The Sad Story of a Life Without God

Over the Christmas break as I was waiting on my daughter to choose some books from our local library, I was intrigued when I saw a book titled My Life without God. The book is an autobiography written by William (Bill) Murray, son of Madalyn Murray O’Hair. Madalyn Murray O’Hair is infamous for her fight to remove prayer from public schools that was achieved through a Supreme Court decision in 1963.

As I read about Bill and Madalyn’s life, I just kept thinking, “How is it possible that a woman who was an avowed Marxist and wanted to defect to the Soviet Union was given so much media attention and influence in the U.S. government?” If Madalyn were alive today, she would be grouped with the “New Atheists.” She was passionate about hating God and wanted all the fame and glory for herself. I’ve often thought that cases to remove “In God We Trust” from U.S. currency and “under God” from the pledge of allegiance were modern battles. However, Madalyn was fighting these very same battles in the 1960s. She wanted every trace of God completely removed from society.

Bill’s story is a very sad account, and at times I wasn’t sure I would be able to finish the book. He endured a lot of abuse physically, mentally, and emotionally. One time, his mother read through his junior high history book and made this comment:

“I can’t believe all the hogwash in there. It treats the parting of the Red Sea just like it really happened. It’s incredible! Later on it talks about Jesus and says he was the son of God, that he performed miracles and rose from the dead. [Expletive] stuff I ever read. It has no place in a public school textbook!”[1]

Having graduated from the public school system, I was shocked that at one time biblical history was part of the history books! The battles Madalyn and others fought with the public school system have made a huge impact on the information taught there over the last 40–50 years. We really shouldn’t be surprised that there is so much violence among children, especially in school. This is the result of children learning that—instead of being created in the image of God—they are nothing more than the result of time, death, and chance.

Bill became very disillusioned about life over the years, but wasn’t willing to give up on atheism yet. He wrote a letter to 400 members of his mother’s atheist organization. He stated the following:

I wrote to them asking for support of positive rather than negative atheism. I suggested we use funds to establish atheist chairs at universities rather than to sue to have religious chairs removed. I recommended the construction of monuments and hospital wings.[2]

And what was the response of the atheists?

A handful of people sent contributions out of habit. But the overwhelming majority of those who answered my letter pelted me with such abuse that I was stunned. Over and over I read that the principal goal of atheism was the destruction of religion and that this was no time to build.[3]

Pure and simple atheism is nothing more than rebellion against God. That is its sole goal and purpose. There is nothing in atheism to “build” on. If you think people are nothing more than animals, evolved by random chance, then there is no ultimate meaning and purpose in life. Why build hospitals to save people’s lives? Why bother teaching people anything at all?

These events and others led Bill to believe that God must exist, so he gave his life to Christ at the age of 33. A short while later, Bill wrote a letter to the people of the city of Baltimore where the case to remove prayer in public schools had begun. He wrote as follows:

First, I would like to apologize to the people of the City of Baltimore for whatever part I played in the removal of Bible reading and praying from the public schools of that city. I now realize the value of this great tradition and the importance it has played in the past in keeping America a moral and lawful country. I can now see the damage this removal has caused to our nation in the form of loss of faith and moral decline.[4]

In some ways it is sad to think about the impact that one person with sinful motives and actions can make in this world. But we should rejoice that one person with Christ-centered motives and actions can also make an impact in this world. As we begin 2013, think about ways you can impact the world around you. How can you equip people to defend the authority of the truth of God’s Word? Maybe through a Bible study, Sunday school class, having a conversation with a neighbor or friend, or maybe sending resources to a loved one who has questions. We can all make a difference.

Keep fighting the good fight of the faith!

[1] William J. Murray, My Life without God (New York: Thomas Nelson, 1982) p. 50.
[2] Ibid, p. 228.
[3] Ibid, pp. 228-229.
[4] Ibid, p. 247.