President Ronald Reagan’s Son Tapes Radio Ad for Atheist Group: I’m ‘Not Afraid of Burning in Hell’

It’s well-known to many, though possibly shocking to some, that President Ronald Reagan‘s son, Ron Reagan, is a vocal atheist. He taped a radio ad currently airing on Randi Rhodes‘ show that proclaims his godlessness and advocates for the Freedom From Religion Foundation:

I’m Ron Reagan, an unabashed atheist, and I’m alarmed by the intrusions of religion into our secular government. That’s why I’m asking you to join the Freedom From Religion Foundation — the nation’s largest and most effective organization of atheists and agnostics, working to keep state and church separate. Phone 1-800-335-4021 or visit the Freedom From Religion Foundation at FFRF.ORG. Ron Reagan, lifelong atheist, not afraid of burning in hell.

It’s not the first time Reagan has declared his godlessness. In a 2004 New York Times interview, Reagan talked about why he would never make a good political candidate:

Would you like to be president of the United States?

I would be unelectable. I’m an atheist. As we all know, that is something people won’t accept.

He also told a gathering of atheists in 2009:

… Reason and freethought will remain a hallmark of the human species. The ability of human beings to gaze out at the wondrous, baffling universe in which we find ourselves, with minds uncluttered by dogma, has been and always will be the measure of our success. Faith will fade, religions will flower and vanish, but reason remains.

Reason is where I put my faith, if you will. Reason is where I stand, and I am happy to stand there with you.

He’s not running for office, but I would cast a vote for this Reagan.

(Image via Wikimedia)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Neko

    In deference to Ron Reagan, I’ll bite my tongue.

    • DKeane123

      Please share

      • Neko

        In this case, it’s best I keep my thoughts about Ronald Reagan to myself.

  • bananafaced

    I have always liked Ron Reagan. He followed the beat of his own personal drummer even when his father was president. Lots of people thought he was gay because he was a ballet dancer (and a damn good one). He has been married to his wife since 1980, Now, he has confirmed what I suspected that he is an Atheist.

    • Goose Palin

      He didn’t just “now” reveal his stance. Been known a long time.

  • Todd Heath

    What a contrast of two Reagan children, Michael and Ron. I bet family gatherings are interesting affairs when you get those two together.

    • islandbrewer

      I’m wondering if they just videoconference, now.

      • Monica Rose Kiesel

        Doug, putting two ideas in a sentence together (adopted, milking the family name) without realizing that people will infer a connection is naive to the point of stupidity. Putting an irrelevant idea in a sentence on a topic is bad writing. Since I can’t read your mind, I’ll take you at your word, but you can’t go through life committing public bad writing, then blaming those who read for your ineptitude.

        Seem to have posted in the wrong place–sorry about that!

    • $925105

      Michael Reagan was adopted and he milks the family name for every penny he can get.

      • Brandee Dandee

        I’m not sure how disparaging adoption helps your point. The two brothers are very different, that’s all that need be said.

        • $925105

          So stating that someone is adopted is disparaging adoption?

          • Feminerd

            In this context, yes. Why would it matter, if you didn’t think that Michael being adopted somehow had an impact on your statement.

            The statement “Michael Reagan milks the family name for every penny he can get” would have been sufficient and gotten your point across. Why did you mention the adoption at all?

            • $925105

              Identity issues with adopted children with issues of low self-esteem struggling with a sense of belonging. Overcompensation due to personal issues so he tries to out-reagan his own father in order to acquire his sense of belonging. Is that what you needed for an answer? Or were you really not interested?

            • Scott Moore

              No, the milking of the family name is less relevant than the point about him being adopted.

          • allein

            You imply that being adopted means he doesn’t have a right to the name.

            • $925105

              Didn’t say that, clearly you are bringing your own personal issues into the discussion.

              • allein

                He could “milk the family name” either way; what does his being adopted have to do with it?

                • $925105

                  What do your personal hang ups have to do with the discussion?

                • allein

                  What exactly do you think is my “hangup”?

                • $925105

                  Hard to say why you bring up irrelevant issues to the conversation. I guess you’re just trolling, in that case I’ll put you on the ‘ignore’ list. If you have issues with people bringing up Michael’s adoption then perhaps you should read his book, “Twice Adopted” then come back and play with the adults.

                • allein

                  I am not trolling. I pointed out (before you posted your explanation above of why you think his adoption is relevant) what your post seemed to imply; that his being adopted means he has no right to “milk the family name,” and asked what adoption has to do with it…I fail to see in what way that’s irrelevant. Your response was to attack me and tell me I have personal issues, and I’m the one who is not being an “adult”? But you go ahead and ignore me because this conversation is really not worth it.

            • Scott Moore

              I don’t see that implication, so I suggest it was just what you inferred.

              • allein

                Well, it would appear I’m not the only one.

                • Anna

                  Certainly not. It’s really tiresome how often adoption is brought into the discussion when it has nothing to do with the topic at hand. Just a few weeks ago, I read an article about Steve Jobs’ childhood home being designated a local landmark, and the short blurb felt the need to mention that he had moved there with his foster parents as a small child.

                  In an article where adoption was not relevant and should not have been mentioned, the writers couldn’t even bother to get a basic detail right. Jobs’ parents, who adopted him at birth, got demoted to temporary caregivers. It just goes to show how anti-adoption this whole culture is.

                • Scott Moore

                  The article about Steve Jobs is irrelevant here. I think the poster was right in that others are bringing their personal issues to the discussion. That seems to be the most reasonable explanation for reading implications that are not in the text of the comments.

                • Anna

                  I point to the Jobs’ article as an example of the frequency with which adoptive families are treated as lesser by the culture at large. It happens all the time. If you haven’t noticed, then either you haven’t been paying attention, or you agree with these attitudes. I can see no other reason why you are defending Doug’s comments.

                • allein

                  Frankly, this whole conversation is irrelevant. This post had nothing to do with Michael Reagan or his adoption so I don’t know why Doug brought it up in the first place.

                • Ralph

                  Because people prefer to spawn themselves than give happiness to an already-born human being. That’s the answer. The selfish gene, unfortunately. I haven’t spawned yet and if I do find that special lady I won’t mind having some kids from adoption.

                • Anna

                  True, but there are other cultures that don’t treat adoption in the same negative way that ours does. I think it’s a complex problem, but I’m unsure how to resolve it. It seems to be all over Western culture. And actually, from what I’ve seen online, American adoptees probably have it rather good compared to European ones. I’ve encountered some absolutely appalling attitudes from people in countries where adoption is much more infrequent than it is here in the United States.

                • George Wilson

                  Oh please! Why can’t people mention someone is adopted? This is mental! Get over it for pity’s sake!

                • Anna

                  George, your attitude is exactly what I’m talking about. It’s not just “mentioning” someone is adopted. Adopted children are consistently treated as different and lesser than non-adopted children, to the point where the fact that someone is adopted is mentioned even in entirely irrelevant contexts.

                  I must say, for an atheist blog, I’m surprised at the level of pushback here. Why should we not be concerned about bias against adoption? We’re concerned about sexism, homophobia, and anti-atheist bias. Why shouldn’t we also be fighting against a culture that considers adoptive families lesser than biological ones?

                • George Wilson

                  Because I am fed up of hearing people reject perfectly salient labels just to make themselves feel better. I am clinically depressed, and as such I have absolutely no problem with someone using that word around me, as long as it isn’t the sole identifier, of course. I remember very well asking somebody I had just been introduced to last week to tell me about themselves, they mentioned, halfway through their spiel, the phrase “adopted parents” – I didn’t give it a second thought beyond “that’s nice.” It’s up to you if you want to read something negative into the word, but I see no problem with identifying someone as adopted – if anything its a bloody awesome word that should be referenced more often, it indicates people who are kind and loving and took someone in as their own. I see absolutely no problem in identifying someone as such, and I find it quite odd that others on this thread are finding it to be such a taboo word to use in a joke or as a negative! I can understand if the person was being mocked for being adopted, but they don’t seem to be. If anything the original comment was a throwaway about some Reagan brother milking the name for all its worth. Seems a bit trivial to me, to connect a flippant statement like that with everything that can be said in a negative fashion about adoption. I could do the same with vast numbers of statements on these threads!

                • Anna

                  There’s nothing wrong with being adopted. Good grief. There’s also nothing wrong with mentioning that someone is adopted when it is relevant. The problem is that is is almost always mentioned regardless of whether it is relevant, thus leading to an ongoing atmosphere of “otherness” when it comes to adoptive families.

                  The fact that someone was adopted at birth should not be mentioned in every news article about him, like it is with Steve Jobs. The parent-child relationship should not be constantly qualified as “adoptive” whenever it is mentioned. Do you not see how that leads to a society that considers adoptive families less real and valid than biological families?

                  Doug’s original comment wasn’t flippant and it wasn’t a joke. It wasn’t mentioning adoption in any kind of positive (or even neutral) context. Doug brought it up as a way to disparage Michael Reagan and his political beliefs, by implying adoption was not only the reason why his views differ from his brother’s and father’s, but also why he felt the need to be public about them, and he explicitly linked his being adopted to “milking” the family name, as if he had no right to the name! You, yourself, seem to agree that it was not his own name.

                • George Wilson

                  Sorry I wasn’t clear here – I don’t agree with this guy at all I was just talking about the original comment. I agree with a lot of what Michael Reagan says for pity’s sake!! I got all caught up in semantics and was worried that someone was making a mountain out of a molehill. While I still maintain he wasn’t being THAT bad originally, I will agree and say that he was using adoption in an unpleasant way, and definitely went on to get more suspicious. I genuinely don’t remember being told steve jobs was adopted – then again I avoided news reports on his death. Still, I sometimes wonder why we worry when people are labelled in these ways – and I say this as someone who shys away from labelling – as it is simply a label of something being against the flat norm, or in other words, what the largest proportion of the population experiences and is – which is, in man respects, a far more interesting state of affairs to be in anyway. That is why I do not condone, but also cannot completely condemn, the fact that people regularly mention the fact that someone is gay even when it has nothing to do with the situation. Anyway: Peace.

      • Anna

        I just knew that someone was going to say something derogatory about adoption in the comment section, and here it is.

        • Feminerd

          Yeah … nice try. Anna’s a well-known and well-respected commenter here.

        • Scott Moore

          There was nothing derogatory in what Dougl wrote. It was clear that he was pointing out a possible reason for the two brothers being so different.

          • Anna

            Yes, it is quite derogatory. I’m sure we can all name family members on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Biological siblings are often every bit as different as Ron and Michael are, so there was no reason to bring up adoption in the first place.

            Doug accuses Reagan of “milking the family name” as if it was not his own name to begin with, and his later comments reveal extremely negative attitudes about adopted people, saying that they all have low self-esteem or identity issues.

            • Scott Moore

              I see now that you are reading things into his comments that just are not there. Where exactly did he write that “all” adopted people have low self-esteem or identity issues?

              And with which words did he imply that the family name is not Michael’s? Biological children can also milk the family name.

              • Anna

                This is Doug’s later comment, which can be read down below:

                Identity issues with adopted children with issues of low self-esteem struggling with a sense of belonging. Overcompensation due to personal issues so he tries to out-reagan his own father in order to acquire his sense of belonging. Is that what you needed for an answer? Or were you really not interested?

                He obviously has a very negative attitude about adoption. His first comment was bad enough, but the second one takes the cake.

                If he simply wanted to complain about people milking the family name, then he would not have written “Michael Reagan was adopted and milks the family name.”

                There was absolutely no reason to mention his adoption status. I can’t believe you really do not see this, unless perhaps you agree with him.

                • George Wilson

                  I’m not trying to be intentionally troll-like but you are really getting sanctimonious. Doug’s comment most certainly strays into pop-psychology and speculation, but I fail to see how you can leap to a defence of adoption and then make wildly inaccurate claims about the similarity between blood siblings and adopted siblings and extrapolate a valiant defence of adoption from such small beginnings. What he said could be perfectly valid, or it could be complete tosh, it’s another issue entirely to then label anyone who thinks that could conceivably be accurate as adoption-haters. Very odd indeed.

                • George Wilson

                  P.s. “as if it wasn’t his family name to begin with” – technically it wasn’t.

                • Anna

                  Wow. Well, there you go. That’s exactly the sort of attitude we’re dealing with.

                • Anna

                  There were three different people who called Doug out on his negative comments, and his response was to go on the attack and accuse us of having “personal issues” when we questioned his bias and let loose with a barrage of even more negative remarks about adoptees having identity issues and low self-esteem, and claiming that’s why Reagan feels the need to be outspoken about political views that are different from his father’s.

                  I have absolutely no clue why you are defending him. You clearly seem to feel his remarks are acceptable. That people should mention someone’s adoption status in irrelevant contexts? That it’s appropriate to say that someone “was adopted and milks the family name” and that no one should say anything in response to that? That in an article about Steve Jobs, it makes no difference that his parents who had been his parents since birth were demoted to temporary caregivers? That the newspaper was perfectly justified in writing its blurb that way?

                  It’s ridiculous. I made no wildly inaccurate claims, by the way. I said biological siblings are often every bit as different as Michael and Ron, and we can all name siblings on opposite ends of the political spectrum. This is perfectly true and why it was not necessary to mention adoption as a reason for political differences. I’ll give you Newt and Candace Gingrich, for starters. I’m just about done with this conversation, but I find it extremely disheartening that this is the type of response atheists would have to this issue.

                • George Wilson

                  Having just read your comment, and then frantically read the subsequent comments Doug made, I apologise for any and all rude comments. Clearly he overstepped the mark in some respects and was a bit rude. I do not think his self esteem stuff necessarily works, but neither does it automatically not – could be true, could be complete nonsense. Whether or not he thinks that of all adopted children I do not know. My response to the adoption issue is, to be clear: It’s great. We need more people to do it, it requires and is a great source of compassion and love, it is in many respects a word with automatically positive connotations – except perhaps with the possibility of a shade of sadness, with the particulars of any individual case, such as the death of parents or abandonment etc, potentially being a factor. Either way, I should have read his further comments – I honestly thought the very first one was what the fuss was about, the catalyst, and I didn’t take the time to read the whole thread. I was not defending him, but simply the use of a word as a negative or positive. having read his subsequent comments, I would not defend him anyway if asked to. Either way, I hope my apology is accepted. I honestly thought it was the other way round and everyone had pounced on someone for one comment – slightly ironic I think we’ll agree. Anyway I can only be honest, and quietly groan as I re-read my comments in light of the knowledge of what Doug went on to say. Sorry :) I wished to imply that adoption was a glorious thing in my longer comment, but that that fact didn’t necessarily make Doug’s original comment particularly egregious. I thought you had extrapolated all this adoption debate just from that and that annoyed me. Thankfully for us, and embarrassingly enough for me, I was wrong.

      • outofmi

        And Maureen was reputedly loose, so this family put the fun in dysfunction. Supposedly no one speaks to anyone anyway these days.

      • Major

        Ron wasn’t adopted. His half brother, Michael, was. Ron was the son of Ronald and Nancy.

  • Holytape

    Somewhere, there is a Sarah Palin praying at the shine of St. Ronnie the Uber-Conservative clutching her never-opened bible and page-worn copy of Atlas Shrugs close to her heart wondering what has gone wrong with the children.

    • Quintin van Zuijlen

      They’ve started reading their bibles rather than Atlas Shrugged?

      • busterggi

        Technically they don’t read either – they just quote or misquote the parts they’ve been told to.

    • allein

      My mother is currently reading Atlas Shrugged. I don’t know if I should be worried or not.

      (Edit: I’m joking. My mother is neither and atheist nor an uber-conservative. Conservative, yes, but not Sarah Palin-worthy.)

      • bfg

        Ayn Rand, who wrote Atlas shrugged (which is fiction) was an atheist –the book gets mocked by liberals because the theme is about meritocracy and competence, but you can be an Atheist and also a Conservative. I would embrace Your mom reading “Shrugged,”
        after she is done, recommend “The Fountainhead”

        • Feminerd

          And Ayn Rand is thus the perfect example that atheism doesn’t have to lead to morality, because the ethics she propounds are horrifically bad.

          It’s not about meritocracy and competence, but about abusing the people beneath you and destroying anything that you don’t directly have to pay for. It’s about gaining power and holding it at the expense of those around you. It’s about selfishness and greed. Pure capitalism is a really bad economic system, just as pure socialism or communism are really bad economic systems. People are just more complicated than the caricatures presented in any of those economic philosophies.

          • P.G.

            You’d be surprises how simple some people are. I really recommend reading “We, the Living” before absurdly labeling the morals of Rand as “horrifically bad”. I haven’t read a single goddamn (yeah) line in “Atlas Shrugged” that glorified abusing people beneath you. It’s seems that you’ve read Marx’s religious “Communist Manifesto”.

            • Feminerd

              I’ve read both, actually. The Communist Manifesto was pretty awesome in the vision of the future it sketched out, but people just aren’t that nice. Also note that calling the Communist Manifesto religious is an exercise in supreme irony, given that Marx also called religion the opiate of the masses and was rather down on it in general.

              Rand thinks people are both far more rational and selfish than they are. Marx thinks they’re too nice. Although they’re both wrong, I’m at least emotionally more attracted to the one that presumes people aren’t awful. Doesn’t make it any less wrong, of course.

              And yeah, any philosophy that glorifies greed and selfishness is pretty horrible.

            • George Wilson

              Sorry P.G., but the second you say “I haven’t read a single goddamn line in “Atlas Shrugged” that glorified abusing people beneath you” you lose the argument. I invite everyone who reads this to find themselves a copy and to revel in the grotesque fallacies and ruthless stupidity that will wash over you, like a burst sewer main, while reading that glorious nonsense. Enjoy!

        • erikc

          If one must read something by Rand, make it “Anthem.” It’s uplifting, short, largely symbolic, and doesn’t pretend to be a relevant depiction of modern society.
          As for Atlas Shrugged, it’s a moderately good story with too many long, pointless speeches. But as a political statement it’s nothing more than a very long straw-man argument.

      • Kimpatsu

        I’ve read both the Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf. That does not make me either a Marxist or a Nazi.

        • Jennifer Pastrick


      • Holytape

        Depends, is she trying to combat insomnia?

        • allein

          She might be, actually. She usually reads before bed. :)

    • Laura Louzader

      I don’t see how anyone can reconcile Ayn Rand with any religion. Rand was an outspoken atheist and expressed deep contempt for “mysticism” in all its forms. And her heroes all commit adultery without apology. That Ryan and Palin could talk about “Christian values” in the same breath with Atlas Shrugged shows that these “conservatives” have sound-bites for ideas and cannot read a book.

      • TrevorEngineer

        Michael Shermer’s “Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time” has an interesting take on the cult like following that grew out of Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism.

    • Amy S

      I love your comment. Love. Marry me?

  • busterggi

    At least one apple has fallen well clear of the tree.

    Ronald Sr. was divorced & Nancy followed heathen astrology so they would both be burning in hell by their own dogma.

  • mchasewalker

    See there, Republicans, proof of evolution before your very eyes… Ta daaaa!

  • Censored

    Reagan may be onto something, as Heaven is hotter than Hell.[1]

    But, unlike Ron, I, in the footsteps of Thomas Jefferson, call myself a “Christian,”[2] nay, a “real Christian,”(!)[3] while eschewing belief in the supernatural,[4] upholding that First Amendment “wall of separation,”[5] considering the clergy’s dogma to be a “tyranny over the minds of man,”[6] and regarding much of the Bible an immoral “dunghill.”[7]

    And I turn the tables on the fundamentalist crowd and characterize orthodox christian belief in the immaterial as “demonism,”[8] or even “masked atheism.”[4] Nothing is more fun than calling a fundamentalist proselytizer an atheist. This view may seem paradoxical, but such a position is strengthened by the term atheism being first used in the Roman culture against the newfangled Christians, because they rejected believing the diversity of pagan gods of the time.[9]

    Admittedly, mine can be a rather lonely position,[10] but hey, at least I’m still electable. Right? ;)

    [1] Heaven is hotter than hell. (Aug. 1972) Applied Optics. 11(8) A14

    [2] “To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other.” ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Benjamin Rush, May 21, 1803

    [3] “…I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, very different from the Platonists, who call me infidel, and themselves Christians and preachers of the gospel, while they draw all their characteristic dogmas from what it’s Author never said nor saw. they have compounded from the heathen mysteries a system beyond the comprehension of man…” ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Charles Thomson, January 9, 1816

    [4] “To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, God, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no God, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise: but I believe I am supported in my creed of materialism by Locke, Tracy, and Stewart. At what age of the Christian church this heresy of immaterialism, this masked atheism, crept in, I do not know. But a heresy it certainly is.” ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, August 15, 1820

    [5] “…I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut, January 1, 1802

    [6] “The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes, & they [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: & enough too in their opinion, & this is the cause of their printing lying pamphlets against me…” ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Benjamin Rush, September 23, 1800

    [7] “The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills.” ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, January 24, 1814

    [8] “I concur with you strictly in your opinion of the comparative merits of atheism and demonism, and really see nothing but the latter in the being worshipped by many who think themselves Christians.” ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Richard Price, January, 8, 1789

    [9] Jonathan Kirsch (2004) God Against The Gods: The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism. Viking hardcover edition, p. 109.

    [10] “I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know.”~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Ezra Stiles Ely, June 25, 1819

  • nonskeptic

    Politics is more important than religion for me. Atheist or not, still a Republican. No, I am not casting a vote for this guy either.

  • Maggie Clark

    Don’t care if one is religious or not, he is absolutely right that government and religion do not mix. Also, I believe religious organizations should be taxed.