Zindler (Through Atheist Eyes, 2011, etc.) explores his long life as an atheist activist in this remembrance.
The author, who was born in the late 1930s, has witnessed the great changes in American society over the years. Drawing on his experiences as an evolutionary biologist, a prominent atheist, and a gay man who spent the majority of his life in the closet, he examines the battles that he’s waged to free people from what sees as the oppressive influence of the Bible. “The voices that echo and reverberate inside my head deserve to be allowed to speak one final time before they slip into eternal silence,” he writes in an introduction; to that end, he recounts his “many lives” and the people he met along the way, from his childhood on a farm outside Benton Harbor, Michigan, and his intense teenage religiosity following the sudden death of his father, to his long marriage to his wife, Ann, and his personal development as a strident atheist and out gay man. Additionally, Zindler discusses his friendship with the secular activist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the founder of the organization American Atheists who, with her son and granddaughter, was abducted and murdered in Texas in 1995; he goes on to claim that the actual motivations for the killings differ from the official account. Throughout his book, Zindler’s prose is energetic, humane, and engaging, often revealing long-ago feelings as if they’re happening at the moment; for example, about the captain of a golf team, he writes, “Shod in golf shoes and wearing white shorts and a white polo shirt, he was Adonis come to earth. My heart was pounding so hard I could feel the pulsations in my neck. He was so close to me!” It’s a rather lengthy book, however, and some parts of the author’s life yield more compelling stories than others; his tales of his activist days, though, are particular standouts. Indeed, Zindler is such a sharp, personable presence on the page that he manages to carry the reader through the less interesting stretches.
An often intriguing, if overlong, memoir about a life outside the mainstream.