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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Killing the Filibuster and Letting the Majority Rule in the Senate

One of the many reasons for the logjam in Congress in the past years has been that while a simple majority is all that is necessary to pass a bill in the House of Representatives, in the Senate it takes 60 votes to do so.  Why?  Because the Senate allows for a parliamentary procedure called a “filibuster” in which the Senators who oppose a bill may keep debating it, and debating it, and debating it, unless cut off by a “cloture” vote, which takes the support of 60 senators.  Thus, even though the Democrats have a majority of 53 senators (plus two independents who usually vote with them), they cannot pass a bill without the support of some of the 45 Republican senators supporting a cloture vote.

Aaron Burr
Under Robert’s Rules of Order (used by most deliberative bodies) debate is closed by the passage of a “Motion To Call the Question,” which is not debatable (see RRO section 37).  In the U.S. House of Representatives such a motion passes on a mere majority vote.  This originally was the rule in the Senate but in 1806 Aaron Burr called for a reform of procedural rules and recommended that this particular motion be eliminated as unnecessary.  It is widely agreed that he didn’t understand what this would mean, but when the rules were revised that same year they did eliminate any procedure for ending debate.  All that is left is a motion to end debate, which would require a majority vote, but, alas, such a motion itself could be subjected to a filibuster.

Although the filibuster has been possible in the Senate since 1806, it was rarely employed until recently.  Senator Jeff Merkley (D. Ore.) uses this statistic to show how the use of the filibuster has exploded in the past few years: Lyndon Johnson in his six years as Majority Leader of the Senate faced one filibuster, while Harry Reid, the current Majority Leader, in his six years has had to deal with 391.

This is outrageous.  The Constitution cites only five requirements for Senate supermajorities, including impeachment convictions of presidents, but none of those apply to cutting off debate.  Indeed the drafters of the Constitution considered making supermajorities a requirement for many forms of legislation but in the end went with the basic premise that majority rules.  The stupidity of the filibuster’s possible use means that the Senate is most often at a standstill. 

Late this year the Democrats finally took action and managed to pass a rule change that forbade the use of the filibuster in matters having to do with Presidential appointments (other than those to the United States Supreme Court).  This rule change was deemed the “nuclear option” because it bombed away some of the protection the filibuster has traditionally given to the minority party, and the Republicans were duly outraged at being deprived of this valuable delaying tactic.

Why not go all the way and simply abolish the filibuster by reinstating the motion to cut off debate (with a majority vote all that’s needed to prevail)?  Well, the answer is that the Democrats are now in control of the Senate, but that won’t last forever.  When they are next in the minority they’ll be every bit as fond of the filibuster as the current crop of Republicans.

But this is pusillanimous—the good of the country requires that Congress function as smoothly as possible, and obstructions as large as the filibuster are relics of the past that we should no longer tolerate.  With Congress’s approval rating at an all time low any step to make the legislative process speedier and more efficient should be taken.

Dump the filibuster completely.  Give us back majority rule in both houses of Congress.

Related Posts:
“Benjamin Franklin Riding Shotgun,” May 29, 2010
“How To Make Ethical Decisions,” December 12, 2010
“Ohio To Put Guns in Baby Strollers,” June 17, 2012
“Obamacare, John Roberts, and the Supreme Court,” July 3, 2012
“I Hate Meetings,” October 31, 2011
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Duck Dynasty & Gays: Freedom of Speech Isn’t What It’s Quacked Up To Be

Phil Robertson
The patriarch of the duck whistle family in “Duck Dynasty” (one of the most watched shows on television), Phil Robertson, granted a interview recently with GQ Magazine and made some remarks about blacks:

I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field. ...They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’ — not a word! . . .  Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.

and gay men:

It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there!  She’s got more to offer.  I mean, come on, dudes!  You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.  [Asked what’s sinful, he replied:] Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there.  Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.  [And later in a speech to church members, added that gays should turn to Jesus:]  Jesus will take sins away, if you're a homosexual he'll take it away, if you're an adulterer, if you're a liar, what's the difference?  If we lose our morality, we lose our country.

This caused an immediate uproar, and A&E, which has made a lot of money off of Duck Dynasty, suspended Mr. Robertson from appearances on the show (set to start its new season in January), but when the rest of the family said they wouldn’t continue without him, has now backed away and is hoping the whole kerfluffle will die down.

Many commentators who should know better, such as the Governor of Louisiana (where the show takes place), immediately were outraged that Mr. Robertson’s freedom of speech was being violated.  That’s simply wrong if what they mean by this is that something illegal has occurred.  Oh yes, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution does explicitly guarantee freedom of speech, but look at its wording:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Note carefully that it’s Congress that’s forbidden from abridging the freedom of speech, or, phrased another way, the government.  Since the government has in no way violated Mr. Robertson’s freedom of speech rights, the First Amendment’s protection of him is not triggered.  If Mr. Robertson had been suspended by A&S for his religious views, that might violate various civil rights statutes, but again that isn’t a freedom of speech issue (it’s a violation of a statutory right).

But, you might ask, isn’t there a general right to freedom of speech?  Well, yes, but if people don’t like what you say they can do all sorts of nasty things to you without the law being broken.  But I’m sure that Mr. Robertson and his duck-calling clan signed a contract with A&E that allowed the company to fire them at will if they misbehaved and caused unwanted publicity. 

We all have the right to say what we think (with some exceptions: libel, invasion of privacy, fraud, yelling fire in a theater, etc.) but we don’t have the right to escape criticism or other penalties for what we utter, and that includes contractual agreements to keep our mouths shut about controversial topics.

I’m a gay man and an atheist.  If I make statements concerning these issues that upset some people (for example saying, as I have, that it’s impossible to change sexual orientation by praying to Jesus, or that religion is on the whole very bad for civilization) I may be roundly criticized for these remarks (which has occurred).  Evangelical Christians like Mr. Robertson will certainly be offended, and if I were to stand up in his church and stupidly announce these views from a pew, no amount of “freedom of speech” will keep me from immediate and very bad consequences. 

What is valid about objections to the public outcry is that “political correctness” seemed to  demand this man be fired or publicly flogged or something equally unpleasant.  To me the proper response to speech that you don’t agree with is to argue the issue out in the public forum.  Huge numbers of religious people believe exactly what Mr. Robertson said about gay people and—an even uglier truth—his brainless remarks about blacks.  We should take this opportunity to make it clear why these views are wrong and even immoral.  If we persuade enough people ratings from the show might go down.

But probably not.  Duck Dynasty’s audience is not likely to care about political correctness on a show about Evangelical duck hunters (and millionaires, who have a very different private life than the one they put on TV—see  It should be no surprise that reality shows reflect what real people believe, whether much of society agrees with them or not.

But whatever penalties there are for expressing unpopular opinions, as long as the government stays of out it, the legal concept of “freedom of speech” is not involved.

Related Posts:
“How To Change Gay People Into Straight People,” September 20, 2010
"An Atheist Interviews God,” May 20, 2011
“Is It Legal To Discriminate Against Gay People?” March 19, 2014

“A Gay Hoosier Lawyer Looks at Indiana’s RFRA: The Religious Bigot Protection Act,” March 30, 2015;
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Friday, December 20, 2013

Douglas and David Get Married

Continuing the story of the romance that has been explored before in this blog below (see Related Posts below), this update gives a prècis of the actual marriage and the celebration thereof that occurred to Douglas John Whaley and David Allen Vargo, who met on Saturday, January 12th of this year at 11 p.m. in Wilton Manors, Florida, and married in New York City on Saturday, November 9th at 5:30 p.m.

Since the States of Ohio and Florida both prohibit gays from obtaining a marriage license, we flew to New York on Thursday, November 7th, and checked into the Hilton on Times Square.  I mentioned to the nice woman at the reservations desk that we were in the city for the weekend in  order to be married, she congratulated us, and then promptly put us in a deluxe suite with a terrific view of downtown.  David hadn’t seen either “The Phantom of the Opera” or “The Lion King” (though decades before I’d watched the original casts perform both), so we saw them in that order on Thursday and then Friday, and thoroughly enjoyed both.


On Friday morning we went to the New York City Clerk’s office to get a marriage license, and that experience was one of the highlights of the trip.  Even at 10:30 a.m. the halls were filled with couples, many of whom were to be married on the spot by a Justice of the Peace, and so things were very festive.  The happy couples were about evenly divided between straight and gay, young and old, and some had wedding parties at the ready with confetti in hand.  Our favorites were two lipstick lesbians, young and beautiful, both in identical traditional white wedding gowns, bouquets and all, smiling brightly.  The clerk who staffed the window issuing our license was great fun, and in the movie version of all this will be played by Whoopi Goldberg.  When I commented to her that her job had to be “good fun,” she replied, “For you it’s fun, for me it’s a job—with good days and bad days.”  When asked what were bad days, she mentioned the not infrequent quarrels that couples applying for a license sometimes engaged in right at her window (“You don’t want to change your name?”), and commented that there was a good reason for the mandatory 24 hour waiting period between the issuance of the license and the ceremony.  Asked what were good days, she smiled.  “For example, when they give me a box of chocolates.”

On Saturday afternoon we hustled into our marriage suits and went to Central Park for a carriage ride.  The driver was a very nice young man from Turkey who was just finishing up his degree in engineering at City College and his horse was an old pro named “Chestnut.”  It was cold, but there was a blanket for couple to pull around them, and it was appropriately sappy and romantic to snuggle together and watch the park go by.  Chestnut knew the route and keep encouraging the driver to take the short tour at various forks in the road, and it was cold enough we were all glad to do that.

[Click to enlarge]
By one of those strange coincidences that happen in life (or, in David’s view, are assigned by God) the marriage took place at the very apartment house, Chelsea Gardens, where David had lived when he was doing theater in New York in the 80s.  It was the home of my good friend Roger Bailey, who welcomed us and guests for the ceremony, which was presided over by a friend of his, Ben Sander, who lived in the same building.  The ceremony was traditional, but short.  We exchanged vows.  Mine was an adaptation of David’s favorite quotation from “The Tempest”:

Hear my soul speak:
The very instant that I saw you, did
My heart fly to your service.
There will it reside until the last instant of my oh-so-blessed life.

David’s vows were longer, and very poignant, and they concluded with:

I will honor and respect you. I will rejoice in your joys and weep in your sorrows. I will love and cherish you without cease and without pause, all the days of our lives until death parts us.

In your eyes, I have found my new home.
In your heart, I have found a true and everlasting love.
And in your soul, I have found my friend, my teacher, my companion, and my mate.
With you, I am happy, empowered, and alive.
You have made me feel safe in a turbulent and unstable world.
You have restored my faith in humankind and given me a reason to look forward to each new day.
I am yours.
You are mine.
Of this I am certain.
You now live in my heart and will remain there all the days of my life.

After that we placed rings on each other’s fingers, were pronounced “husband and husband” by Ben, and kissed.

Roger popped open a bottle of champagne for the toasts, and then performed his signature song “Pour Me a Man” (which had brought down the house at my 60th birthday party ten years before).  One of the guests was my Gilbert and Sullivan buddy of long standing, Marc Lewis, who coaches actors for a living, and he sang a lovely acapella version of “How Deep is the Ocean” for David and me.  David’s friend Arthur “Ziggy” Siegfried told stories of how David had been his mentor in Fort Lauderdale when he was a young gay man struggling to understand that scary new world.  For supper we adjourned to “The View,” a restaurant on top of the Marriott Hotel, which revolves and displays all of NYC as it does so.  A terrific time was had by all.

The Wedding Party at The View
Back in Columbus there was a wedding reception for our Ohio friends generously hosted by Lorri Latek, Art Greenbaum, Tom Jeffire, and Ann Matheson at Art and Lorri’s home on December 8, with some 30 people in attendance.  Lorri prepared wonderful finger food in quantities that covered their large dining room table, there was a cake which David and I ceremoniously cut, and a generous bar provided libations for the drinkers in the crowd, who gave us many touching toasts.  David and I had rehearsed our own version of the comic song “It’s Never Too Late To Fall In Love” (from the musical “The Boy Friend”), performed it to the enthusiastic enjoyment of the onlookers. A rollicking good time followed.  The video can be found on YouTube at


Since then David and I are settling into married life.  He’s found a good job right down the street from where we live, and so for the first part (at least) of 2014 we’ll be staying in Columbus.  We took the condo off the market for now, and were immediately given an offer on it that we had to refuse.  Future blog posts will explore some elements of our new life: the fun we have on a daily basis clowning with each other and developing running gags, the delicate tension between an atheist married to a believer, the reactions of a native Floridian to snow and ice and the mania of Buckeye football, and much, much more.

Until then I’ll close by saying that marrying David Vargo has made me the happiest man on the planet.

Related Posts:
Falling in Love, Turning 70, and Getting Married,” October 21, 2013
"My Cats Get Involved in My Knee Surgery and Selling My Condo," June 7, 2013 
“A Decision To Move to Florida,” March 30, 2013
"Doug Update: Health, Acting, Book Readings, and Snowbirding," September 6, 2012
"Snowbirding, My iPhone 5, and the Coming Crazy Cat Trip," December 12, 2012
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Republican Politicians: Reluctant Homophobes?

Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann: Dueling Homophobes

There are certainly major homophobic politicians at the forefront of the Republican Party.  In a prior post ["The Legacy of Homophobia," see Related Posts, below] I wrote about the vitriolic attacks on homosexuals by former Presidential hopefuls Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann, which are clearly based on hatred from the heart.  Equally obvious is that the Tea Party wing requires Republicans to swear fealty to the belief marriage consists solely of a union between one man and one woman, and is also largely homophobic on all gay issues [as to this see the recent book Dr. Christopher Parker and Dr. Matt Barreto "Change They Can't Believe In"].

But here’s the thing: any sentient human being is now aware the gay rights battles have an obvious conclusion, and that conclusion is that gays will end up both socially and as a matter of law being treated the same as everyone else.  This result will take a few more years and a Supreme Court decision or two, but it’s now inevitable.  Republican politicians are no dummies.  They see this too, and moreover, the vast majority of them don’t find the idea discomforting or objectionable in any way.  Most Republicans have gay family members, friends, supporters, neighbors, etc., and these are people they value and love.  They also recognize that society is greatly in favor of gay rights these days, and the numbers are getting stronger each month for that position.  How much more uncomfortable must it be for Republican politicians who are themselves closeted gays—that would be a life on an unsteady tightrope.

But Republicans are locked into an unfortunate national stance that gays should not be allowed to get legally married.  This is a major political disadvantage, and loses them votes in election after election as many Republicans entering the voting booths cannot stomach voting for someone who will keep a beloved friend/relative from being able to enjoy rights straight Americans would be aghast to lose.  Polls show this to be true and the candidates know it.  Even worse they are forced to take a public homophobic stance that they not only don’t believe in, but know to be wrong.  This makes it hard for the candidates to come home and face their loved ones, who’ve watched their hypocrisy on TV, shaking their heads in disgust.  It’s embarrassing.  It’s wrong under any definition of the word.

Rob and Will Portman
Some can’t take it, and so come out in favor of gay marriage, bravely daring to go against the Party’s official stance and risking the consequences.  In Ohio we have a prime example.  Senator Rob Portman, a Republican who once had ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act and against allowing gays in D.C. to adopt children, announced his support for gay marriage after his son Will came out of the closet.  This did cause a 13% drop in Portman’s approval rating within the state, so it’s an act of considerable courage.  Shortly after Portman’s announcement, Mark Kirk of Illinois became the second Republican Senator to support gay marriage, though it should be noted that the consequences are likely to be less severe in a state that just recently had its legislature vote to make Illinois a state that allows gays to marry.

Why don’t most Republicans do the same?  If the vast majority of those running for office all were either in favor of gay marriage or at least noncommittal on the subject the issue wouldn’t be a big deal in most elections outside of very conservative districts or states.  
As tempting and commonsensical as that sounds, it isn’t happening, at least not yet.  The reason is that the Tea Party won’t stand for it, and the Tea Party is famous for not compromising even when the battle is lost and when the lack of compromise leads to devastating political consequences.  Their purity is admirable; their tactic is known; the end result is chaos.  Any moderate Republican who doesn’t convert to the Tea Party line is going to face a Tea Party opponent in the next nominating cycle, and even the strongest of Republicans can see his/her political career collapse immediately.  Just ask the amazing former Senator from Indiana, the wonderful Richard Lugar, a voice of calm and sanity in the Republican party for decades (36 years in the Senate!), who lost the 2012 nomination for re-election to a Tea Partier (who got 61% of the primary vote vs. 39 % for Lugar) because Lugar’s stances were not closely aligned with Tea Party dictates.  As a consequence in the Indiana Senate race the Tea Party candidate, Richard Mourdock went on to lose to the Democratic candidate, in large part because of Mourdock’s unfortunate remark that a child of rape was still a “gift from God,” so that the rape victim should be forced to have the rapist’s baby.

So now we come to the Chaneys.  Gay marriage has put them all over the news.

Cheneys: Mary, Dick, and Liz
Former Vice President Dick Cheney, whose views I typically despise, has always had my admiration for refusing to condemn gay marriage.  His daughter Mary is gay, and last year married her partner Heather Poe; they have two children.  The trouble arises from the recent decision of the older Cheney daughter, Liz, to move back to Wyoming and run for the Senate, at which point she promptly espoused all the most conservative Tea Party positions, including opposition to gay marriage.  Her family was astounded, and although the parents have been non-committal (trying vainly to balance support for Liz’s candidacy with their love for Mary and Heather), the sisters are battling on Facebook.  Here is Heather’s post.
Liz Cheney replied, "I love Mary very much, I love her family very much. This is just an issue on which we disagree."

Mary then unleashed her true feelings about her sister's beliefs.  As for Heather’s post she chimed in with "Couldn't have said it better myself." She then added, "Liz - this isn't just an issue on which we disagree—you're just wrong—and on the wrong side of history."

That sums it up nicely.  My guess is that Liz Cheney doesn’t really find much wrong with gay marriage, and particularly not Mary and Heather’s marriage.  But she’s running for office in a very conservative state, so—history or not, hypocrisy or not, love of sister or not—she must be a reluctant homophobe if she wants to have any chance of being the next United States Senator from Wyoming.  Even worse her sister is right: Liz is on the wrong side of history, and that will be a major embarrassment for her as she ages and gays become a ho-hum issue.  Certainly her five children, when they grow up, will be much ashamed by what their mother did when this issue arose and she chose to go down the path of homophobia, alienating her only sister and leaving a legacy of hate for them to deal with.
Related Posts:
“Homosexuality: The Iceberg Theory,” April 25, 2010
“How I Lost a Gay Marriage Debate,” April 29, 2010
“How To Tell if You’re Gay,” August 31, 2010
“How To Change Gay People Into Straight People,” September 20, 2010
"How Many Homosexuals Are There in the World?" November 8, 2010
"Choose To Be Gay, Choose To Be Straight," January 25, 2011
"The Homosexual Agenda To Conquer the World," February 8, 2011
"Coming Out: How To Tell People You're Gay," March 27, 2011
"The Legacy of Homophobia," August 2, 2011
"Going Undercover at an Ex-Gay Meeting," September 19, 2011
"The Presumption of Heterosexuality and the Invisible Homosexual," October 2, 2011
"Gay Bashers, Homophobes, and Me," January 27, 2012
Straight People: Thanks From the LGBT Community,” November 20, 2012
“The Words ‘Queer’ and ‘Gay” in the 21st Century,” May 5, 2013
“A Homophobic Organization Throws in the Towel: Goodbye to Exodus International,” June 21, 2013
“Gay Marriage, the Supreme Court, and the Future,” June 26, 2013
“Disowning Your Gay Children,” October 9, 2013
“Is It Legal To Discriminate Against Gay People?” March 19, 2014

“A Gay Hoosier Lawyer Looks at Indiana’s RFRA: The Religious Bigot Protection Act,” March 30, 2015;
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Why Even Believers Should Read My Atheist Thriller “Imaginary Friend”

While doubtless most of the sales of my atheist thriller “Imaginary Friend” have been to nonbelievers, I’ve been pleased to hear from a goodly number of readers who believe in God but contacted me one way or the other to tell me how much they enjoyed reading the novel.  The reason is that while it does express an atheist viewpoint, the novel is really about how atheists are discriminated against in a way that Americans would not tolerate if such hatred was casually focused on any other minority.  All sensitive readers can appreciate why that is wrong. 

Moreover the book truly is a thriller.  It begins with an explosion at half-time at a college football game that immures our protagonist deep inside a collapsed stadium, and the action moves from one tense event to the next until it climaxes in an ending that scared me when I finally finished the book, waited a month to see what I had, and then re-read it and was much bothered by the fact that such extreme violence came from my own sappy, peace-loving brain.

Even so the book has a lot of humor and is filled with characters that readers seem to love.  Even the villains are presented as sympathetically as possible.

Here are the complete reviews on Amazon put there by actual readers, none of which I generated myself, nor are any of the reviewers close friends (at least at the time the reviews were written).  For any updates or later reviews see  The next-to-last review is the only negative one, and that from a reader who didn’t read the whole book, damn his hide—he missed that ending I’m so proud of.

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful

 4.0 out of 5 stars Devil in the Details, September 30, 2008

By Tim Brough "author and music buff" (Springfield, PA United States) - See all my reviews

This review is from: Imaginary Friend (Paperback)  Imagine if: After the horrors of 9/11, a man who bravely helped rescue some 50 odd survivors in a highly visual fashion was videoed doing this incredible feat. He'd be a proclaimed a hero, paraded around, commended by The President and promptly shoved on some news show (ala Larry King Live) and made to talk about the experience. What would happen if he decided (with a little alcoholic lubrication) to say to a caller that God was not there to give him the strength to save the survivors, but that following an "imaginary friend" was exactly why terrorists were killing people.

Thus is the premise of "Imaginary Friend." Franklin Whitestone, hero of a 9/11 styled attack on a football stadium finds his life turned upside down when he announces what he really thinks about God on a national television show. He and his family swoop from American Heroes to American Pariahs in the scope of two days, once the faithful feel threatened more by a single atheist and his family than multiple bands of terrorists. Whitestone, his son Todd and his former wife Mary now have to dodge a marauding press corps, Money Grubbing Mega-Church leaders, old girlfriends, unhappy employers and gun toting ChritsoFacists if they want to live through a quintessential American Nightmare resulting from not being very careful what you say in front of a live microphone (or post on the internet).

Inventive and well thought out characters make this a compelling read, as does the detailed writing style. The description of Nan and Dan's gun collection is alone enough to give you the creeps. Todd Whitestone, the precocious and gifted 16 year old son, is also a highlight of "Imaginary Friend" as he tries his best to help his father from a jam. Catherine, Franklin's alpha-mother, gets the best laughs as the Queen Bee of the Whitestone hive. Add the satirical bent of our instant-celebrity culture (an agent who advises Franklin just how rich he can get with a good PR man), and you get an entertaining novel about just how absurd the world of organized religion can get.


9 of 9 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars A Foxhole Atheist, November 3, 2008

By Joseph Mensch (New York, NY) - See all my reviews (REAL NAME)

This review is from: Imaginary Friend (Paperback)  The atheist movement, slowly growing in this country, has been given a sudden boost from an unknown author named Douglas Whaley whose new novel, "Imaginary Friend," combines an impassioned polemic with a sophisticated thriller. The attempt alone would have been enough, but the end result is more powerful and entertaining than anything the atheist movement (or, for the most part, the thriller movement) has come up with so far.

The story is about a lawyer, Franklin Whitestone, who rescues 53 people from a burning stadium but becomes a hunted man when he speaks candidly about his atheist views on national TV. The breathless chase across Ohio involves not just Franklin but Franklin's family, whose escape from their demented kidnappers is one of the high points of the novel. Franklin meets some colorful characters along the way, including Corbin Milk, a gay ex-C.I.A. agent who helps Franklin with his disguise, and Jonathan Harker, a PR agent who insists that Franklin can make tons of money from his ordeal. Even the God-fearing militant hunters have their virtues and sympathies. One is often pleasantly surprised, even relieved, by the humor that Whaley mines from the darkest and grisliest situations.

For many years the atheists' cause has rested on the shoulders of writers like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and most recently, Christopher Hitchens, whose logical arguments, while unassailable on their own terms, often fail to take the fight where it would really count, namely, the psychological realm. Religious fanatics will not be swayed by any number of scientific arguments that disprove the possibility of talking snakes; they hold the trump card of "The Lord works in mysterious ways." But if you can tap into their basic sympathies for their fellow man and demonstrate how destructive religion has been to innocent people (including all the deaths at the football stadium, bombed by an Islamic terrorist), you might be able to turn some heads. This is where "Imaginary Friend" succeeds so well.


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars frightenly feasible outcome, February 13, 2012

By V. Sandy "V" (Prescott,AZ)  See all my reviews

This review is from: Imaginary Friend (Kindle Edition)  and unfortunately in this post 9-11 world, with all the christian religous militancy tossed about by politicians... everything that befalls the unlikely hero of this tale is frightenly feasible


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful

4.0 out of 5 stars Friend to Foe, December 9, 2012

By Biodork (Minneapolis, MN) - See all my reviews

This review is from: Imaginary Friend (Paperback)  Perhaps no character in literary history has gone as quickly from cherished hero to reviled villain as Franklin Whitestone of Douglas Whaley's novel, Imaginary Friend.

Franklin Whitestone finds himself an unwitting hero after surviving a terrorist bomb attack in a crowded stadium. After television crews film him playing a critical role in the safe escape of himself and other victims, he is instantly transformed into a national celebrity. Franklin is is flown in high style to New York to appear on a live call in-show to recount his experience. The interview starts out well, but when a caller ask if he was praying to God for strength during his ordeal, he scoffs and proudly boasts about not having an "imaginary friend". He goes on to ask the caller why God should be credited for getting him out of the mess, but not blamed for the terrorist attack happening in the first place. The studio erupts in shock and outrage.

Before he understands what has happened, Franklin finds him the subject of hatred, anger, reproach and pity. Everything he holds dear is threatened by his new notoriety, and a dangerous religious extremist - one of the same men who helped free the Franklin from the stadium - sets out to "save him" a second time.

If you have ever suffered social rejection or for your non-belief, Imaginary Friend will haunt you. Franklin's detractors spout familiar religious criticisms of atheism, but Whaley's characters are complex; they have minds and flaws of their own, and don't always respond in the way we wish they would. The story is thrilling, heartbreaking, at times infuriating,and always hard to set down.


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars Do you believe?, May 28, 2012

By MMB - See all my reviews

This review is from: Imaginary Friend (Paperback)  When I read the title of this book, I imagined a well-written, simple story about a young boy and his all too troublesome imaginary friend. After reading the book's back cover description, I understood that indeed the story is about an imaginary friend who is troublesome but it would not be a simple story.

Can America accept a man who saved 53 lives in a bomb-ravaged football stadium but didn't do it in the name of God? Can an atheist be a hero?

Douglas Whaley answers these questions in this chilling novel. He skillfully handles a suspenseful, can't-put-this-book-down, plot while bringing America's religious intolerance out into the light. His characters are frighteningly real and their development is superb.


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful

4.0 out of 5 stars A good thriller, August 9, 2013

By BeerWill - See all my reviews

This review is from: Imaginary Friend (Kindle Edition)  To me Imaginary Friend has a few flaws in writing style - (I believe this is the author's first fiction book) - but the book is nevertheless a good thriller.

I was concerned that it would be too atheist-preachy, and while it does certainly put atheism in a positive light, the characters are realistically flawed which allows the story to be a good read, while still making some good counter-apologetics points.


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars You get what you axe for, February 7, 2013

By Richard Schwartz (Hawthorne, California) - See all my reviews (REAL NAME)

This review is from: Imaginary Friend (Paperback) Good story about a commonly persecuted religion. The believer confesses his faith and then must deal with a series of hate crimes. It is better to keep your faith to yourself and pretend to conform to whatever is around you. Very well done. Now lets team this author with Matt Bracken and Wesley ,Rawles for the ultimate action movie script!


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars Great atheist thriller and all around great book, December 9, 2012

By Carl (BLOOMINGTON, MN, United States) - See all my reviews (REAL NAME)

This review is from: Imaginary Friend (Paperback)  Douglas does a wonderful job of bringing these characters to life and making you feel for them even the ones who tend to be blinded by religion. This book is something that would make anyone who questions religion and it's implications of what it is to be an atheist in America. There are questions you will have to ask yourself of when it is the right time to come out as an atheist and the book addresses that. Hopefully this will reach a broad audience and will help them come out as proud atheists.


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly good thriller, April 29, 2012

By David L. Murray (Phoenix, Arizona USA) - See all my reviews (REAL NAME)

This review is from: Imaginary Friend (Kindle Edition)  Douglas Whaley is a very skilled author. This was a wonderful thriller. At times the stereotyping seemed a bit much and I wondered if it would be just another atheist rant. It turns out that it was more that that, it was a very good story.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars Coming out, April 11, 2012

By WILLIAM EVERS (W LAFAYETTE, IN United States) - See all my reviews

This review is from: Imaginary Friend (Kindle Edition)  This is a scary great book. The fear and hatred of atheists is stronger and has more support than most other animosities aimed at specific groups. Douglas Whaley's matter-of-fact presentation of the malice shown to those who see no evidence for anything supernatural was uplifting. The main character takes his outlook on life as a sensible way to live and sees no reason to be "in the closet" about it. The ignorance and cowardly actions of those whose mental processes have been destroyed by a lifetime of religious brainwashing are depressingly and truthfully laid out. This is a book that should be on all required high school reading lists.   


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful

 5.0 out of 5 stars Life with Religious Differences Brought to Life, February 18, 2012

By Humanist Living - See all my reviews

This review is from: Imaginary Friend (Paperback)  Exciting! Doug Whaley has opened new territory with his engaging novel "Imaginary Friend." Although much has already been written debating questions raised by religion, Whaley is one of the first to use fiction to bring to life the experiences of people living with those religious differences. "Imaginary Friend" should be read by anyone who cares about religious freedom.


2.0 out of 5 stars Intent, writing, characters just OK; story implausible and plodding, October 16, 2013

By KM Thiesmeyer (Pasadena, CA, US) - See all my reviews

This review is from: Imaginary Friend (Kindle Edition)  Whaley is a lawyer and gets those parts right. But the writing is very ordinary, little imagery, no dramatic flourishes, not much to engage the reader except the theology, which is simplistic, and the story, which is far-fetched. It has been almost 20 years since famed school-prayer dissident Madelyn Murray O'Hair disappeared, then turned up murdered at the hands of characters like Whaley's. And notable public atheists like Penn Gillette, Daniel Radcliffe, Brad Pitt, Woody Allen, Bill Maher, James Randi and George Carlin -- not to mention Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Isaac Asimov, Daniel Dennet, Bill Gates and thousands more -- all seem to do fine (OK, perhaps with money and bodyguards). In any case, the simmering hate in this case seems unlikely for today. The escape from the kidnappers using Pig Latin is ridiculous, although Whaley does manage to make them sympathetic. There are a couple of Biblical quotations that suffer the same interpretive, out-of-context arrogance as any religious tome. The sub-plot love triangle is sparse and unaffecting. I quit at 67% read; didn't think I'd like the d√©nouement. Save this one for an afternoon at the beach, and then leave it in the sand.


5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and surprising, September 14, 2013

By Carolie Park - See all my reviews

This review is from: Imaginary Friend (Paperback)  I got this book as a gift from someone who knew I was an atheist. From the title, I expected something more like the hundreds of books that have been written to dispute or disprove the existence of god. Ho-hum . . . I'm already convinced. I was delighted to find that it was a real-life thriller of post 9/11 America whose story line includes believers and non-believers of every stripe. Each of the characters are plausibly flawed and well developed individuals. Some are heroic and others are villainous, and all feel authentic.

The ghastly and harrowing situations depicted are so incredibly detailed as to make one certain that the author is describing personal experiences, and doing an excellent job of it. The unnerving ending is a shocker, but follows inevitably from the nature of the protagonists.
This is a book that everyone can enjoy-regardless of religious stance. And, it will make every reader think about the America we live in and the dilemmas that face us in a fast-changing world.

“Imaginary Friend” is available on for $9.84 (Paperback) or $2.99 (Kindle).  The prequel to “Imaginary Friend” tells the backstory of Corbin Milk, one of the characters in “Imaginary Friend,” and it will be published next month.  It is simply called “Corbin Milk.”   See Related Posts below for a detailed description of it.

Related Posts:
"Frightening the Horses," April 7, 2010
“Imaginary Friend,” June 22, 2010
“How To Change Gay People Into Straight People,” September 20, 2010 (Excerpt from "Corbin Milk")
Explosion at Ohio Stadium,” October 9, 2010 (Chapter 1 of "Imaginary Friend")
"Escape From Ohio Stadium," November 2, 2010 (Chapter 2)
"Open Mouth, Insert Foot," November 21, 2010 (Chapter 3)
"My Atheist Thriller: Another Book Reading," May 17, 2012
“Listen to Me Reading My Novel on the Radio,” December 11, 2012
“‘Imaginary Friend’ Goes International: A Bookreading of My Atheist Thriller in Nottingham,      England, Via Skype,” March 19, 2013 
“Speaking at Atheist Conventions, Directing a Play, and that Move to Florida,” July 5, 2013
“The Thunderbolt,” September 9, 2010 (Explaining "Corbin Milk")
Fifty Shades of Leather: Corbin Milk in the BDSM World,” December 26, 2012 
"A Guide to the Best of My Blog," April 29, 2013