Wendy Kaminer

On this date c. 1949, Wendy Kaminer was born. She earned her undergraduate degree from Smith College in 1971 and went on to graduate from Boston University Law School in 1975. Kaminer worked as a criminal defense attorney for the New York Legal Aid Society (1977–1978), a staff attorney for the New York City Mayor’s Office, and a professor at Tufts University (1988–1990). In 1991, Kaminer switched her focus from law to journalism when she began working as a contributing editor for The Atlantic, although she often writes about legal issues. She is also a senior correspondent for The American Prospect, beginning in 1999, and the author of eight books including Sleeping with Extra-Terrestrials: The Rise of Irrationalism and Perils of Piety (1999) and Free For All: Defending Liberty in America Today (2002). Kaminer was awarded the Extraordinary Merit Media Award from the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1993 and a Guggenheim fellowship in 1993.

Kaminer is an outspoken agnostic who uses her journalism platform to speak up about atheism and state/church issues. Many of her articles discuss the harm of religion’s influence on politics, civil liberties, psychology and the law. In “The Last Taboo: Why America Needs Atheism,” published in The New Republic in 1996, Kaminer wrote about the stigma facing atheists: “Atheists generate about as much sympathy as pedophiles. But, while pedophilia may at least be characterized as a disease, atheism is a choice, a willful rejection of beliefs to which vast majorities of people cling.” She continued: “The magical thinking encouraged by any belief in the supernatural, combined with the vilification of rationality and skepticism, is more conducive to conspiracy theories than it is to productive political debate.” Kaminer was awarded FFRF’s 2000 Freethought Heroine Award.

“I don’t care if religious people consider me amoral because I lack their beliefs in God. I do, however, care deeply about efforts to turn religious beliefs into law, and those efforts benefit greatly from the conviction that individually and collectively, we cannot be good without God.”

—Wendy Kaminer, “No Atheists Need Apply,” The Atlantic, Jan. 13, 2010.

Compiled by Sabrina Gaylor; Photo by Brent Nicastro

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