In an age of easily available images mocking religion,
organized and otherwise, Fred Woodworth’s pamphlets, THERE IS NO GOD and THE
KORAN, appear quaint. They read as the musings of a man steeped in a grand
battle for the mind.
When a reader also considers Fred Woodworth’s personal
story, he is the editor and publisher of the longest running Anarchist journal
in the United States, THE MATCH! (since 1969), the pamphlets serve as historical
At one time, these arguments meant everything to me.
They gave voice to the thoughts in my head, and they did
so in tight sentences. They did so in sharp logic. They did so without
And so it is I offer them to you here, in this space Myra
and I created.
What Myra and I do is incessantly consider ideas. We talk
for hours and hours, at times, discussing ideas of life and death, ideas of
grave importance. There is a time to be light. There is a time to be silly. And
sometimes there is the matter of what our lives are about, what humans are, …
the epistemological foundation on which we start our every day.
Sometimes we need to read ideas at complete opposition to
our own. Sometimes.
Good writing is good for a reason. It gives the reader an
insight to the person. Nothing better, nothing perhaps other than taste in music or a long chess game,
reveals a person to others. When we write, we show our ass.
These two pamphlets were produced completely by Fred. No corporate backing. No federal grant. No foundation money. Fred toiled in his flat, with his very own printer from the 1950s, and hand set the type. He made the covers. No computers. No computers EVER. He is an artist of a singular kind.
I dot the pamphlets with his amazing covers from THE MATCH!. Again, it's easy to skip over them visually as it is to skip over these arguments, passing them with a sneer. But you're worse for not having gotten to know Fred. You are. And that won't do.
While our world insists upon rushing to insanity, Fred gave me hope
rational humans could exist, and that they could exist in a principled and
ethical way. I love Fred very, very much. Any errors or mistakes are mine, not Fred's.
Meet Fred Woodworth, my intellectual mentor and good
What is called "God", namely
a supposed-to-be all-knowing, everywhere present supreme wise spirit, CANNOT
exist, for a number of reasons. I hope to be able to show to any reasonably
open-minded person who will take the trouble to read my arguments (and who will
not assume that I am in league with "the Devil", or that I am an evil agent of "godless
Communism"), that there is not the least reason to put any stock in the
claims of persons who think such a supreme spirit exists.
Let me begin by noting that most of those who today think it
is proper to believe in a god do so automatically, because others before them
have done the same. That this is not a good reason for doing anything ought to
be apparent to all. If, then, you happen to think already that my own claim in
the title of this essay is wrong, won't you search your mind and think of when,
if ever, anything BUT the automatic assumption of a god's existence was ever
presented to you as a viable belief? Actually, the belief in a god has been
traditional for many centuries, just as many other notions have been. This one,
like countless ones before it, needs to be subjected to logic, analysis, and
impartial testing, not just blindly accepted in a stupid suspension of critical
According to Christianity, two gods exist: the good god and
the god of evil, the Devil. Thus, anybody could really choose which of the two
to worship; but what if it could be shown that there was not logically any
difference? Consider that the "good" god MUST be either totally
powerless and superfluous (or nonexistent), or a being of endless ill will, a
devil himself, since he is necessarily either responsible for conditions being
as they are today, or else is powerless to prevent them being so. An ancient
series of questions and answers inquires and concludes:
"Is God willing to prevent
evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then
he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then
whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?"
Why believe in an ineffective or powerless god? Why respect
an evil god? One would be better off to worship the sun; at least the sun
But Christianity, whose notion of a god prevails in our
culture, makes other claims as well about the alleged supreme being: that he is
wise, that he created the real world, that he is merciful, that he is a god
responsible for beauty, that he knows everything.
And yet these qualities are not possible, either in
combination with each other or separately. Can God think of a task he cannot
accomplish? If so, he has imagined a case in which he is not omnipotent. Yet if
he cannot think of such a case, he cannot be all-knowing. This is one of the more
trivial and often mentioned contradictions.
If "God" was necessary to create the real world,
in its infinite complexity, then who was the necessary one who CREATED GOD ... as
God is presumably still more complex, and in even greater need therefore of a
If he is responsible for beauty, he is likewise responsible
for ugliness. Is there any justice in praising him for the beautiful, but
keeping silent about the hideous? Some religionists seem to delight in
ascribing to "God" the credit for having made apple trees in fields
of green, under a blue sky; but where is their creator when we remember that
there are tapeworms in the world? I think I would be embarrassed to have to
admit that I believed in an "all-wise God" who made tapeworms. But
the very religionists who use this beauty argument the most frequently are
never heard at all on the subject of the disgusting things likewise ascribable
to their god. And no wonder!
If he is wise, why did he not compose a coherent account of
what he wanted mankind to do? No. The Bible is not such an account; nobody can
agree on what it says. The very god who, according to those who believe in him,
made every last electron spin in its orbit everywhere throughout the universe,
still cannot write a clear, unmistakable volume of instruction to human beings
who are supposed to follow his wishes. Instead, he allegedly gives us the Bible
or the Koran, or some other jumble of ridiculous and ancient superstitions and
vague, wandering narratives that show nothing so much as how senile the priests
were who wrote them.
God, according to the Bible, created the Devil. God, being
all-knowing, must have known what the Devil would do; why, then did he create
him? Likewise, if God really wanted to "save"
mankind, why not do it by the simple methods already used when creating the
world; namely, just by snapping his fingers? God seems to be given to oddly
varying methods; he manufactures everything that exists simply by willing it to
be so, then, when he decides he wants a world of goodness, he creates the
DEVIL. He then wants to "help" mankind, so allegedly sends among us
an agent, Christ, who spreads confusion and accomplishes nothing, absolutely
nothing. Christ's so-called purpose, to save man, is futile, since a god who
could do all the rest could surely do this too without having to resort to an
absurd ritual in Palestine.
Further, from the evidence of the holy wars and inquisitions
carried out by those believing in Christianity, it must be concluded that
Christ's advent was a major tragedy to the human species because it has brought
pain to, and worsened the lot of, millions.
If the holy books were God's attempt to prove to mankind
that he existed, he obviously must have wished for mankind to believe this.
But, as the best way to make mankind believe in God would be for this creature
to make himself known publicly and unmistakably, it is apparent that God's
supposed method was a failure. Thus, I myself can think of methods superior to
those of "God"; but a god so incompetent that any mere mortal can
surpass his mind is nonsensical; God must not exist.
And then, if God is just, why has he created a world of
injustice? The reply that our world is a test by God to see which among us will
do this or that, is a reply that is very poorly considered. Millions of young
children are maimed or killed or born with gruesome deformities; thus, God does
not even have the sense to apply his test to all under equal conditions. Even
the Department of Motor Vehicles is wiser than "God".
One of the Anarchist writers of many years ago, Johann Most,
observed that the edicts and commandments of God are obscure:
are conundrums, which the subjects for whose special benefit and enlightenment
they are issued, can neither understand nor solve. The laws of this hidden
monarch require explanation, but those who explain are ever at variance
themselves. Everything that they relate about their concealed sovereign is a
chaotic mass of contradictions. They speak of him as exceedingly good, but
still there is no individual existing who does not complain of his mandates.
They speak of him as infinitely wise, but yet in his administration everything
opposes common sense and reason. They praise his justice, and still the best of
his subjects, are as a rule least favored. They assure us that he sees
everything; still his omnipresence alleviates no distress. He is, they say, a
friend of order, yet in his domain everything is confusion and disorder. All
his actions are self-determined, yet occurrences seldom if ever bear out his
plans. He can penetrate the future, but does not know the things that will come
to pass ... All his enterprises are for the sake of glory, yet his purpose, to
be universally glorified, is never attained. He labors incessantly for the
welfare of his subjects, but most of them are in dire distress for the
necessities of life... He is an Almighty who is omnipresent, yet descended
from Heaven to see what mankind was doing; who is merciful, and yet has at
times permitted the slaughter of millions. An Almighty, who damned millions of
innocents for the faults of a few... who created a Heaven for the fools who
believe in the 'gospel' and a hell for the enlightened who repudiate it ...
God, as revealed in his book of edicts and narratives, is
practically an idiot. He has nothing to say that any sensible person should
want to listen to.
Now, some charge that our view of "God" is
ethnocentric. They are anxious to bring in gods which do not create, control,
or know anything, and which are completely powerless, futile intangibles
having no qualities of matter, energy, or even location. They wish to prove
that "God" is a "process", or a "consciousness",
or some other nondescript vagueness which neatly escapes having any properties
assigned to itself so that detractors can discuss the logical implications of
them. Conceptually speaking, it is meaningless to say that "God" is a
process or a "consciousness". But once this piece of verbal
sleight-of-hand is let pass unchallenged, the modern religionist can point with
triumph to things that do exist, such as processes, consciousnesses, etc., and
thus "prove" that "God" exists.
Religionists today first refuse to concede that they believe
in the "old" god. The new god serves no purpose that they will
define, so it can't be attacked, but only denied. Religion has therefore
learned much from us Atheists: it has learned that it is harder for us to
attack that which is not specified. So, today, their god is "the
wind" or whatever. But we must point out that this is only an attempt to
preserve the notion of a god after the substance has been destroyed. Lacking
any separate function, such as being creator of the universe, etc., the idea of
anything being called a "God" is completely to no purpose.
Not the least evidence exists that there really is a god of
any kind, and unless there is evidence, it is harmful to believe that any such
god exists, because then the illogical way of thinking can be extended to other
areas of society, as Indeed it has. A civilization that holds that it is proper
to believe positively in something for which there is no evidence at all,
perverts the fundamental structure of logic upon which human civilization
We Atheists make a revolutionary claim: Nothing exists
unless it can be proved to do so -- the burden of proof being upon those who
assert. The advance of the human intellect has been one long battle for this
rational principle, against a vicious host of advocates of all kinds of
nonexistent things: angels, humours, stellar spheres, dragons, ends of the
earth where the explorer would drop off, warlocks and monsters, and soon, and,
lastly, "God". He who is too weak to deny the existence of the
unproven "God" must admit anything and everything and must live in a
fantasy of unseen presences. The very walls may seethe when he is not looking,
with extraordinary witchery (PROVE they don't!); and the neighbors may, for all
he knows, turn into toads at midnight.
There is no god. As expressed by religions, the history of
gods is silly, nonfactual, and contradictory. As set forth by theologians, the
idea of gods is an argument that assumes its own conclusions, and proves
nothing. And as expressed socially, the belief in "God" is
reactionary and harmful, standing forever in the way of betterment of the human
There is no god; there are only churches and religious
persons with an interest in preserving their station. There is no god; there
are only people who believe because others told them it was so. There is no
god; there is only the real world with its ugliness and beauty and violence and
peace and happiness and pain. If the world is to be made beautiful and peaceful
and happy, "God" won't do it. We will. *********************************************************************************************
All but unknown in the West is the fact that, like several modern Christian
evangelists, Mohammed (c. 570-632), the founder of the religion known as
Islam, once found himself embroiled in a sexual scandal. One of his nine
wives, Hafsah, caught him in the act with a slave-girl. Hafsah had evidently
known something about his liaison earlier, and had extracted from the
Prophet his promise to end the relationship - which, of course, he
didn't carry out. When Hafsah, furious at the thought that she might be
a mere tenth instead of a ninth of his attentions, suspiciously checked
up and had her worst fears confirmed, the situation blew up into a quarrel
involving another wife, A'ishah.
Coming to Mohammed's rescue, Allah dictated (through Mohammed,
of course) another chapter of the Koran - generally number 66, entitled
"Prohibition." Here God attacks the wives, and blusters to them that: "If
you two turn to God in repentance (for your hearts have sinned), you shall
be pardoned; but if you conspire against him, know that God is his protector."
God also remarks, rather petulantly, I thought, that Hafsah and A'ishah
had better watch out because they can be replaced: "It may well be that,
if he divorce you, his Lord will give him in your place better wives than
yourselves, submissive to God and full of faith, devout, penitent, obedient,
and given to fasting."
Already, back in chapter 33 God had issued a bunch of special dispensations
for The Prophet, specifically making it lawful for him (just him) to have
intercourse with a number of women who would ordinarily be off-limits:
"Prophet, We have made lawful to you the wives to whom you have granted
dowries and the slave-girls whom God has given you as booty; the daughters
of your paternal and maternal uncles and of your paternal and maternal
aunts... and any believing woman who gives herself to the Prophet... This
privilege is yours alone, being granted to no other believer."
In another (extremely short) chapter - number 111, as ever "In the Name
of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful," the Prophet gets word that his
uncle, with whom he's had a dispute (the uncle, Abu-Lahab, apparently thought
the Prophet was making it all up), is now under a curse. The entire text
of chapter 111 reads:
"May the hands of Abu-Lahab perish. May he himself perish! Nothing
shall his wealth and gains avail him. He shall be burnt in a flaming fire,
and his wife, laden with faggots, shall have a rope around her neck!"
. . . . .
The first time I read the Koran was when I was in high-school, now quite
some years ago. Recently it seemed appropriate to do so again, so I spent
a few evenings once more with the Recitation (literal meaning of "Koran"),
the governing volume of the hundreds of millions of persons who live within the sphere
of Islam, a religion whose name means "submission."
Unlike the Bible, you can get through the entire Koran in a reasonable
amount of time, as it is only about the length of a moderate-sized novel
- 435 pages in the translation I recently read (N. J. Dawood's 1956 work,
revised in 1974). A few persons, incidentally, have claimed to have similarly
read the Bible straight through, but one needs to be very skeptical of
such boasts, since a little reflection (and actual experiment) will show
how unlikely that is. Texts of this sort attract followers and rabid fanatics
for this very reason, that they are so impenetrable in their dense mass.
Not having read it and therefore feeling guilty about the failure to do
so must constitute a powerful impulse to leap to the defense of things
these followers do not actually know. At least with the Koran, comprehending
the whole thing is a relatively trivial exercise.
Like the Book of Mormon, the Koran purports to be the further chronicles
of what God wants you to do. It recognizes the existence of the Bible or
Scriptures and Torah, and states as its reason for being, that the Christians
and Jews have too far split into sects and had fallen away from proper
observance of "God's" laws. Also like the Book of Mormon, this one is supposedly
the transcript of a tablet preserved in heaven.
Allah didn't dictate the whole thing at once, though; more chapters
came through as situations (such as Hafsah's investigative surveillance)
made them necessary. There are 114 of these, generally arranged by length,
with the shortest last. The longer chapters at the beginning of this arbitrary
(and non-chronological) arrangement drag rather badly; Mohammed saves his
deadliest rantings for the somewhat shorter ones.
However, all chapters have in common the same type of basic presentation,
which is comprised of three ingredients: stories, commands, and threats.
Especially threats. All float and bubble to the surface again and again
in a broth of astounding amounts of repetition.
For example, in one chapter, no. 55, which is something less than three
pages long, the interrogation, "Which of your Lord's blessings would
you deny?" is repeated 31 times, many of these being complete non sequitur,
such as "Flames of fire shall be lashed at you, and molten brass. Which
of your Lord's blessings would you deny?" Well, for a start, I'd want
to deny that one. Other repetitions include the story of Noah with
certain embellishments, about six or eight times, Pharaoh and Moses, maybe
ten, Abraham, Joseph, et al, many more; Jonah, etc. and on and on here
and there through the book.
Commands go forward at a blinding rate, thick and fast, too; and more
about those in a moment, but first this word from the First Islamic Bank
of Sadistic Threats: Mohammed can hardly write two consecutive paragraphs
without at least one fairly horrifying promise that infidels, unbelievers,
apostates, "People of the Book" (Christ-worshippers), fornicators and others
are going to burn in hell, drink boiling water, eat putrid filth for all
eternity, have melted metal poured all over them, roast their skins in
blazing flame and then be provided immediately with more skin by his eminence,
Compassionate, the Merciful, so that they can be burned some more,
and so forth.
I had wanted to count the number of threats, but bogged down
in what seemed like a never-ending mire, so I was forced to resort to a statistical
method. By this I compute the total to be around 1200 to 1500, including
such ones as these:
"Garments of fire have been prepared for the unbelievers. Scalding
water shall be poured upon their heads, melting their skins and that which
is in their bellies. They shall be lashed with rods of iron.Whenever, in
their torment, they try to escape, back they shall be dragged, and will
be told, 'Taste the torment!'"
"Those who deny our revelations we will burn in fire. No sooner will
their skins be consumed than we shall give them other skins, so that they
may truly taste the scourge."
Atheists are to be crucified or else have their hands and feet cut off.
Incidentally, chapter 74 contains an interesting point: "Would that
you knew what the Fire is like! It leaves nothing, it spares no one; it
burns the skins of men. It is guarded by nineteen keepers."
. . . . . .
Commands a person would have to obey in order to avoid these demented
tanning sessions range from lawful eating to lawful sexual practices to
treating orphans properly. Slavery is permitted, in fact definitely cited
approvingly, and a master is allowed to compel his slave-girl to have intercourse
with him; but he is not allowed to prostitute her for money to others.
More commands order the faithful not to be friends with Christians or
anybody else who is not Islamic, and especially not with unbelievers. The
arguments of unbelievers should not be listened to. Their cities should
Women are not addressed in the Koran; the reader is explicitly and implicitly
Women are indeed spoken of, but not to, and they are stated to be
inferior and subservient. Girl infants are not lawful to kill, but otherwise
it is definitely to be mourned when one is born instead of a son.
Conception is stated (several times) to take place when ejaculated
semen turns into a clot of blood that Allah makes into a human being
inside the mere vessel, the female.
Other scientific thought has the sky
as an actual dome, perfect as there are no cracks. The far western setting
place of the sun is a pool of mud.
Mohammed thinks there are two seas on the planet, and lightning is a
sign from God.
Sometimes he purrs and chuckles: "How many cities have we laid in
ruin! In the night our scourge fell upon them, or at midday when they were
Sometimes he is apocalyptic: "On that day there shall be faces veiled
with darkness, covered with dust. These shall be the faces of the wicked
and the unbelieving."
But always he is monstrous and insane. His recitation is one of gross,
turgid evil, and the impact of his "Koran" upon Arab culture and the world
has been profoundly, unrelievedly bad.
It is not accurate to speak of "fundamentalist Islam"; there is either
the Islam that is founded upon this book, the Koran, or there is something
else, some other religion, which has nothing to do with this book at
all. In any case, THIS recitation, by Mohammed, of "God's" alleged speeches
and edicts, leaves absolutely no room for any latitude, any "interpretation,"
any individual opinions at all. It eradicates, indeed, any trace of free
will and only proffers to male fanatics several hundred paragraphs cajoling
them to follow orders so that after death they will live endlessly
in "gardens watered by running streams" where dark-eyed, explicitly "high
bosomed" "virgins" will have sexual relations with them throughout infinity
on green silken cushions and lush carpets. The repetition constitutes a
pretty good technique of hypnosis; the threats drive home the consequences
of disobedience, and the commands are those of an ignorant, insane priesthood
operating as the heirs to a lunatic's pretensions to speak for a nonexistent
We have witnessed the result.
**** Do yourself a favor and order a copy of THE MATCH! It's free, and can only be had by mail. No website. No phone number. You have to write Fred and ask for one:
THE MATCH! Post Office Box 3012 Tucson, Arizona 85702