The prominent names well known to this community like Dawkins and Hitchens are preceded by Madalyn Murray O'Hair. I wonder if she is as well known to the younger atheists.
It takes some courage to confront the majority like Dawkins and Hitchens have -  was it tougher to be an outspoken atheist in the 1960's?

Today after going through my deceased father's letters (he died in 1994) I saw some correspondence and magazines from an organization he belonged run by Madalyn Murray O'Hair. It seemed a good idea to check her out on the internet.

A Google search came up with her title as the most hated person in America.  That probably comes from her having a major effect on the use of religion in U. S. schools.

Dawkins and Hitchens have accomplished much but have not been responsible for such a major shift in public policy.  So, they have not inherited that title, although they are still hated by a lot of people.
What shocked me was finding out in a Wikipedia article how she and her son were kidnapped and murdered . It appears to be by a criminal psychopath rather than a religious nut. But, there is the charge that the police did not take the case that seriously - she was America's most despised after all.

What amazes me is the rumors that are in the discussion portion of Wikipedia. There are a lot of outrageous things entered about how greedy and reprehensible she was.  One temporarily took me in by stating that the writer personally knew her. Fortunately there were other entries from people who worked with her that contradicted this stuff.  The problem is that most of contributors repeat some of the more odious charges.  So you wonder - Will people that try to read that stuff with an open mind be biased towards what the majority say.

It was unfortunate to find out someone who had inspired my father came to such a horrible end. 

A forum like this would probably weed out the types that would spread disinformation.  Is there anyone out there who knew her?

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Comment by Lorien on March 3, 2012 at 12:15pm

I have some of the AA magazines too from the 80s. The problem today is that there is so many different secular and non believer organizations that share in our numbers. The reason rally will be a good show of all of the organizations getting together. Many just don't like the label of atheist.

Comment by Russell Pangborn on March 2, 2012 at 9:02pm

Thanks for replying Lorien. I checked out your page briefly and a post you had answered one of the questions I was wondering about. How many members are in Atheist Nexus.  You mentioned in 2010 it was 15,000.  I then had the bright idea of going to the main Nexus page (duh) and see it is now over 25,000 today. I was leafing through my dad's 1970's "The American Atheist" magazine published by Madalyn and they mentioned a subscription base of over 60,000.  Let's hope the Nexus surpasses that number real soon. 

Comment by Lorien on March 2, 2012 at 8:29pm

Yes, it was a sad story of her end. "Wolf in the fold". It tainted the AA for a long time.

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