Warren Allen Smith

On this date in 1921, Warren Allen Smith was born in Minburn, Iowa. He graduated from Iowa State Teachers College with a B.A. in English in 1948 and received his M.A. in American literature from Columbia University in 1949. During his time in the U.S. Army from 1942-46, Smith was known as “the atheist in a foxhole,” according to his website. He worked as a high school English teacher from 1949-86. In 1961 Smith co-founded the Variety Recording Studio. He lived with his partner of 40 years, Fernando Vargas, an atheist, until Vargas’ death from AIDS in 1989.

Smith’s fame stemmed from his journalism, which often touched on humanist issues. He was book review editor for The Humanist from 1953-58 and wrote the column “Humanist Potpourri” for Free Inquiry from 1997-98, as well as writing columns for Gay and Lesbian Humanist, The Freethinker, The American Rationalist and Skeptical Inquirer. He wrote the books Who’s Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Freethinkers, Humanists, Naturalists, Rationalists, and Non-Theists (2000) and Celebrities in Hell (2002), which are extensive compilations of famous freethinkers. Smith’s other books include Gossip from Across the Pond (2005) and In the Heart of Showbiz (2011).

Smith rejected his Methodist upbringing during college. In a 2000 article for The New York Observer, he wrote, “If you’re the member of an organized church group, you really have to have a guilt complex. You have to feel guilty about not loving God enough or not contributing enough money or not contributing enough to society.” He described himself as a “humanistic naturalist” in his book Who’s Who in Hell. Smith’s other accomplishments include serving as as vice president of the Bertrand Russell Society from 1977-80, treasurer of the Secular Humanist Society of New York from 1988-93 and co-founding Agnostics, Atheists, and Secular Humanists Who Are Infected/Affected with AIDS/HIV Illness in 1992 (although Smith himself is not HIV-positive). He created Philosopedia, an online reference for philosophers and atheists. D. 2017.

Freedom From Religion Foundation