June 19, 2009 -Gay Atheist Activist, Author of ‘Who’s Who in Hell,’ To Tell What We Can Learn From Gay Civil-Rights Movement

For Immediate Release
New York City Atheists Inc.
Web: nyc-atheists.org
Press Contact 212-879-2687
June 19, 2009
Gay Atheist Activist, Author of ‘Who’s Who in Hell,’ To Tell
What We Can Learn From Gay Civil-Rights Movement 
 New York, NY—Warren Allen Smith, an early atheist pioneer, is one of our heroes. Way back in 1949, when he was a graduate student under Lionel Trilling, he started the first Humanist Club at Columbia University. It was also while he was a graduate student that he began to write, for his Master’s thesis, “Who’s Who in Hell,” a compendium of atheists and freethinkers worldwide that today is a historic 1,264-page encyclopedia available to all.
Smith went on to become a pioneer in yet another venue: gay civil rights. He became involved in the Stonewall movement in the 1960s and in the founding of Act-Up, the gay activist movement.
Today Smith lives in Greenwich Village, boasts of having written four books since he turned 80 and is raising a foster son, a Haitian boy of 16 whose father, a friend of Smith’s, was assassinated in a Haitian uprising.
Wikipedia for Atheists
Smith also runs a web site called Philosopedia, a sort of Wikipedia for atheists, which some have called a comprehensive index of the world’s most prominent atheists.
Quite a life story for a man who was raised a Methodist in a town of just over 300 people in Iowa and whose father was a grain dealer. “I came to New York via Omaha Beach,” Smith says, referring to the D-Day amphibian landing in France in World War II, in which he took part. His military service allowed him to go to college, first to the University of Northern Iowa, then to Columbia in New York.
Smith then taught school for 37 years, mostly in Connecticut, and also ran a recording studio in New York with his longtime companion, Fernando Vargas, who died in 1986.
Lessons from Gay Movement
Philosopedia and Who’s Who in Hell may be Smith’s ultimate legacy to the atheist world but it is what he learned in the gay rights movement that he wants to bring to us on Thursday at the NYC Atheists’ monthly meeting.
With hard work and persistence, and risking all to put themselves out there on the line, the gay civil rights movement has made vast strides to legitimize the gay life style and win equal rights. Noting the reluctance of many atheists to declare themselves in public, Smith notes: “Humanists, freethinkers and atheists need to use the same kind of courage to legitimize the atheist lifestyle.”
WHAT:             “What Atheists Can Learn From the Gay Civil Rights
                           Movement,”  a talk by Warren Allen Smith, author of
                           Who’s Who in Hell.
WHEN:             Thursday, June 25, 2009 at 6:30 p.m.
WHERE:           SLC Conference Center - 352    Seventh Ave. (bet. 29th & 30th Streets - 16th Floor
COST:               We ask for a donation of $5 to help cover the cost of 
                            Room rental.  Unemployed are excused.
Ken Bronstein, President
New York City Atheists
Jane Everhart
Director of Communications
New York City Atheists
New York City Atheists Inc. is a 501C not-for-profit organization dedicated to fostering the separation of church and state and to promoting the atheist lifestyle and values.