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Portrait Of A Freethinker: Richard Bozarth 
G. Richard Bozarth has had over 100 articles accepted by Freethought publications,
beginning with his first acceptance in 1977. He has written four books and two
pamphlets he self-published. He had hoped they would be professionally published,
but, like the Rolling Stones said, "You can't always get what you want."
That hasn't stopped him. The need to write and the joy of writing have not been
diminished by commercial failure, and mostly likely never will be.
Bozarth was born George Richard Bozarth on 21 March 1949 in Lakewood, CA, which
is one of those cities in that megametroplex usually called LA. His family were
Christians, but not seriously into it, which meant he wasn't subjected to very
much religious indoctrination during childhood. His family were the kind of
people who just assumed he would grow up to be a normal American who was more
dedicated to personal success than to personal salvation. Being religious was
important to them, but not as important as getting a big piece of the American
pie. They most likely assumed he would be religious and probably never thought
Atheism was a possibility for him. Because they wanted him to be as successful
as possible, they encouraged him to develop his intelligence and, more important,
to place high value on being educated. Their assumption was that he would do
well in public schools, achieve admission into some university, then enjoy economic
success in some white-collar career that would end with him having a good pension
supporting his own retirement savings.
Bozarth's father had a lot of problems, the worst being alcoholism, so he ruined
Lakewood for himself. The decision was to move to another city and start over.
That didn't work for him, but it was an important event in Bozarth's life. Moving
to Stockton, CA, when he was 8 was traumatic. He found out he was not gifted
at being a stranger in a strange land. He couldn't replace the friends he had
lost, thus didn't have a best friend again until he was in junior high school.
The feeling of being an outsider who no longer knew how to get inside again
has never left him. He began looking within himself for what he could not get
from others, and discovered a very active imagination that could open worlds
of entertainment for him. He realized he didn't need the stories and movies
created by others to explore fantasy realms. He could do it himself. He loved
reading before he loved writing and never stopped loving it, so it was natural
that one day he would want to also write the stories he imagined. That one day
happened when he was 12.
His father's problems only got worse, which resulted in his parents separating
prior to divorcing the same year he discovered he could both imagine and write.
By then his father's problems had sunk his family into poverty, so during his
teen years his family survived on welfare. His mother's parents made sure his
family didn't suffer the physical deprivations of poverty (meaning the necessities
of life were never missing), but they couldn't prevent the psychological humiliation
of poverty. This only made him feel more outside the wonderful norm that everybody
else seemed to be living in. At the same time he realized this: all the inside
people, as happy as they seemed to be, were not writing anything unless teachers
gave them a writing assignment. If not writing was the price of being inside,
he didn't want to be inside. He became a nonconformist before he knew the word
existed, then two teachers taught him what the word meant, and also taught him
that being a nonconformist was wonderful.
During his junior high years Bozarth had two friends who went to church even
though they weren't too serious about religionism. This exposure resulted in
two serious attacks of religious zeal and becoming born again twice. The first
attack faded when the friendship faded and he stopped going to that church.
The second attack had more lasting and beneficial consequences. High on Jesus
again, this time he thought he ought to read the Bible. He read everything except
the prophets because they were too bizarre even for a kid stoned on religion.
That was the beginning of the end of his religious zeal because reading the
Bible as though it is history instead of fantasy was like trying to read the
Tarzan novels or The Lord Of The Rings as though they are history. It didn't
happen overnight, but it happened.
Two other forces were also at work. One was learning about evolution in the
9th grade, which proved to him there was no need for a supernatural explanation
for the origin of the universe or life on Earth. If supernatural explanations
weren't necessary for these two awesome events, when, he wondered, were they
necessary? Eventually he knew supernatural explanations were never necessary
to explain anything.
The other force was masturbation, which he liked the first time discovered
it shortly after puberty. When he got religion, it made him suffer terribly
because masturbation was supposed to be such a terrible sin. His rationality
had been overwhelmed, but not defeated. It reacted to the guilt by making him
ask this: in what way could masturbation be harmful to himself or to any other
person? The answer was obvious: there is no harm in masturbation in the natural
world. If there was no physical or psychological harm in masturbation, why should
there be and how could there be supernatural harm? If the answer was the consequences
suffered in a supernatural realm ruled by a fiercely judging deity, then that
was too ridiculous for him to believe. The idea that an entity as awesome as
a supreme supernatural one could be offended by masturbation enough to want
to torture a person for eternity for enjoying it was just too silly and too
irrational to believe. Bozarth became an Atheist, though he still thought for
a few more years that petty supernatural entities like ghosts probably existed
and petty supernatural power like witches were supposed to have was probably
Bozarth graduated high school in 1967. He had scholarships and an acceptance
to a university. However, by graduation he knew that wasn't the road he would
take. He was sick of school. He wanted experiences that would serve him better
as a writer. How many writers had achieved good literary results from participating
in a war? He knew lots of them had. Well, in 1967 there was a war going on that
he could participate in. He had been thinking about it for months, but not talking
about it because he didn't want to argue about it with his family or his teachers
or with the counselor who had helped him so much in getting his scholarships.
After graduation it was time to make a decision. He blew every mind who knew
him by enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps, then telling them when it was too
late for them to try to talk him out of it.
He believed in the war and in the patriotic duty of enlisting when his country
was fighting a war, but all his important reasons for enlisting were personal
ones, which is why, when he learned the truth about Vietnam, he never felt personally
betrayed like so many other Nam vets did and still do. His belief in the war
didn't survive his tour of duty in-country. He didn't have to be a grunt to
figure out how wrong and futile the war was.
Bozarth enlisted for four years, thinking he would go fight in Nam, then come
back to experience what the Corps was like in the States. He didn't know the
Corps needed support troops more desperately than it needed combat troops, thus
any guy as intelligent as he was who enlisted for four years had almost no chance
of being a grunt. That was why he was shocked and horribly disappointed when,
shortly before the end of bootcamp, he was told he was destined to be a radio
tech, which meant going to more school! He hated it. The kind of thinking that
makes a good electronics technician was not the kind of thinking he was good
at. He graduated, but was never better than mediocre as a radio tech.
He did get to Vietnam. He arrived on 1 April 1969. That turned out to be an
omen. His unit was 5th Communications Battalion. He learned to think of it as
5th Comedy Battalion. He had a lot of interesting experiences in Nam, but none
of them involved blood and guts and glory. He was in more danger of getting
killed in Da Nang's traffic than being killed by Charlie. The literary results
have also been disappointing: the first draft of a memoirs, one short story,
and several poems.
The most important thing that happened to Bozarth in Nam was realizing that
his belief in himself as an intellectual was false. He had just barely begun
the work necessary to become an intellectual and had progressed far enough to
figure out he wasn't one and wouldn't be one unless he did a lot more work.
He started by improving his reading choices, beginning with Shakespeare, who
blew him away. His first nonfiction selection was The Black Arts by Richard
Cavendish. The chapter on witchcraft described the ghastly atrocity called The
Inquisition and that was the first time Bozarth felt the emotion of Écrasez
l’infâme! That book began his study of religionism, which has not ended.
He did not discover Atheist writers until discovering Nietzsche two years later.
Nietzsche blew him away ten times harder than Shakespeare had. After Nietzsche
he was not merely an Atheist, he was a militant Atheist.
Bozarth reenlisted in the Corps in 1970 for six years because the Corps offered
techs a lot of money to reenlist ($10,000), because he didn't know what he would
do if he got out, and because he thought the Corps still had some interesting
experiences to offer. It did, but not enough of them, which was why his interest
in being a Marine ended two years before his discharge date. After that it was
mostly a struggle to survive those two years without losing his sergeant stripes.
He pushed the tolerance of his glorious leaders more than once, but not quite
hard enough to lose his rank. When he left the Corps in August 1976, he was
happy and didn't care what he would be doing in the future as long as he was
doing it as a civilian.
His mother had moved to Vacaville, CA, to be near her mother after her father
had died in 1972. Bozarth settled in that small city. The best job he could
find was being a janitor at a big tourist-trap restaurant/store called The Nut
Tree. It was a good place to recover from the Corps, but not a place to stay
in. When he was ready to get on more seriously with his life, a wonderful opportunity
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« People, quotes (Published: 15-08-2003 )
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