September 5

There are 3 entries for this date: Michael Hakeem Jean de la Bruyère (Quote) Carter Warden

    Jean de la Bruyère (Quote)

    Jean de la Bruyère (Quote)

    “To what excesses will men not go for the sake of a religion in which they believe so little and which they practise so imperfectly!”

    —Jean de la Bruyère, French author (1645-1696) known for his satirical writing, "Caractères" (Characters), published in 1688

    Carter Warden

    Carter Warden

    On this date in 1963, Carter Warden was born in Melbourne, Florida. A pastor for 25 years for conservative Protestant congregations, he co-founded the Clergy Project in 2011, was one of its first forum moderators and is now openly atheist. Using the pseudonym “Adam Mann,” he was one of the five interviewees in the Tufts University study by Daniel Dennett and Linda LaScola published in 2010 as “Preachers Who Are Not Believers” in the journal Evolutionary Psychology.

    While still in ministry he was interviewed in 2010 with his identity veiled on “ABC World News Tonight,” where he said, “In that point where I realized I was losing my faith yet I still feared for my own salvation, I asked God to take my life before I lost my faith.” Later on after a lot of books, movies, classes and conversations, his thinking had changed: “Instead of deepening my once precious faith, my intense study left me no choice but to abandon it. I did not lose my faith, as though it was something that regrettably slipped away, rather I chose to discard it because it no longer made sense.”

    Not until FFRF’s 2016 national convention would he “come out” publicly. (Speech video is here and a transcript is here.) He told the audience, “My true voice has been suppressed and silenced and, as a result, I have been living a life of secrecy, duplicity and hypocrisy. But that stops today.” Eight years of Adam Mann were enough. 

    Warden’s early religious upbringing in east Tennessee was United Methodist. As a young adult he transitioned to the Christian Church/Church of Christ. After earning an associate’s degree, he worked as an automotive technician for several years. He then graduated from Milligan College in Tennessee with a major in bible and a minor in sociology. He was ordained in 1988 and graduated from the Emmanuel School of Religion (now Emmanuel Christian Seminary) in 1998.

    As of this writing in 2022, he works as a university administrator in student affairs and is a member of the Secular Student Alliance’s speakers bureau. His story is featured in an off-Broadway play by playwright Marin Gazzaniga titled “The Unbelieving.” It’s based on interviews conducted for the book “Caught in the Pulpit by Dennett and LaScola.

    Warden has recorded several secular songs, including “Freedom From Religion” (listen or download here), with all proceeds going to the Clergy Project. An avid scuba diver, he has two children and two grandsons.

    “I learned that I am not alone. I learned that reason and science are the best tools for people to discover truth, freedom, happiness and purpose for this life. I learned that goodness and morality do not come from a god. Goodness, morality, happiness, compassion, love, selfless sacrifice and the desire to make this world a better place can be found within each of us as we accept our role as one of the most privileged species on Earth.”

    —Warden, on what he's learned from the secular community, FFRF national convention speech (Oct. 7, 2016)
    Compiled by Bill Dunn

    Michael Hakeem

    Michael Hakeem

    On this date in 1916, eminent sociologist Michael Hakeem was born in Fall River, Mass., to Sophia (Daghir) and Joseph Hakeem, both Syrian immigrants. He was the youngest of several children and the only one to graduate from high school.

    He attended Rhode Island State University, then transferred to Ohio State University, where he earned his undergraduate degree in 1942. He worked for the Illinois state prison system before completing his Ph.D. at Ohio State in 1950. He married Helen Louise Cook in 1949.

    After joining the sociology faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1952, he published numerous articles on criminology, the penal system and juvenile delinquency. For many years, he directed the correctional administration program under the auspices of the school’s Center for Law, Society, and Justice before retiring in 1983.

    Hakeem was the longtime chair of FFRF’s Executive Council and with Helen put in countless volunteer hours helping to mail Freethought Today, in which his column “The Unreasoning Clergy” appeared for several years. He was one of the state employees who successfully sued to end Good Friday as a mandatory state holiday in FFRF v. Tommy Thompson (1996). Accepting a Freethinker of the Year award for being a plaintiff, Hakeem said: “There is nothing more horrible to think about than a tie between the state and religion. It’s a very terrible thing to have the power of the government behind religion. The battle is never done.”

    After the Hakeems moved into assisted living, he donated his collection of more than 12,000 volumes to the UW-Madison. His research focus was “a fascinating view of the proselytization methods used by evangelical religious organizations in America,” according to Friends of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries. The library termed the collection “of major importance.”

    The Hakeems left a $750,000 bequest to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, half of which was set aside to endow its ongoing college student essay competition. It was named in his memory for the more than decade the bequest lasted and which helped countless recipients. Students fondly remembered his passionate promotion of critical thinking skills.

    Hakeem had several health challenges later in life but retained his dignity and sense of humor until the end. He died at age 90 in Madison and was cremated. His wife had preceded him in death at age 82 in 2003. (D. 2006)

    “Demolishing the claim that God exists does not require omniscience or omnipresence. It just takes critical analysis.”

    —Hakeem column, "Why Atheists Can't Find God — The Unreasoning Clergy (Freethought Today, Jan./Feb. 1994)
    Compiled by Bill Dunn; photo by Brent Nicastro

Freedom From Religion Foundation