Madalyn Murray O'Hair

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Madalyn Murray O'Hair (1919–1995) was an activist, founder of American Atheists, and famous for her stern opposition to religion, who in 1960 filed and won a lawsuit (Murray v. Curlett) against the Baltimore City Public School System, claiming that it was unconstitutional for her son to study the Bible at school; this lawsuit, combined with another, would reach the Supreme Court and result in the banning of prayer and recitations of Bible verses in American public schools in June, 1963.[1]

"There is no God. There's no heaven. There's no hell. There are no angels. When you die, you go in the ground, the worms eat you." Madalyn Murray O'Hair.[2]


O'Hair was born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania on April 13, 1919, the daughter of John Irwin and Lena Scholle Mays. She grew up there and in Ohio, graduating high school in Rossford in 1937. Her parents were Presbyterians and attended church regularly, but it was apparently during her teen years that she became an atheist.[3] In 1941 she had her first marriage to John Henry Roths; this marriage was separated due to World War II and the enlistments they made to the Marine Corps and Women's Army Corps. In 1945 she engaged in an affair with a married man while stationed in Italy; the result of which was a son, whom she named William J. Murray after the father; she had since divorced her husband and had taken up the name "Murray". By 1952 she had earned two degrees: a bachelors from Ashland University in Ohio, and a degree from the South Texas College of Law; she never, however, capitalized on her law degree by going before the Texas bar and becoming a lawyer. A relationship with boyfriend Michael Fiorillo resulted in another son, Jon Garth Murray, being born in 1954.

Immoral life of Madalyn Murray O'Hair

Her life was filled with pornography. Her house had figures of mating animals, and she would often describe her trips to X-rated theaters, stating with some delight that she was the only female in the building. As son William stated later:

When I was a young boy of ten or eleven years old she would come home and brag about spending the day in X-rated movie theaters in downtown Baltimore. She was proud of the fact she was the only woman in the movie house watching this filth. My mother’s whole life circulated around such things. She even wrote articles for Larry Flynt’s pornographic magazine, Hustler. My mother lived in spiritual death as Paul writes: “But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.” I Timothy 5:6

My mother delighted in hiring unrepentant criminals to work in her atheist office. She particularly enjoyed hiring convicted murderers who had served their time but were unrepentant about what they had done. She got a sense of power out of having men in her employ who had taken human life. It was love of power over people that finally caused not only her death, but the deaths of my brother and my daughter...

She stole huge amounts of money. She misused the trust of people. She cheated children out of their parents’ inheritance. She cheated on her taxes and even stole from her own organizations. She once printed up phony stock certificates on her own printing press to try to take over another atheist publishing company. I could go on but I won’t. [4]

She was also a communist, going so far as to attempt an unsuccessful defection to the Soviet Union in 1960, taking both sons with her.[5]

Madalyn Murray O'Hair's disowning of Christian son

"One could call this a postnatal abortion on the part of a mother, I guess; I repudiate him entirely and completely for now and all times. ...He is beyond human forgiveness." - Madalyn Murray O'Hair on her son William's rejection of atheism, conversion to Christianity and calling as an evangelist.[6]

Disappearance and Death

See also: David Roland Waters, American Atheists and United Secularists of America scandals

On August 1995, O'Hair, her son Garth Murray, and granddaughter Robin Murray O'Hair suddenly disappeared; The evidence that has been disclosed does not point to a single conclusion. One would think that the disappearance of a well-known family such as the Murray-O'Hairs would be front page news but the papers have been strangely silent. Where is the Murray-O'Hair family? Are they dead or alive? Why has there apparently been no investigation? [7] A note placed on the office door of American Atheists Association stated that they had been called out of town on an emergency with no set timetable for their return. Interestingly, Garth had ordered $600,000 in gold coins but took delivery of only $500,000 of them.

Employees of American Atheists received calls from Robin and Jon for the next month; neither explained why they had left or when they would return and their voices appeared strained and disturbed; after September 28 the three were never heard from again.

A long investigation ultimately led police to David Roland Waters, a violent ex-felon and former employee who had recently pled guilty to stealing $54,000 from the organization.[8] Waters worked with two accomplices: Gary Paul Karr and Danny Fry (Waters and Karr would later murder Fry, who's body would not be found for three and a half years with its hands and head missing). Karr was sentenced to two life terms; Waters to 80 years. After his conviction and imprisonment, in January 2001 Waters told authorities where the O'Hairs were buried and led them to the bodies (officials had to identify the badly decomposed bodies through DNA, dental records, and in the case of Madalyn through the serial number of her artificial hip).

Debate with Dr. Walter Martin

Madalyn Murray O'Hair did particularly badly in her debate with Dr. Walter Martin.[9] For example, when she claimed there were supposedly were contradictions in the Bible, Dr. Martin asked her to provide an example of one and Ms. O'Hair did not and could not offer even an alleged example of one.[10] In addition, Ms. O'Hair did a poor job defending against the issue of atheism and mass murder.[11]

American Atheists organization's leadership and excess weight challenges

See also: American Atheists and obesity and Atheism and obesity and New Atheism leadership's problem with excess weight

O'Hair was overweight.[12] One of the last pictures taken of Madalyn Murray O'Hair features O'Hair standing before a cake as can be seen here.

A few years before O'Hair's murder, she had to have hip replacement surgery (According to the Harvard Medical school, "Losing weight, strengthening muscles, and increasing flexibility may help you stave off joint replacement."[13]).[14] Interestingly, it was her artificial hip that allowed law enforcement authorities to identify her remains.[15]

In addition, a significant number of the staff members of the American Atheists have had excess weight issues (see: American Atheists and obesity).

See also

External links


  1. Madalyn Murray O'Hair Biography
  2. The Murder of Madalyn Murray O'Hair:America's Most Hated Woman. by Lona Manning
  4. Son calls famous atheist Madalyn O’Hair “evil”
  6. Quoted without citation by Ted Dracos, UnGodly: The Passions, Torments, and Murder of Atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair (2003), on her son William's rejection of atheism, conversion to Christianity and calling as an evangelist.
  7. What Happened to Madalyn, Jon, and Robin?
  8. Madalyn Murray O'Hair, NYTimes
  13. [ Harvard Health Letter, Avoiding knee or hip surgery, Published: June, 2013 by the Harvard Medical Center
  14. Bone find may solve O'Hair case, Associated Press, Published: January 29, 2001, republished by Deseret News
  15. Bone find may solve O'Hair case, Associated Press, Published: January 29, 2001, republished by Deseret News