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North American Science, Skepticism, and Secular Humanism 7— Secularism as a Moral Duty: Abusers, Cranks, and Frauds


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2020/02/21

James A. Haught was born on Feb. 20, 1932, in a small West Virginia farm town that had no electricity or paved streets. During his six decades in newspaper life, he has been police reporter, religion columnist, feature writer and night city editor; then he was investigative reporter for 13 years, and his work led to several corruption convictions. He writes nearly 400 Gazette editorials a year, plus personal columns and news articles. Haught has won two dozen national newswriting awards, and is author of 11 books and 120 magazine essays. About 50 of his columns have been distributed by national syndicates. He also is a senior editor of Free Inquiry magazine. He is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, Contemporary Authors and 2000 Outstanding Intellectuals of the 21st Century. He has four children, 12 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. He is a longtime member of Charleston’s Unitarian Universalist Congregation. Haught continues working full-time in his 80s.

Here we talk about another facet of the otherwise laudable American freedoms.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Americans earned a laudable moniker of the free. In many ways, it is true. In other ways, the degrees of freedom determined by the bank account. Another facet of this comes in behavioural and mental freedom in non-constructive ways. Religious fervour produces some of this. What have been cases of massive institutional religious financial fraud in the United States?

Jim Haught: To me, all religion is a financial fraud: It promises supernatural rewards after death, while taking billions in donations. In truth, there are no invisible gods, devils, heavens, hells, saviors, etc. As George Carlin said, it’s biggest “bullshit story” ever told. Ministers are the most dishonest people, because they endlessly spiel lies.

Jacobsen: What have been some of the larger exposures of abuse within religious institutions in the United States, where unquestioning faith of, more often, women followers and boy believers is — well — abused?

Haught: I just wrote a blog post about scandals in megachurches, where millionaire preachers wear huge diamonds and fly in private jets — but often wind up in prison.

Jacobsen: How does the otherwise admirable room for mental freedom for Americans create mental illness or provide an environment for the flourishing of mental illness to come forth in religious practices seen with glossolalia, being a reincarnation of Jesus, hearing the voice of God, believing in the power of intercessory prayer, and so on? Basically, the training wheels are off prematurely, or the guard rails aren’t up at the bowling ally.

Haught: Part of me agrees that anyone who believes supernatural dogmas must be mentally ill. But half of humanity swallows religious claims — and I’m not qualified to pronounce them all nuts.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Jim.

Haught: Keep the faith, baby.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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