I am hopelessly and helplessly condemned by my own lust for literature that I recklessly and depravedly buy books with remorseless abandon. My day job is the ever more practical occupation of freelance musician. I'm not rich. Which makes my licentious book purchasing all the more irresponsible.
Sunday, July 14, 2013
My Life Without God by William J. Murray
I got this book
because I am deeply interested in how someone arrives at their personal beliefs
and deeply held convictions.I had read
somewhere that the famous atheist, Madeline Murray O’Hair’s son had become a
Christian so when I learned of this book I wanted to read his story.In a nutshell, let’s just call it a crazy
Before I review
this book I want to make clear that I am not trying to prove any points about
atheists or Christians.There are plenty
of nice atheists in the world and more than a few nasty Christians.This needs to be understood before anyone
reads this post so they don’t arrive at the conclusion that I’m saying, “See
what a monster Madeline Murray O’Hair was? Atheists are all horrible people!”
As I said, I wanted
to read one man’s journey from atheism to Christianity.What was his starting point?Why did he believe what he believed?What happened to change his views?Where is he now?
process we learn a good deal about the person who initially influenced Bill
Murray’s world view and beliefs.That
would be his mother Madeline.
Madeline had Bill
while serving in the Woman’s Auxiliary Corps during WWII.The father, William Murray, was an officer
and not the man she was married to.Her
husband J. Roths agreed to stay married to Madeline and adopt Bill as his son.
to do this and chased down Murray Sr and did everything in her power to get him
to divorce his wife and marry her.This
he never did but she named her son after him anyway. She also changed her last
name to Murray
even though they never married (she added "O'Hair later after she married Richard O'Hair). Bill Jr.
met his biological dad only once in his life.
Madeline later had
another son out of wedlock. She often
told Bill that his half brother Garth’s father would have married her but only
if she got rid of Bill.“I would never
do that, Bill.I love you.”
noble, but in fact it was Madeline’s way of inflicting guilt on her oldest son.This was a tool she used a lot with him and
everyone else connected with her.
Life in the Murray household was
filled with constant fighting and tension.The T.V. was always on and the volume set at the loudest setting.People screamed at each other over it.Bill’s grandparents and Uncle all lived in
this house together with him and his mother and half brother.
He remembers that
as a baby, his brother was only touched when picked up to be fed.Otherwise he was kept in his crib.To get attention baby Garth would hit his
head against the bars of his crib.
Madeline was as
uninvolved with his own life. He didn’t even know she was his mother, even
though they lived in the same house.He
referred to her as “Madeline” until he was eight when she informed him that she
was his mother and should be called, “mom”.
And that was the
house Bill grew up in.Loud noise,
fighting, and a baby hitting his head against the crib.No peace.
her father constantly fought and at times, Madeline could get violent, hurling
plates and knives at her father.She seemed to have a maniacal hatred against him.She even studied ways to murder him so it would look like a heart
attack.But instead of doing it herself,
she urged young Bill to do it.This was
while he was still in middle school.“If
you loved me, you’d do it,” was her constant harangue.
The point became
moot.Worn down by the incessant
harassment and fighting.Madeline’s
father finally had a heart attack on his own and died.At first Madeline was crass about it, “Get
the cheapest coffin.”
Later she became consumed
with guilt.For the rest of her life she
would visit his grave and talk to him.She also became involved in séances and the occult, which is ironic for
deeply involved in the Communist party of America.She was head of the local chapter.She tried to become a Soviet citizen, even
moving her family to Paris
to obtain a Visa but was turned down.Later she tried to become a Cuban citizen but was refused that as well.
One morning she
arrived at Bill’s school to pick him up.She heard the class recite the pledge of allegiance.She asked her son, “Do they always do this?”
He replied in the
affirmative. When she discovered that
they also prayed and read the Bible she became enraged.
The rest is
history.Bill relates the incident from
his own point of view.When Madeline
complained to the head of the school, they removed Bill from the class during prayer
and Bible reading but she told Bill to sneak in.She wanted her case to be based on the fact
they were forcing her son to be subject to prayer and Bible reading.She made him keep a daily log of every time
they mentioned God or anything religious.When she read the textbooks she became elated.
“They teach as if
the Bible stories were fact.We can sue
them for this as well.”
boundless energy.She called every
newspaper and TV station.She got plenty
of media attention.And then the
financial support came rolling in.She
had found her mission.
And Bill?He got to be the object of taunts, shunning
and bullying.His life became hell. He
finally had to change schools.
The rest of the
book is an interesting study of how someone can purport to be for a cause (as
in Madeline’s case to eject religion out of the public arena) and really not
care at all about that cause.What did
Madeline care about?
Herself.Her own glory.Receiving nationwide attention.And making lots and lots of money.
People from all
over wrote her letters of support enclosing checks for huge amounts of
money.People bequeathed their estates
to her.She had apparently touched a raw
nerve with a certain segment of society and they wanted her to succeed. Years
later, when Bill was a part of her American Atheists Association he wrote these
same people asking them to join him in creating positive change in the name of
atheism, such as creating atheist chairs in universities or hospitals.The response was vile, to say the least.Apparently Madeline’s supporters weren’t
interested in producing anything positive but seemed to be a bunch of
malcontents whose only interest was in tearing down religion.
O’Hare is an interesting study in someone who, in my opinion, had to suffer
from some kind of narcisstic personality disorder.She had limitless amounts of energy, rage and
hatred. It’s possible that she was sexually abused.Bill mentions that in his mother’s office at
her atheist headquarters, she had hundreds of figurines of animals
copulating.They covered her bookshelves
She never stopped trying to figure out ways to
keep herself in the public eye.Her main
tactic was to sue religious figures.She
sued everyone from Billy Graham to the Pope.
By this time
O’Hare’s outrageous antics had outlived their usefulness and she was starting
to become irrelevant to most Americans.She still had her supporters but they were dwindling.
And what did Bill
do after he served his purpose?He
supported his mom for a while but mainly he wanted to get out of her clutches
and away from the stigma of being her son.His own life journey was a head long tumble into alcohol and drug abuse.
He doesn’t white
wash his own self absorption or how he used people for his own
gratification.This was primarily
through getting women pregnant.His
first wife, he married for this reason, at the age of nineteen.The marriage didn’t last and he eventually
handed the raising of his daughter, Robin, to his mother.He knew it was the wrong thing to do, but
didn’t want to be saddled with raising the toddler himself.
when Robin was still a young girl, his brother, Garth, who was twelve at this
time, pleaded with Bill to take them away from his mother.Bill knew the situation was bad with heavy
fighting, alcoholism and abuse rampant in his mother’s home but his own
interests were more important to him.
Later, when his
daughter was a teenager he tried to reestablish a relationship with her but it
was too late.She wanted nothing to do
with him.He writes all this with
remorse because both Robin and Garth eventually became partners with Madeline
in her American Atheists Association.
The rest of the
book describes Bill meandering from one job to another combined with sleeping
around and abusing drugs.His turning
point came when he got a job at an airline with a man, Tom, who reminded him of
his mother.This man purposefully flew
planes that were substandard.Twice this cost the lives of a plane full of people.
Bill knew why
these lives were lost but because Tom was wealthy and had connections no
investigation was ever held.
By this time, Bill
was going to Alcoholics Anonymous and trying to follow the twelve-step
program.Part of this is relying on God.
God?Does He even exist?Bill was pondering this while driving home from the airport, right after a close friend was killed in a plane wreck he knew could have been
prevented.He had a flash:
Universal Airways the way my mother ran the Society of Separationists.Whatever doubts I may have had that there was
distinct evil in the world were snuffed out by Tom Evans....
I was not a
model of virtue, of course, and now had a very serious problem with
alcohol.I drank with Tom, and one night
after he chugged a pint of brandy, he tried to molest one of the girls who
worked with Val (his then wife).Because
of the amount of money Tom paid me, I looked the other way.I hated him for what he did, and I hated
myself for letting him get away with it.
One day, while
driving home from work, the truth struck me.I thought, 'There has to be a God because there certainly is a
devil.I have met him, talked to him,
and touched him.He is the
personification of evil.I’ve seen him
in the lives of people I’ve known.'" (pg. 285)
This was the
turning point for Bill Murray.He didn’t
have a sudden, irreversible leap into virtue, but it was a slow steady
“Within days my
life and attitudes began to change...I no longer intensely hated my
mother.Now I really wanted to be able
to love her, whereas before I had only wanted revenge.I began to see my mother for what she truly
was, a sinner, just like me...
...The only thing
in my mind that was left undone was to apologize.I wanted to apologize to Susan (first wife)
and Robin, to Valerie and Jade (second wife and daughter).I wanted to apologize to my country for
robbing a part of its heritage of righteousness by participating in the prayer
and Bible reading case...”
Twenty years after
the prayer case Bill wrote two letters of apology.One was to the newspaper in Austin,
asking the people of that community of forgive him for helping to build the AmericanAtheistCenter
in their city.The second was to the
people of Baltimore
where the prayer case took place.He
quotes his letter to the Baltimore
paper in full in his book.
Today he heads many ministries, concentrating on working
with people in former Soviet countries. He has many interesting insights on the
former Soviet Union.He contends that the Soviet
Union was never a world power but a third world nation with a big
army.He said the strongest currency in
circulation there was the U.S. dollar.Ironically he is allowed to talk about Jesus Christ in public schools,
public parks and other venues in Russia and the former satellite
countries, something his mother’s lawsuit prevents him from doing in his own
When his mother
was asked on TV what she thought about her son’s conversion she replied that
she had a “post natal abortion” and had nothing more to do with him.
He ends his book
by sadly stating:
“I have not seen
my daughter Robin for more than a decade.Like my mother she refuses to speak with me.Like my mother and brother she has tremendous
wealth which has been created from donations for the atheist cause.The three of them live together, work
together, take all their meals together, and vacation together. They see nothing outside their own little
family unit.The lives of my brother
Garth and my daughter Robin are dedicated to the survival and worship of my
This book was
published in 1992.Little did Bill or
his estranged family know of the horror that awaited them just a couple of
This is not
in the book but for those of you who don’t know, Madeline Murray O’Hair, her
son, Garth and granddaughter, Robin disappeared in 1995.Their bodies were found on a Texas ranch a year
later.They had apparently been
tortured to death and their bodies dismembered.A former employee and two accomplices were
charged with the crime.
And that is the
story of William J. Murray.The book is
a worthwhile read for those interested in the life of the son of one of the
most controversial characters in American history and also learning the life
story of that controversial character.