Monday, September 06, 2004

Introduction from Craig

My name is Craig Zimmerman, and I am Paul Zimmerman's son. My Dad was the one who posted for many years on the Usenet, on Beliefnet, and elsewhere on the subject of Maltheism. Some think he's the one who coined the word Maltheism many years ago, but we're honestly not sure. He's definitely regarded by many as a founding father of the movement.

As many of you already know, my Dad was killed by a hit-and-run driver in July 2003. Though the driver was never caught, we suspected it was one of the many local religious zealots whom Dad had offended with his advocacy of freedom of religion, freedom FROM religion, and most especially Maltheism. There were many, both locally and around the world, who took issue with his hostility towards ideologies that made belief in some God more important than human freedom and happiness. It seems that night they all had an alibi.

My Dad made both a lot of enemies and a lot of friends over the course of his life. But virtually all of his enemies were transient, attacking him for brief periods and disappearing when they grew tired of launching tirades against him. He was someone who knew not only how to fight back in kind when he had to, but also how to rise above the lowest common denominator. He demonstrated through words and deeds how genuine human tolerance was superior to supplication to any irrational authority that encouraged intolerance and hatred. He would not only explain in words why those who attacked him were wrong, he would show through his actions why what he believed was right.

In contrast to the thankfully fleeting relationships he had with those who considered him their enemy, those who considered him their friend remained so throughout the course of his life. He could always be counted on by those he knew and loved for moral support, guidance, and assistance whenever possible. He was a loyal friend, a devoted husband, a caring father, a loving grandfather, and the best teacher anyone could ever hope to have.

His religious beliefs grew not out of ignorance of religious teaching, but out of intimate exposure to it. Like many of his generation, he read the Bible put in front of him and noted its self-contradictory and hypocritical nature. While many of his peers became atheists, concluding from the Bible's inconsistencies that God did not exist, he went down a different path. The inconsistencies, to him, could be explained by a duplicity on the part of the author. Why NOT consider that possibility, he asked? But when he posed that question, he was shouted down and berated for doing so.

His critique of Nixon's memoirs years later still stands as a seminal work on the reasons irrational authority must be questioned. The arguments of those who suggested we not dare to question the President of the United States are no different than those who still suggest we not dare to question God. But the self-aggrandizement, the rationalizations, and the duplicitous accounts of what happened as found in Nixon's memoirs have parallels throughout the Bible.

My Dad's beliefs, while surely unconventional, were rooted in the greatest sense of pride in humanity and the utter disdain for any force that would diminish us as people. He began recording his sentiments on God and religion as a teenager, and with the advent of the Internet he found a way to share them with the world. On and off over the last twenty years, he wrote on the subject in online forums, articles, and books. He also found time to marry our mother and with her raise both me and my sister Kate.

While most found his idea that God is unworthy of our devotion to be blasphemous, and often tried to silence him for voicing it, many acknowledged the merits of his philosophy. Among these were a number of atheists, as well as honest students of religion who recognized that Maltheism is perhaps nothing if not a shamelessly honest effort at theodicy. Dad had many devoutly religious people in his life that he could honestly call friends—including his second wife, Helen.

That he was able to build bridges with people whose beliefs differed so radically from his own is a tribute to what he was trying to do in life—to emphasize our commonalities, and ignore our differences. To encourage cooperation and tolerance, and discourage dogmatism and hatred. To foster intellectually honest dialog, and eschew deception and ignorance.

After a long respite from writing on the subject of Maltheism, he returned to voicing his opinions on the subject in September 2001 when he joined Beliefnet. The events of 9/11 affected him deeply, as they affected us all. As he frequently did, my Dad saw through the smoke and mirrors and realized what was really going on. Although there was a war between fundamentalist ideologies in east and west battling for world control, this was not the important war.

[The important war] is between those who believe that serving God's will is more important than the health and well-being of humanity, and those who know better than this and think otherwise. All theophiles, whether they be fundamentalist Christians or extremist Muslims, are on the same side, because they all have the same goal—to bring about conflict between people based on ethnic and religious boundaries, at the cost of our collective and individual freedom and happiness, all for the glory of God.

Their leaders are categorically not interested in bringing about peace; they relish the thought of conflict between us. Bush gleefully sees himself as a war President, and sees the resurrection of the US's military-industrial complex to the status it had back in Nixon's day as a primary goal. Bin Laden has no desire to free his fellow Muslims or bring about any benefit in their lives, he is encouraging them to suffer and die for the glory of their God. More important than choosing sides in this battle between bullies is choosing not to choose sides, electing instead to reject the very notion that we should be in conflict with each other over what God tells people to do.
The biggest fear my Dad had was that the war between God-lovers and the aptly named humanists would go unnoticed in the shadow of the better promoted more obvious war, and that we would all surrender passively to the idea that we needed to take sides in that more obvious war. He died not knowing if this would happen in the long run or not. Though things have improved since the jingoistic pseudo-patriotism of 2001-2002, it's hard to say whether or not his fear was warranted.

My Dad was grateful to Beliefnet for providing him with a forum for presenting the Maltheist perspective. Since then other boards have sprung up, and Maltheism has made its presence known to the world. The word has entered common discourse, and there are several entries in Wikipedia (
http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maltheism) on Maltheism and related subjects. He believed passionately that our rights as human beings were paramount, and that those who sought to suspend or eradicate our rights solely to promote their own agendas should be exposed for what they are, the consequences of those agendas laid bare for all to see.

On a personal level, I will never forget what my Dad taught me. To shirk invalid assumptions and recognize them when others make them. To confront irrational authority and question its legitimacy when it is abused. To fight for our personal freedoms, the freedoms of our loved ones, and the freedoms of the human race as a whole, with wholehearted passion and commitment. But most of all, to love those we hold dear, and treasure their presence in our lives. We will all continue to miss him.

Dad started this weblog a year ago this past May, and intended to use it as both an online journal about his work and a news feed reporting critical events to those concerned about personal freedom issues. He never really got to start work on it. If you are interested in contributing to this blog, or to the efforts of the World Maltheist Movement in general, please contact me at
craigzimmerman@gmail.com, and I will try to put you in touch with the right people.

--Craig

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