Making it Safe for Nonbelievers

Herb Silverman has been a busy man lately. When I caught up with him last week, South Carolina's leading atheist was just back from the Reason Rally in Washington, D.C., where he addressed the thousands of people who had assembled on the Mall, calling for America's numerous non-theist organizations to maintain a united front in their ceaseless battle with the Christian right.

Last month also saw the official release of Silverman's book, Candidate Without a Prayer: An Autobiography of a Jewish Atheist in the Bible Belt. Two weeks ago, he did a whirlwind, five-day book tour around eastern North Carolina. On Tuesday, he was speaking at St. Joseph's Catholic Church — of all places — to a gathering of about 70 older Charlestonians at the Center for Creative Retirement. He was selling and talking about his book, and for the better part of an hour, he kept his audience laughing with stories from his colorful and controversial life, punctuated with a PowerPoint presentation.

Silverman single-handedly puts a lie to the popular slander that all atheists are angry, immoral, and pessimistic. He is one of the funniest, most ebullient people I know. His many friends will testify that he has led a courageous and exemplary life as a defender of the powerless and dispossessed and a professor of mathematics at the College of Charleston.

Candidate Without a Prayer is the story of how a nice Jewish boy from Philadelphia landed in the buckle of the Bible Belt in 1976. It was a long and circuitous route.

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Copies available at the RDFRS online store