Zindler's Book Blog
Welcome back to my book blog, where I’m continuing to write about my last book--CONFESSIONS OF A BORN-AGAIN ATHEIST: The Implausible Lives of a Godless Guy. For newcomers who haven’t yet read my previous five posts, I should mention that there are numerous action buttons on my home page that can take you to a page listing all my previous books, with links to Amazon; a page with links to my YouTube channel and, eventually, to other videos I have produced; a page with links to audio clips from the up-coming audiobook edition of my memoirs (each bog post includes a few more links to audio clips of episodes that one can reach simply by pressing on their high-lighted titles in the blog text); the same page includes a link to a recording of my Valse Mélancholique for cello and piano; a button linked to four pages of some of my poems; a button linked to videos of some of my media and public appearances, such as my harangue at the 2002 Godless Americans March on Washington (more links are expected as searching of The Way-Back Machine continues) the same button has links to transcripts of some of my debates; and a button with links to an ever-increasing number of texts of my most important essays and articles on religions & scriptures (such as “Did Jesus Have a Body?” and “The REAL Bible: Who’s Got It?”), science & pseudoscience, philosophy and ethics, and social issues such as Abortion and Circumcision.
To get back to the survey of my autobiography, I had just finished MEMOIR 7—“Annus Mirabilis,” my Wonder Year. My “heart-breaking-but-funny MEMOIR 8” is called “The Tent Meeting.” It’s too long (20 minutes) to include as an audio clip, and so I need to discuss it in more detail than usual. I was 14 and had completed my first year of high school a month or two before the story begins. My high school chum Larry and I had seen an ad in the local paper announcing a revival meeting in a tent outside town where we might “Come! See God move!” I was a wavering Lutheran and Larry (three years older than I) was a never-too-strict Methodist.
We had never experienced Pentecostal forms of religion, and were unprepared for the talking in tongues, holy-rolling, and laying on of hands that awaited us out in the darkling countryside, miles from the nearest phone booth. (Yes, there used to be such things as booths containing pay phones, where anyone could put a coin in a slot and make a telephone call, and Superman could wriggle out of his suit and emerge as a “Man of Steel,” clad in cape and sexually titillating tights.) It would prove to be our first encounter with attempts at faith healing--failed attempts as it proved to be.
We witnessed the deep and desperate faith of a piteously arthritic woman be dashed to pieces by all three revival preachers laying hands on her at the same time—hypnotizing her to dangerously believe she had been healed. Whereas she had hobbled into the meeting on crutches, she had to be carried by friends out of the tent. As for what happened to me, you’ll have to read the book to see why I hit one of the preachers over the head with my King James Version Bible.
MEMOIR 9, “Miss Mary Louise Williams,” deals with my high school English teacher—a woman who would encourage my efforts to become a poet (my poem “Rain Beetles” was written after her lessons on Edgar Allan Poe) and whose social and philosophical idealism would make me an essayist and amateur philosopher. “Driving Miss Williams” is the very funny story of how her devotion to Aldous Huxley’s book Ends and Means led to my spooky encounter with a famous writer and ethicist stoned out of his gourd on mescaline. It was my uncomprehending witnessing of the birth of the Psychedelic Age. Miss Williams also contributed to my becoming a public speaker and debater, by sponsoring me to attend the Summer Institute for Debate and Public Speaking at Northwestern University the summer before my senior year of high school—my first taste of college.
NEXT TIME: I will complete my discussion of MEMOIR 9, telling how Miss Williams re-entered my life decades after high school, and I will explain MEMOIR 10—“My Most Embarrassing Experience”—with Eleanor Roosevelt.
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.