In September 1995, Madalyn Murray O'Hair vanished without a trace from her home in Austin, Texas, along with her son Jon Garth Murray, adopted granddaughter Robin Murray-O'Hair, and $629,500 from the coffers of atheist organizations she founded.

A plausible theory regarding the disappearance of O'Hair and her relatives has been pieced together by San Antonio Express-News reporter John MacCormack. "I believe that they were kidnapped and taken to San Antonio, held for a month, and then, after procuring a half-million dollars in gold, they were murdered," MacCormack told CT. William J. Murray, O'Hair's estranged son, believes MacCormack has solved the mystery, and Ron Barrier, spokesperson for the American Atheists group started by O'Hair, says the theory is credible.

"I would like to think there was foul play involved because it would absolve the image of Madalyn O'Hair and the organization of being thieves or running off with money," Barrier says.

While O'Hair is long gone, William Murray contends that organized atheism has both won important victories for its ideas and lost a key reason for its existence as an insurgent social movement. "It is the liberalization of theology in America that has spelled the death knell for atheist organizations," says Murray, who became a Christian in 1980 at age 33 and now directs the Religious Freedom Coalition in Washington, D.C. "I can find Baptist preachers—in big churches—that will tell me that Christ isn't the son of God. I don't need to go to the atheists to have somebody to tell me that."

On January 23, the image of O'Hair, who was 76 when she vanished, came to a new light with the auctioning of her diaries. The Internal Revenue Service ordered the sale after seizing her property ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.