they want to do as long as it is not infringing upon the liberties and and justice and rights of others.
Madalyn Murray Please.
Studs Terkel Again, we're talking about the young clergymen who are highly enlightened, who who believe, you know, whether they be Unitarian or free-wheeling generally involved with the young and coffeehouses and rock and roll and freedom generally. Suppose they were to say to you, I'm one of them now, and I'm saying to you, well God could be interpreted many ways like God is intelligence. You believe in man. But I say, there's a God in man, the transcendentalist approach, let's say. I can transcend a condition because of that which is in me, but I call it God, let's say.
Studs Terkel What?
Madalyn Murray Come on, fella. You've had a little bit too much LSD. Because we are tied to what we are. And we can rise out of the situation and see our, try to understand our own follies and foibles and our own abilities, etcetera, but it's difficult. And when Socrates said, "Know thyself", he didn't understand that he was putting a burden of 45, 50 years on every individual, to struggle through about knowing yourself. No, the thing that I object to is this: every religion, no matter what it is, says to a man, you cannot rely on your own brain. You cannot accept your own body. Number one, you must debase your body and your ideas and go to a higher authority. But who gives me that higher authority? It's always somebody else, you know. And he's saying, now you listen to me for these reasons. And then when I look at religion, what has religion done? Now, let me -- my grandmother was a feminist. Was there one religion that came out and said that the woman should have the vote? Never. My father was a Unionist. He wanted a 40-hour week. Can you name me any religion at en masse that came out and said there should be a 40-hour week?
Madalyn Murray Individual humanitarian clergymen, but I'm talking about organized religion. They have always been against human beings. They have always -- they have been against the pleasures of the body constantly. They have prescribed diets, you know, eat fish on Friday, or eat unleavened bread. But always they tamper with everything physical, and above all they say, don't think now. This is dangerous. Let us do our thinking, your thinking for you.
Studs Terkel You know, I noticed something very interesting. I watched you once on a TV show. There were two very enlightened clergymen and a young Catholic priest who was rather enlightened, too, but nonetheless. I found that the two non-Catholics were far more antagonistic to you-.
Madalyn Murray I think they were. You see the -- because what happens is this: a theologian will get on radio, on television, and he will try to pretend that he is modern and sophisticated and new. But then when he gets you into his church, he believes in a very restricted, dogmatic approach usually. Now let me tell you the aftermath of that program because it was beautiful. The Roman Catholic Jesuit priest who was on that program with me got me outside and he said, oh you're magnificent. He said, will you please come out to Loyola University? And we have 200 young Jesuits who are in their thirteenth year of training, and I would like you to talk to them. Would you get into a conversation with them? And I said, all right, I'll be pleased to go out. So, he got me in his automobile and drove me out to Loyola University here, and there were 200 Jesuit priests and they started to debate with me, and I had to hold my own with all 200 of them. We had a magnificent afternoon. I've never been through anything like that in my life.
Madalyn Murray Oh.
Madalyn Murray But this [laughter], he had misinter- he had misinterpreted American history. And the thing that got me about the the Jewish rabbi, which made me furious with him, you know he goes into his synagogue and he expects people to follow his cant, and he expects people to follow the dogma and the rituals of the Jewish tra-. He would be aghast if somebody ate leavened bread during one of his holidays-.
Studs Terkel I'm not sure. I'm I must defend him [laughter] in his absence because I know him and he's I think, he's a very enlightened and courageous man in his own way, but what what attracted me about that was, was the fascinating was the fact that there was a crazy paradox that was occurring here and that you-.
Studs Terkel Yeah.
Studs Terkel But it seems that you have the capacity to do something here that I I I find that very interesting. You can rouse in your antagonists, or those who, a certain kind of excitement and debate and argument and a sen- that in a sense is life itself, you see.
Madalyn Murry I like this. I like this and I sometimes I I wish that I would have a a an encounter where there was just one of them, so that we could go into this in depth. I would have loved to had an hour with that rabbi, in order for him to explore my position and for me to explore his position, because we both left there, I'm certain, with poor opinions each of the other, and I'm not quite certain that this is correct. But you know-.
Madalyn Murray The Jewish, what they do with the women -- this, this infuriates me. Do they still do this where the male can go into the center of the synagogue when the women have to sit on the outside?
Madalyn Murray Ah.
Madalyn Murray Conservative.
Madalyn Murray separation. Well this, you see this is one of the things, because the Jews said almost like - I was down in Mexico recently, where the man walks first in the road, and the woman carries all of the burden of the market things behind him-.
Madalyn Murray Yes.
Studs Terkel Well in "Guys and Dolls" Nathan Detroit says, "And there we go with our dames coming behind us." [laughter] That's one thing. And then also in "Dragon Seed," Pearl Buck's "Dragon Seed," remember? In old China-.
Madalyn Murray Yes.
Madalyn Murray Yes.
Studs Terkel Is the way that Margaret Fuller would put it. What other thou- I'm thinking also, Madalyn Murray, about your number of engagements here, and I know you're involved with other programs and I don't want to - let's call this - I don't want to close just yet, but this just installment one here. This is a personal, you know when we--. I'm just assuming that many of the listeners know who Madalyn Murray is. She is the atheist, [laughter] the number one, if there is a number one, she's number one atheist, [of a kind?] who has challenged organized religion and what she feels are its incursions upon a territory that is not its own, since separation of church and state.
Madalyn Murray You know, also I think that we would not have had so much hostility if I hadn't been a woman. Because let - take take the concept of Robert Ingersoll. Robert Ingersoll spoke for atheism all over the United States, and he was accepted to speak for this concept and for the whole concept of free thought. And so have all of the thinkers in the religious field as long as they were not a woman, but at the point.
Studs Terkel Let's talk about this. I really think this is, I think we we've come to the key. I really do. You just said it, and I know it was on my mind. I think really this is the key to the strong feelings about you, Madalyn Murray. The fact, if you were a man it would be accepted, as a guy, as a scrapper.
Madalyn Murray Yes, we do and this has invoked tremendous hostility. Now just this year, I have had 87 appearances on radio and television, all over the country. I have even flown up to Canada and of all the programs that I dread the most, and sometimes I do dread them, are the afternoon programs with women call-ins. Oh, they are the most hostile, embittered, uninformed, malicious-.
Madalyn Murray It it's shock. I'm a woman and I keep wanting to think when some, one of them calls up, I want to shake her and say, you're a woman, and you are talking to another woman and because you are, I have human dignity that you are affronting and you have human dignity that you are losing by your attitude. I want to shake her.
Studs Terkel I think this is a terr- let's dwell on this a bit. In fact that I just thought of a phrase. We think of the subservient Negro who bows -- an Uncle Tom, I suppose a subservient woman who always bows would resent the ones who would be called, let's call at the moment of Aunt Emmie or something like that, we have to coin a phrase-.
Madalyn Murray Yes.
Madalyn Murray I, you know, I think I have theorized about some of this. And one of the things that I think is that the American woman dares not face her self bared, and what I do is force her to look at herself bared and she cannot stand it. And rather than look at herself she strikes out at me, and I think that this is it. Just as I feel that as I speak always of atheism, there is no person in the United States who has not at one time or another thought, maybe there isn't a God. And this doubt is what they are fighting. They are fighting a doubt in them self. So in order to fight this doubt in themselves, they have to fight me. They - I have to be killed ultimately, because when I'm dead, the nagging doubt in their own mind will be dead. And this is wha- there have been six attempts on my life. And I-
Madalyn Murray Oh yes. Three with guns. [laughter] This has been a funny game. But, and I think that this is it. Someone will have to kill me along the way because when I am quiet their conscience is quiet, and then they can go ahead with being Aunt [Emmies?] or Emileenes.
Madalyn Murray Yes.
Studs Terkel Well, you're not opposed to lacy, but sort of a non-acceptance of who they really are. But come back to Madalyn Murray, and you know, you said American woman. We know this probably true of many -- we know the Italian woman has a problem. In fact Anna Magnani, whom I tried to reach-.
Madalyn Murray We come back constantly to this joy. I think that if I had to describe my inner feelings, I have a tremendous basic happiness. Now sometimes this is overlaid with frustration, and with anger and everything else. But underneath, the one thing that I am, that I know is I'm happy. I'm happy most of the time.
Studs Terkel So we come back to the question of a certain happiness, a joy that is against the frustration, and earlier you were saying how it's the frustrated person who will lash out and must look for someone less than [unintelligible]-.
Madalyn Murray The person who has capabilities that they have never reached. The person who constantly has this nagging fear of inadequacy. And this is this is a a very great fear. And and we have to get to the very taboo subject, quite frequently, of sex in America. Because in America, as a psychiatric social worker for 17 years, with thousands and thousands and thousands of cases stacked on my desk, I supervised other psychiatric support social workers. I was a supervisor. We have in America the constant problem of the frigid woman. The constant problem of the inadequate woman in the sexual field in America. And this is an enormous problem. And then we have the problem of those people, those women who cannot become mothers and these people are, oh, they're dreadful. I would outlaw all adoption, I really would.
Madalyn Murray In a way yes and in a way no, because you see if a person cannot fulfill the very simple fundamental things of life, such as having a decent sexual relationship, or as being able to bear a child--
Madalyn Murray If they are physically incapable of having a child, nine chances out of ten, they are emotionally incapable of having them because that child represents the most fundamental inadequacy in their life. Their inability to reproduce.
Studs Terkel Because you you're equating the actual physical ability with the idea of actually offering love to a little animal that is born and raising it to be a human being, by someone who need not be its natural mother.
Madalyn Murray No, I'm not denying all of this because I have given a tremendous amount of thought to this. I don't know whether you know this or not, but there is a powerful organization in America called Anastasia. Anastasia, you know, is the Russian czar's daughter who tried to come back and prove that she was the czar of Russia. Now of all of the adopted children or foster home children in the United States, they have one overwhelming burden: Who am I? Who is my real mother? Who is my real father? And they go on this terrible search, and this is one of the big problems in social work. These people who are searching for identity. Who is my real father? Who is my real mother? And I think that the adopted child in America has a harder life than any other person, because they are constantly after this. They spend 20, 25 years, thousands and thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars, in the search for a real identity, and they do this because the substitute mother cannot offer them that thing which they need: identity.
Madalyn Murray Yeah.
Madalyn Murray Well--
Madalyn Murray Well, yes I am, because I have faith in me. And I have faith that the conclusions in which I arrive at, through reading, through life experiences, and so on, that those conclusions are right for me anyway.
Studs Terkel Have you been surprised at the number of supporters you've had? I noticed too in listening to one of the programs, a question-answer program here that is a telephone calling program, I was surprised the number of supporters you had. Is that you are piquing the imagination and thoughtfulness, whether they agree or disagree with you, there's something there.
Madalyn Murray Well now, the call-in programs cannot be counted upon to give a reasonable idea because most of those calls are screened, and they tell me in advance that they most generally will permit the antagonistic calls to come in, because this gives a livelier program.
Madalyn Murray So, if they have 100,000 calls of which 60,000 are for me and 40,000 are against me, they will present the the greatest number, they will present 20 percent for me and 80 percent against. And I understand this, and I believe that this does enliven the program and I accept it. But what happens is, that they give me compilations of figures laters, later. Each place I go I break all records for attendance. I break all records -- they have the phones rigged up for 20,000, 30,000 calls which is their peak, and they find that they get 80,000, 90,000 calls and the system breaks down from overload. But in this it's fantastic the amount of support that I have, and I think that in a sub- in a submerged way, tremendous number of people are for me. You know why? For several reasons. One, because I've got guts and they have - even if they hate what I'm fighting for, they have to admire my guts. Two is that tremendous crowds of people, tremendous, thousands of them, millions of them, are really on my side and they don't dare say so because they think, if I come out openly and say so I'll lose my job or my friends won't love me or my wife won't love me.
Madalyn Murray Fear, tremendous fear, and this is not an unfounded fear because of all things on the American scene we had the Civil Rights bill passed in Congress, as you know. And on this Civil Rights bill was put a rider called, the Ashbrook Amendment. It was introduced into Congress by Ashbrook of Ohio, a Republican. And this amendment would have given an employer a right to fire anyone, if he found out they were an atheist. And then this person would have no recourse to get their job back. They would not be able to receive social security, or unemployment, or anything else. All of their rights would have been stripped from them because they were an atheist. I was aghast when this passed the House of Representatives. And we had a terrible fight, which my organization had to support in order to get it stopped in the Senate. Here, in 1966, in America there was going to to be an economic reprisal, a job reprisal, an employment reprisal against anyone who would openly profess that they did not have a religion -- fantastic.
Madalyn Murray In Austin, Texas, yes. And incidentally always when I go places people want to know how to reach me, and they can reach me just by writing Austin, Texas. We have, what should I say, an agreement with the post office that when mail comes in just addressed to Austin, Texas-.
Studs Terkel Yeah.
Studs Terkel So, if if there are listeners, particularly the women, I think, who are interested or opposed to Madalyn Murray. Can be reached Madalyn Murray, Austin, Texas. Madalyn Murray, our first meeting and I find a very effervescent one, a very lively one indeed.
Madalyn Murray Yes, I am. I'm going to continue to bring lawsuits in order to see that church and state is separated in America. And I am going to continually admonish everybody I meet to stand on their own feet, rely only on themselves, and to trust their own intellect and their own abilities to meet their own problems and join me in this. If I can do it, anybody can.