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Portrait Of A Freethinker: Richard Bozarth 
In 1977 Bozarth discovered and joined American Atheists, which was ruled by
Madalyn Murray O'Hair. It was like finding a home. His first Freethought article
was published in the October 1977 issue of The American Atheist. He continued
to submit articles. More were published. He was offered a chance to be one of
the magazine's columnists. He accepted. He developed a correspondence friendship
with Frank Duffy during the time he was the magazine's editor. In late 1978
Duffy told Bozarth about the American Atheist Center's in-house printer wanting
to quit and how Madalyn was worried about not being able to find a dedicated
Atheist to take over the job. Bozarth volunteered for the job even though he
had not the slightest idea about how to operate any kind of press. His offer
was accepted, and in December 1978 he arrived in Austin, TX, to begin one of
the most fascinating and disappointing experiences of his life.
When he started working for Madalyn Murray O'Hair, he thought she was a 20th
Century Robert Ingersoll. By the time he left the Center in July 1980, he knew
Madalyn had the potential to be that great, but her tragic and often repulsive
flaws would never let her become that great. However, she was always fascinating.
Freethought has many leaders more ethical and more effective than Madalyn was,
but none of them, in Bozarth's opinion, were or are as fascinating to Freethinkers
and also to non-Freethinkers as Madalyn was, with the single exception of Ingersoll.
Her terribly tragic end, though certainly not in any way something she planned,
was entirely consistent with her personality and how she lived her life. She
was and will remain, according to Bozarth, an excellent example of everything
a Freethought leader should not do. Bozarth has written about his experiences
in the Center in two articles published in The American Rationalist (Jan/Feb
83, May/June 01, July/Aug 01) and one of the books he self-published (which
he is revising).
Bozarth began as the Center's printer, then, after Frank Duffy quit for the
same reasons that made Bozarth quit, his duties were expanded to include being
American Atheist's assistant editor. That was a job he enjoyed to the max and
he would have been glad to keep on doing that job for years and years even though
the pay sucked. In terms of his future, however, learning to operate a press
was the second most important thing that happened to him in the Center. After
he quit, his day job has been in the printing industry.
The first most important thing that happened to Bozarth in the Center was meeting,
then dating, then marrying Alisa Clem. She worked as the Center's receptionist.
It didn't take long for them to go from meeting each other to getting married.
On 15 April 1979 they were married by Madalyn Murray O'Hair at the American
Atheist Convention in Dallas, TX. That had not been their original plan. When
they told everybody in the Center they had decided to get married, Madalyn got
the idea of having the marriage as one of the convention's events. She could
perform the ceremony because years earlier she had become a Universal Life minister
to use, according to her, the religious tax-exemption to make a statement about
the religious tax exemption. That idea didn't go anywhere, but her status as
a minister with the power to marry people remained. The couple liked the idea
immediately and agreed to it. That was a wonderful day. More wonderful, in Bozarth's
opinion, is this: the marriage is still thriving and does not seem likely to
end before his life does. Bozarth's secret is love, friendship, compromise,
and commitment to doing the hard work necessary to make a marriage good for
Today Bozarth divides his time between his writing, his research, his wife,
and his day job. His intellectual interests have been the same for decades:
philosophy (major subjects are Freethought and Atheism), religionism, human
sexuality, and history (major subject is Nam). He still writes poems and fiction
(a novel was finished almost at the same time he was asked if he would like
to be the subject of one of The American Rationalist's portraits). His next
project most likely will be finishing a book about militant Atheism (excerpts
from it have been published in Freethought publications during the past few
years and, he hopes, more will be published), then he plans to finish his revision
of his book about Madalyn and American Atheists. He hasn't achieved everything
he had once hoped he would, but he also knows he's a very fortunate person.
He had decided decades before he heard them that the words in a Body Count song
would be his life's motto: "If I lose, well then I lose, my way!"
Nothing yet has changed his mind.
« People, quotes (Published: 15-08-2003 )
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