Zindler's Book Blog
Memoir Five of CONFESSIONS OF A BORN-AGAIN ATHEIST: The Implausible Lives of a Godless Guy is entitled “Tales My Grandpa Told Me.” How I wish I could remember more of the hundreds of wonderful tales my mother’s father told me about his childhood adventures in “the Old Country”—Austria. Alas, the neuronal circuitry recording those stories was overwritten long ago by memories of carbohydrate stereochemistry, the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States, Italian libretti of Verdi Operas, and grammatical details of Latin and Greek—and probably numerous other things not suitable for confessing in my swan-song blogging!
I retell only a few of those stories in my book, such as how Grandpa Somogi disrupted the Christmas Eve midnight mass in the Hannersdorf Catholic Church—with a sack of walnuts and what happened to a bishop’s miter during a religious procession. The “Two Terminal Tales” reported as complete stories are “Silk-Spinning”—which bears a striking resemblance to fairy tales—and Grandpa’s quest for the “Schleininger Schloss,” the supposed ruins of a lost castle from the days of the Crusades.
Memoir Six is titled “Stump School.” That’s the actual name of the two-room country school I attended for fourth through eighth grade. As I show, what happened to me during those years shaped the entire course of my future life—or lives, as the subtitle of my book proclaims. Because of the extreme bullying I had to endure at that school, I rarely went outside for recess or lunch. (The audio excerpt “Play Ball!” tells what happened one day when I did go outside for lunch.) Instead, I read through the tiny library that contained little more than adventure books for boys and girls and The World Book Encyclopedia.
I’m not sure if I ever finished the entire encyclopedia, but vivid memories are reported about an entry in the volume for entries beginning with the letter M: the illustrated article about the Moabite Stone. Decades later, I would become embroiled in an international controversy over the claim that the Moabite Stone contained a reference to “the House of David,” requiring me to re-decipher part of the inscription for myself.
Stump School would also shape my scientific career as well. Independent of Alfred Wegener, I formulated a theory that the continents had once been joined together. The audio excerpt “I Become a Drifter” tells how that came to pass.
Memoir Seven, “Annus Mirabilis,” tells of my “Wonder Year”—the year that I was thirteen years old. It tells the story of “The Preacher Who Never Was”—how my mother wouldn’t let me leave home to cash in on an eight-year scholarship to be a Wisconsin Synod Lutheran pastor, and how I tried to learn the stuff I imagined my cohorts would be learning in the seminary in addition to all the subjects I was studying in one of the best public high schools in Michigan. “Of Genocide and Jehovah” tells how reading the Christian Old Testament induced a moral revulsion to the genocidal deity described therein—an affront to my sense of decency that would result, five years later, in my becoming a “Born-Again-Atheist.”
Next time: completion of the descriptions of my “Wonder Year,” including an account of the beginning of my life as a professional musician, an amusing account of how my attraction to dead languages led to being locked in a museum at night, and an account of my first public lecture—on astrophysics.
For 17 years, Frank R. Zindler was a professor of biology, geology, and psychobiology at Fulton-Montgomery Community College (SUNY), and became Chair of the Division of Science, Nursing, & Technology. For over 37 years he has served as a linguist and editor of scientific literature for a learned scientific society in Ohio. Managing editor of American Atheist Press since the murder of Madalyn Murray O'Hair in 1995, he became interim president of American Atheists, Inc., in 2008, and still serves on the board of directors of that organization. He is a former member of the Jesus seminar, and is an internationally known exponent of the Christ-Myth Theory, the theory that Christianity began without a historical Jesus.