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Barbara Ehrenreich

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Ehrenreich is a columnist for TIME magazine. In the introduction to her book, The Worst Years of Our Lives: Irreverent Notes from a Decade of Greed, she mentions that several of her ancestors were atheists. Her great-grand-mother, Mamie O'Laughlin, once called for a Catholic priest to administer last rites for her dying father. When the priest sent word that he would not perform last rites unless Mamie gave him $25 in advance, Mamie was so outraged by the priest's greed that she eventually became an atheist. According to Ehrenreich, "It was on account of its greed that the church lost the souls of Mamie O'Laughlin and all of her descendents, right down to the present time. Furthermore, whether out of filial devotion or natural intelligence, most of us have continued to avoid organized religion, secret societies, astrology, and New Age adventures in spiritualism." Ehrenreich says about her mother, "The worst thing she could find to say about a certain in-law was that he was a Republican and a churchgoer, though when I investigated these charges later in life, I was relieved to find them baseless." Although Ehrenreich does not come out and say point blank that she is an atheist, [the contributor thinks] it's pretty clear she grew up in an atheist family and she is proud to keep up with the family "tradition."

In addition to her discussion of her family history, Ehrenreich also wrote a tongue-in-cheek essay about secular humanism, "Give Me That New-Time Religion," which is also included in Worst Years. She says, "I was raised in a real strong Secular Humanist family--the kind of folks who'd ground you for a week just for thinking of a dating a Unitarian, or worse." Another good quote: "What gets me is all the mean things people say about Secular Humanism, without even taking the time to read some of our basic scriptures, such as the Bill of Rights or Omni magazine."


In Ehrenreich's book "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America" (2001, Henry Holt and Company), she writes of attending a Saturday night "tent revival," which "sounds like the perfect entertainment for an atheist out on her own" (p. 67).