The Lawyer Who Helped Remove Mandatory Bible Readings from Public Schools Has Died

In 1963, Madalyn Murray O’Hair gained notoriety for her role in the Supreme Court case that removed mandatory Bible readings from public schools. Less noticed, but equally important, was her lawyer Leonard J. Kerpelman. Kerpelman took on her case pro bono in 1960 and successfully argued in front of the justices years later, leading to an eventual 8-1 victory.

Late last week, the 88-year-old Kerpelman died from complications from a tumor.

“I see no constitutional objection to the study of religion, history of religion, or the study of the Bible as literature,” he told The [Baltimore] Sun in 1963. “But this ceremony is sectarian, and it is impossible to have such a ceremony that is not sectarian.”

After the decision, both client and attorney were vilified and accused of taking God out of the classroom and leading the nation down the road of atheism.

After the case was resolved, Mr. Kerpelman had few dealings with O’Hair, who left Baltimore in 1964 and disappeared in 1995. Her mutilated remains, along with those of a son and granddaughter, were identified in a remote part of Texas in 2001.

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Ask Richard: Speaking Truth to Grief: An Atheist Responds to His Bereaved Girlfriend

Dear Richard
My background: My name is Elliot and I am a 28 year-old guy living in London, UK. I am a teacher and have considered myself an atheist for the last 8 or so years. I am open but not preachy about my beliefs and encourage my pupils to make up their own minds. However I recently ran into a crisis of “faith”.
Last weekend my girlfriend’s 21 year-old brother committed suicide. It was not without warning as he had had over 10 years of mental health issues including chronic depression and had made 4 failed attempts in the past. Despite this it was sudden, and she was understandably devastated. They are not a religious family, however in her grief she asked me: “where do you think he is now?” I was at a loss for words as I have never really had to combine comforting someone with an expression of my views. To tell her that he is nowhere anymore, that he simply has stopped being, seemed callous and uncaring. I went with “he is in a better place” (kind of an an opt out) as I figured that not existing anymore must be better than 10 years of depression.
My question is this: How do you convey to someone, about whom you care deeply, that the person they have lost is simply dead? Nothing more? How do you make this sound okay? Religion, despite its delusions, does give people who choose it much peace-of-mind (assuming they are not considering the  hell option) and I was wondering how I could convey this through atheism.
Any advice would be very welcome.

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An Arrest is Made in the Assassination of Dr. Narendra Dabholkar

Eight days ago, Dr. Narendra Dabholkar was assassinated by extremists in Pune, India presumably because his debunking of supernatural claims angered a few too many people…

Today, an arrest was finally made in the murder:

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What’s the Point of Pink Masses?

The video below, part of The Atheist Voice series, discusses rituals people do over gravestones after a person is dead:

You can read more about the Pink Mass over Fred Phelps‘ mother’s gravestone here.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the project — more videos will be posted soon — and we’d also appreciate your suggestions as to which questions we ought to tackle next! [Read more...]

In the Wake of a Skeptic’s Death, Indian State Takes Small Steps Toward Rationality

Today’s New York Times features an article on Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, the skeptic who was assassinated earlier this week, presumably because his debunking of supernatural claims angered a few too many people…

The article is a glowing tribute to what he accomplished in his life and how far India still has to go:

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