Steve Allen (1921-2000)

Stephen Valentine Patrick William Allen was a 20th Century "Renaissance Man."  He was known primarily as an entertainer, a performer and a humorist who invented the late-night, talk-show television format with The Tonight Show (1954-1957) and The Steve Allen Show (1956-1964).  But there was much more to Steve than jokes and silly stunts.  He was a musician, songwriter, poet and a prolific author of fiction and non-fiction books.  He was also very aware of the world and able to articulate opinions regarding the political and moral issues of the day.  Mr. Allen was a great influence on my life and my beliefs.  I place his biographical material in this "Humor" section of my website not because it defines him but because it the place where he would most likely be found by those who would want to read about him.  The following sections will primarily consist of quotes from his books with an attempt by me to separate his books into various categories.  My comments are shown in [brackets].  [JAM 12/18/2016]

Opinions

Dialogues in Americanism - Henry Regnery Co. - 1964 - 148 pages

[The first third of this book consists of a debate between Steve Allen and William F. Buckley Jr. regarding the presidency and foreign policy.  The debate occurred in Pasadena, California on November 17, 1963 - five days before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.]

"I shall consider my time not wasted this evening (and I direct this remark to my fellow citizens in the conservative camp who are present) if even a few of my ideas succeed in penetrating the screen of your prejudices - the screen of your prejudices and your long-denied hunger for political representation."

 "Today's conservative has not put a team on the ball-field, whereas the liberals have; and therefore the conservative can point to the mistakes that the liberal team has made.  What the liberals can do to counter is to say, 'Well we see no reason to believe that had your team played the game, it would have played it any better.  And there are those who believe it would have played it a good deal worse.'"

"It will be helpful, in attempting to understand what a nation's foreign policy is, if you think of the word 'policy' not as suggesting a single sentence stating a lofty aim, but rather in the sense in which it is used in the phrase "insurance policy."  An insurance policy ... is quite a lengthy document; and yet it covers particulars that, compared to the conduct of the nation's foreign relations, are simplicity itself.  I say this because you are daily being led to believe that Communist advances are explained either chiefly or solely because of what American foreign policy is, for better or worse.  And I tell you this is nonsense."

"Now if there is anything that today's conservatives find annoying, it is the criticism that Senator Goldwater is forever suggesting simplistic solutions for complex problems; but the conservative camp had better get ready to feel good and annoyed for many months to come, because the Senator deserves precisely this sort of criticism.  Indeed, the only way he can put a stop to it is to throw overboard his past recommendations and replace them with some that have a lesser burden of belligerence and a greater part of wisdom and originality."

"I wonder if man has now learned the lesson that there are no longer any far away countries.  Morally, there never were.  Morally, we were always supposed to know that we are our brothers' keepers."

[Following is a portion of comments that Mr. Allen addressed to members of the audience who booed him regarding his comments in support of NATO.] "These debates, the series of debates, are being staged by an organization that I respect and admire, a responsible conservative organization.  And their loud-mouth representatives here are doing them no credit.  So for you own sake, if you want these next two debates to occur, please conduct yourselves like ladies and gentlemen - those of you who are not."

"... conservatives assert that we must adopt an offensive strategy that is ... 'every bit as serious about liberating Communist territory as the Communists are about enslaving ours.'  Well, where is this offensive strategy?  What are its particulars?  It's occurred to me that one reason  right-wing alternatives so often deal with wishful generalities rather than specifics is that on the rare occasions when practical suggestions are vouchsafed, they are so often seen as hollow bombast."

"I am no more afraid of death than is Mr. Buckley; it comes to us all, as he pointed out to us recently in an editorial.  But I should not want to commit either murder or suicide."

"... many responsible conservatives share with liberals the opinion that one of the primary objectives of American foreign policy must be the prevention of nuclear war.  Neither conservatives nor liberal leaders, however, have maintained that nuclear war must be avoided at all costs ... If the Soviet Union this evening were to present us with the strictly limited choice between nuclear war and surrender, the response, as everyone knows perfectly well, would be to decide in favor of war - which is why the Soviet Union will present us with no such choice."

"All the real experts on Latin America agree that Castro is merely a symptom of the dread economic disease that afflicts Latin American nations.  It can scarcely be maintained by any fair minded man that a system whereby the overwhelming majority of the people are poverty stricken and a tiny minority are incredibly wealthy is [a] just one."

"... when right-wing foreign policy alternatives are distilled to their essence, we find that they consist of exactly two substances: one involves our committing acts of war, and the other involves simply quitting (childlishly walking off the field, ending foreign aid, abandoning the United Nations, withdrawing our representatives from any nation that displeases us and sulking in the corner while the march of history sweeps past us).  Both alternatives - and I use the word with utmost precision - are un-American.  The United States has always been a peaceful nation, though its people are mighty when attacked.  And the American people have never been quitters; nor, I am confident, will they be now."

 

Letter to a Conservative - Doubleday -1965 - 370 pages

"Let the responsible men in the rightist camp ask themselves the question: What percentage of their armies are comprised of the fanatics, the anti-Semites, the anti-Catholics, the anti-Negroes, the writers of unsigned letters, the armed vigilantes, the character assassins, the telephone breathers, the hecklers, the jeerers, the spitting, pushing pickets, the impeachers or executioners of Chief Justice Warren, and the rest? The answer is theirs to discover, but they have the moral obligation to ask the question."

"... through history it has time and again been the Liberals, the progressives, who have worked to better the human condition while it has been the forces of reaction that have hampered their efforts and kept man suffering under a thousand forms of oppression."

"I do not represent myself as a political philosopher but merely as a citizen who has taken the pains to read and think his way through a number of political issues and who hopes to assist a number of his fellow citizens in doing the same.  I should be astounded were I to convert a single conservative reader to either middle-of-the-roadism or liberalism, but gratified indeed were I to change all my reactionary readers to good, responsible Conservatives."

"Consider, for example, the institution of slavery.  It was defended by generations of Conservatives on the grounds that it had served society, that it was mentioned in the Bible and sanctioned by the Church, that slaves had no political or civil rights or liberties, that it was economically productive, and that, since it had persisted for thousands of years, it was clearly part of the good society.  But we see now that all of the pro-slavery arguments were the empty rationalizations of men blinded by convention, among other less savory motivations.  Slavery was, from the first moment it appeared in human history, a monumental, atrocious evil.  And yet until man had reached a certain level of civilization he was not equal to the task of putting this dark chapter of experience behind him."

"Liberalism and conservatism are essential to civilization, the former to create it, the latter to preserve it.  But Conservatives must remember that creation is a continuous process and that on yhe day it stops, a society, like an individual, starts to die."

"It is no accident that every political organization commonly referred to as a 'hate group' is affiliated with the right."

"They [conservatives] have a virtual monopoly on anti-Semitism.  This does not mean - obviously - that all right-wingers are anti-Semites; it does mean that practically all anti-Semites are of the right wing ... conservative intellectuals ... are daily deeply embarrassed by the 'political lunacy' (to use William Buckley's phrase) of a number of their misguided colleagues.  Granted there fanatics and dunces in all large political groups and that it is unfair to convict an entire political movement on the basis of the inanities committed by its minority fringe of undesirables."

"... what could happen here ... is a takeover by forces of the right.  Some of the required ingredients for such a move are already at hand: a degree of military support, widespread sympathy by wealthy and powerful industrial interests, an extremely effective rabble-rousing propaganda organization ranging from National Review at its most respectable end to the hundreds of anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic, anti-Negro, fascist-hate sheets at the other.  Also clearly present is the will to assume authority on the part of some rightists."

"Wherever governmental power exists there is the possibility that it will be abused.  This paradox we shall apparently face throughout all time.  A conservative demagogue who in all sincerity warns the people about such a concentration of power might well be human enough to succumb to the temptation to employ it for his own purposes were he to assume authority."

"... [In 1965] Only two factors are missing to make the moment appropriate for an ultimate test of strength between the democratic establishment and the right: the man-on-the-white-horse and the moment of sufficiently grave international crisis.  The right is on record as distrusting democracy.  It would not hesitate to attempt to seize power, even undemocratically, if it were convinced that to do so would be to act patriotically, and - if the American people were moved to some such state of national hysteria as has seized other people in our time - such a coup could succeed."

"One does not have to learn much about the Soviet slave labor camps, the German gas chambers, or the burning of the innocents at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to have one's faith in man's innate goodness weakened."

"What is the one thing that makes me most glad to be an American?  It was not, one could readily conclude, our economic opportunities, our geography, our military strength, as advantageous as such things may be.  For other nations, too, may boast of prosperity, of natural beauty or military power, all of which may one day exceed our own.  No, to me our greatest blessing is this thing [freedom] we are considering, this concept expressed by a word that - like a coin worn smooth - may have lost a measure of its meaning and beauty for some of us: our freedom.  Now "freedom," like other words, is merely a symbol on a page, a sound in the mouth, unless we interpret it correctly and see how it may best be applied."

"Where advocates of one faith overwhelmingly predominate, history shows that they will frequently attempt to intimidate and persecute those among their fellow citizens whose only crime is that they harbor philosophical convictions not in accordance with those of the majority.  I see no reason to mince words about this matter.  What is involved is tyranny and cruelty, and he who is not sworn to oppose it is not entitled to consider himself an advocate of true human liberty."

"It is remarkable that the new Conservatives, who can scarcely issue a political tract without employing the word morality, seem able to sidestep moral questions when not to do so would oblige them to make a personal contribution to the welfare of their less fortunate fellow Americans."

"Through reading the works of various atheists, heretics, agnostics, rationalists, and humanists one discovers that it is not hardness of heart or evil passions that move men to atheism or agnosticism, but usually a scrupulous intellectual honesty." 


Ripoff: A Look at Corruption in America
- Lyle Stuart Inc. - 1979 - 269 pages

"I do not believe that there is anything inherently evil about taking a drink, placing a bet on a football game or horse-race, playing poker or bingo, going to a burlesque show, kissing a pretty girl, or any of the other harmless activities that shock a few religious Fundamentalists.  It is obvious that one can enter the domain of evil by carrying any of the above-mentioned practices to excess; it is certainly wrong for an alcoholic to take a drink, for a compulsive gambler to throw away his family's rent money, to rape pretty girls instead of kissing them, etc.  I do not even consider it my business if an adult makes himself dreamily blissful by using marijuana, any more than it is my business if another adult makes an ass of himself by passing out from drinking Scotch whisky.  In other words, I am, as the cliche has it, no prude."

"Let me state a relevant prejudice.  I like policemen.  As a class they are admirable.  Since childhood, I have held them in the same regard as selfless firemen, soldiers and sailors, athletes.  A policeman's work is dangerous, his pay is low, his courage obvious.  When I hear a prowler outside my house at night, I call for a cop.  Until my community - or the world - becomes a great deal more civilized, I want policemen out, in force.  I do not agree with people who smugly assume that every cop's honor is for sale for a ten-spot or that all policemen are incipient Fascists."

[In chapters 2 through 15, Steve Allen presents examples of corruption in police departments, computer users, stock market cheaters, politics, medicine, shoplifters, schools, show business, organized crime, labor unions, the military, sports and advertising.  It is hard to read and somewhat dated.  But to his credit, Mr. Allen took the time to document known examples of corruption to illustrate his case in 1979.  Anyone could do the same today just by watching television news and reading newspapers.  The value of this book for today's ethical human beings lies in the dozen pages of the final chapter where some solutions are offered.  The world needs more people like Steve Allen.]

"Stop the stupid personal defensiveness that makes us totally or partially blind to acts of corruption or crime committed by social groups with which we personally are identified.  There is too damned much cover-up now - by millions of people who are reluctant to point a critical finger at a notorious offender simply because he's a member of their church, their nationality, their race, their political party, their philosophical camp.  Realize this: all camps are contaminated now.  The rascals aren't the other guys, they're all around us.  When is a Democratic or Republican President of the United States going to have the guts and decency to criticize the corruption of his own party, both of which ought to be ashamed of themselves because of offenses by party members?"

"Support the Consumer Revolution, a grand, inspiring instance of the common sense of the American people.  Americans are tired of being ripped off, cheated, swindled, lied to by certain advertisers, and sold shoddy, overpriced merchandise.  That's Capitalism, too, baby, and what the public is at last saying to the corporate powers and their Conservative philosophical apologists is this: Don't give us any more crap about 'the glories of free enterprise.'  Just give us good merchandise, at fair prices, and pay us decent wages. That's what will preserve our economic system and its material blessings.  Your hypocritical speeches only make us sick."

"If the adherents of the various major churches would now statistically demonstrate serious intent in obeying the ethical and moral strictures of their faith - as do Quakers and Unitarians, for example - the problem [thievery] would, obviously, be partly solved.  But the suggestion carries the implication that the offenders are those who have abandoned their respective faiths.  In reality the problem is more tragic.  The point bears repetition: a depressingly large percentage of the crooked politicians, lawyers, judges, bureaucrats and grafters are affiliated with one denomination or another."

"There is no necessary connection between morality and religion."

"We might also begin by broadcasting the message that corruption is un-American.  To our philosophical enemies it would seem self-evident that the truth is precisely the opposite, that in fact corruption is quite American in that it is an inevitable consequence of an economic system motivated, at its heart, by the idea of every-man-for-himself ... Once the majority, or even a significant minority, is prepared to throw ethical standards overboard, then the resulting structure is no longer morally defensible."

"What one does want to see is an army of determined individuals, average citizens from various walks of life who ... are prepared to announce that they have finally had enough.  Nothing short of such a personal position, taken by millions, will be equal to the challenge facing us."


The Passionate Non-Smoker's Bill of Rights: The First Guide to Enacting Nonsmoking Legislation
(with Bill Adler, Jr.) - Morrow - 1989 - 240 pages

[Steve Allen was allergic to tobacco smoke.  He was one of the early leaders in the country who brought nonsmoking legislation into being.]

 

"Dumbth": And 81/101 [actually 102] Ways to Make Americans Smarter - Prometheus Books - 1989; revised 1998 - 359/445 pages

"... we have at present [1989] a generation whose majority has little or no interest in reading.  This one factor alone would absolutely assure us a nation of dummies, even if everything else was working quite well, and we know that practically nothing is."

"... conservatives, for the past hundred years, have obstructed every single federal effort to help the truly needy.  All the humane social legislation of which our nation may now rightfully boast was accomplished over the dead bodies of early generations of obstructionists."

"The astounding technical achievements of our age were made not by the mass of us but by a tiny fraction of one percent of the population, frequently against the apathy, inertia, or bitter opposition of the other 99 percent."

"And forty years of watching television of the most mindless sort must have a destructive effect on the intelligence."

"Ronald Reagan's cuts in public monies for education - as governor and as president - came at the end of the general collapse [of academic standards] and therefore did not cause it, though they led to further damage."

"... the recent weakening of American education and intelligence is part of a larger, depressing social picture, the general outlines of which are now all too familiar: the nihilism of such popular musical forms as punk or heavy-metal rock, the popularity of the most vapid television programs, the increasing number of failures of magazines and newspapers, rising rates of violent crimes of a particularly mindless or cruel sort, the irresponsibility of those who sell guns, drug dependence and the gang wars it causes, the rising indulgence in superstition and fanaticism, the staggering increases in white-collar crime and corruption, the rise of racism among the young ... A case can be developed for the argument that, on some level below the conscious, we are, as a people, choosing to become dumber, and more insensitive because the world has come to seem too dangerous and complex.  There is a growing sullen contempt for traditional values, rules of the game, and social standards, even among the wealthy and successful.  There are hints of this, I think in the ugly adolescent sneers seen in the photographs of punk rockers, the grating, pounding menace of the music, the pouting, almost sadistic stares of some high-fashion models, the menacing macho tones used in certain radio and television commercials."

"The essential dumbness of racial prejudice and hatred, for example, is also socially destructive and dangerous.  It may be perfectly reasonable to despise an individual black, Jew, Catholic, conservative, Rotarian, brain surgeon, or circus clown.  The individual may have committed a crime of which you are the victim.  If a Lithuanian raped my wife, I would certainly feel strong animosity against that particular Lithuanian.  But to use that incident as rationalization for hating Lithuanians as a class is the height of stupidity.  Precisely such stupidity, nevertheless, is common."

"Every citizen, actor or not, ought to be concerned with crucial social questions.  Our society is in danger when there is a lack of interest in democratic processes, not when there is a great deal of it.  In recent years, the involvement of Americans in public affairs - even to the modest extent of voting - has been dwindling.  This represents a serious problem for our nation."

"... learning is by no means something we are supposed to do only from the ages of five to twenty-one, in buildings called schools, but rather that it is a lifelong process, the proper conduct of which is not only absolutely necessary for the physical survival of individuals but for the survival of entire societies."

"... the combined ego-needs of the leaders and the self-inflicted gullibility of the people have led to the incredible collection of nonsense, misinformation, myth, superstition, and evil that has almost crushed humanity during the long epochs of its chronological advance."

"The ignoramuses who people the ranks of the Skinheads, the American Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, the White Citizens Councils, the John Birch Society, the Posse Comitatus, and other 'nuts-and-kooks' groups of the right, to use Richard Nixon's phrase, are themselves possibly beyond redemption, so committed to paranoia and semo-clever irrationality that reason and truth cannot penetrate the armor of their biases, angers, and fears. Their combined mental and moral diseases may be likened to those physical ailments that are in terminal phase, against which even the best modern medicine cannot prevail.  But if the clock of history could be reversed just fifty years and the adults who are, in 1990, members of these various morally ill groups were taught to reason, it is safe to say that far fewer of them would have fallen victim to such political delusions as now grip them."

"101 Ways to Reason Better & Improve Your Mind:
1. Decide that in the future you will reason more effectively.
2. Do some casual studying about the brain, the mind, memory, the whole field of psychology.
3. Beware of rushing to judgment.
4. Beware of falling in love with your first answer.
5. Beware of the erroneous assumption.
6. Beware of making predictions on the strength of insufficient evidence.
7. Examine your superstitions.
8. Recognize that you have personal prejudices.
9. Beware of prefabricated answers.
10. Beware of argument by slogans or epigrams.
11. Be aware that your opinions, assumptions, and beliefs are often affected by peer-group pressure.
12. Do not make an exclusive commitment to optimism or pessimism.
13. Beware of giving children only factual answers.
14. Beware of thinking that because you are bright and quick-minded, you therefore reason well.
15. Beware of reacting to labels rather than to specific individuals.
16. Study the subject of sensory perception.
17. Learn how to learn.
18. Develop the old-fashioned virtue of humility.
19. Concede ignorance when you are ignorant.
20. Use words wisely.
21. Understand that your perceptions, opinions, and beliefs are, to a remarkable degree, determined by your point of view.
22. Know that reason need not be the enemy of emotion.
23. Familiarize yourself with at least the basic elements of logical reasoning.
24. Always feel at least a twinge of shame when you employ an ad hominem argument.
25. Be realistically skeptical - even of leaders.
26. While you must always look for evidence, do not be bowled over simply because it exists.
27. Understand the process of rationalization.
28. Beware of the A-B fallacy.
29. Be aware of the distinction between consistent evidence and conclusive evidence.
30. Beware of the search for the 'right answer.'
31. When it is possible to check facts for yourself, do so.
32. Be aware that reality is complex, not simple.
33. Beware of the 'mind-reading fallacy.'
34. Decide to continue your education until death.
35. Find out what's going on.
36. Listen to newscasts on the radio and watch them on television.
37. Watch less commercial television.
38. Watch your local educational channels.
39. If you have any problems with speech, use the radio, television, films, and tape recorders to help solve them.
40. Be selective in your choice of television talk-shows.
41. Make a point of visiting aquariums, museums of natural history, and planetaria - frequently.
42. Take a speed-reading course.
43. Take advantage of your local library.
44. Develop the habit of making notes.
45. Depend on your dictionary.
46. Keep a daily journal or diary.
47. Become actively interested in others and, if you can manage it, somewhat less interested in yourself.
48. First learn - and then remind yourself every day - that simply because you read something in a book, magazine, or newspaper, it does not automatically follow that it is true.
49. After you have done your homework, speak out.
50. Begin to accumulate a personal library of works relating to the subject of reason and brain-function. [with book list]
51. If your car has a cassette-tape or CD player, start using your auto as a private university on wheels.
52. Rethink your religion.
53. When possible, spend time with people brighter than yourself.
54. To see how well you think out loud, make tape-recordings of yourself.
55. Avoid wasting time.
56. Make frequent use of maps.
57. Determine to make your own contribution to the cause of reason.
58. Familiarize yourself with the commonly accepted scientific view of the universe.
59. Beware of political rhetoric.
60. Remember that much truth is relative.
61. Don't be afraid to change your mind.
62. Remember that no two things are ever the same.
63. Know that no one thing remains the same for very long.
64. Understand the difference between the concrete and the abstract.
65. Don't kid yourself.
66. Eliminate trash from your reading.
67. Exercise a degree of control over your emotions.
68. Understand the difference between fact and opinion.
69. Look for the evidence before making up your mind.
70. Enjoy the classics.
71. Don't equate your ideas with yourself.
72. Remember that you do not think at random but because of motives and reasons.
73. Resolve to get a good, broad-based, general education, even if your formal schooling has ended.
74. Look for problem situations in your own experience where you can apply the procedures suggested in this book.
75. Stop thinking you 'don't have time' to improve yourself.
76. Encourage your own creativity by studying creativity itself.
77. Play thinking games and amuse yourself by trying to answer puzzle questions that exercise your mind.
78. Pay attention.
79. Realize that everything is open to criticism.
80. You must become more familiar with history than you are.
81. Become familiar with the General Semantics movement.
82. Consider the possibility that your tastes in music are related to your degree of overall intelligence.
83. If you are a parent, resolve, right now, to make it possible for your children to become more intelligent than you are.
84. Take good care of the organ you think with. [dangling preposition]
85. Use your presumably improving intelligence when it comes to diet.
86. Be willing to apply your rational powers to a critical analysis of your own society.
87. Don't waste school time on trivial pursuits.
88. Know that dumb ideas often have dumb consequences.
89. Respect intellectuals. Don't deride them.
90a. Beware of mass movements and the herd-behavior they encourage.
90b. If you're a parent resolve to make sure your children are better informed than you are.

[There are actually two "Rule No. 90" entries in this book.  Is this one of Steve Allen's tests?  See Rule No. 78.]

91. Don't be taken in by the apparent confidence of speakers.
92. Beware of assuming that credentials establish intelligence.
93. Get in the habit of using an encyclopedia. [Does Wikipedia count?]
94. Form the habit of attending lectures.
95. Stop thinking that if something has been seen on television it is therefore truly important.
96. If you have the good fortune to live near an outlet for the 'Store-of-Knowledge' chain, make it your business to shop there.  [Founded in Cerritos, California in 1993. Bankrupt as of July 23, 2003.]
97. Become involved with the Character Education movement.
98. If the twenty-four shows of the public television series Meeting of Minds are viewable in your area, watch them.
99. Be humble when consulting your memory.
100. Take your children to museums.
101. Use the Internet, but keep your guard up. [Another dangler]


Reflections
- Prometheus - 1994 - 326 pages

"Only the atheist has a logical explanation of existence of evil.  Unfortunately he has a somewhat unsatisfactory explanation of the existence of good."

"I am powerless to resist the temptation to read.  I perceive the magical, wondrous power of reading, and it disturbs me that others do not share this insight ... One of the chief distinctions between humans and their fellow animals lies in the knowledge we have accumulated.  The chief method of that accumulation is the writing of books."

"Evil is swift; good is slow.  We are wounded quickly, heal slowly.  We destroy in a moment.  We build at a snail's pace ... If there is only as much good in the world as there is evil, then we are doomed, for evil is so powerful."

"President Ford is doing an interesting job running the government.  The very first thing he said as president was that we've absolutely got to cut down on government spending.  The next morning he asked Congress to give Mr. Nixon $850,000."

"The true decadence of Nazi Germany was that nothing was forbidden to its leaders.  We must not fall to the same depths."

"There is general concurrence that American society, as we approach the year 2000, is in a state of deep crisis.  Evil has always existed, but now it seems dominant."

"Nature cannot make a typewriter; man cannot make a rose."

"The other day Mr. Nixon spoke at a prayer breakfast and said that we should ask God what he wants America to be.  Nineteen men have already gone to jail [February 1974] for the crimes of Watergate and there are more to come.  The only reason Spiro Agnew isn't in prison is that it would be embarrassing for the American people to have a vice president behind bars.  And here is Nixon saying we should ask God what he wants America to be."

"Slavery, before it became a social reality, existed first as an economic idea.  The bare concept is simple enough.  If one can force workers to do painfully difficult labor and, by one means or another - including hideous applications of brute force - avoid paying them, the financial results are highly advantageous to the employers.  Although it is immediately apparent that there was something not only immoral, but violently evil, about such a system, to the almost totally Christian population of Europe and the American colonies who instituted and maintained it for centuries, the economic advantage succeeded in casting a haze of invisibility over the moral aspects of the equation."

"We can be reasonably certain about concrete things, but often can't be that scientific or certain about abstract things.  Many people forget that difference and argue about abstract words like freedom, tyranny, and religion as if they were using concrete words like salami, motorcycle, and tennis ball.  Consequently, these people sometimes don't think very clearly about such matters.  And because they don't, they may vote unwisely or do other things that are not good for the country and its people."

"Poor writing and poor speaking derive from poor thinking."

"The man who sarcastically calls others bleeding hearts and do-gooders brands himself as the unfeeling boor that he is, and it's time to call such critics what they are: black-hearted do-nothings."

"Our planet is more important than any of its constituent parts."


But Seriously ... : Steve Allen Speaks His Mind
- Prometheus Books - 1996 - 392 pages

"There is some hope, then, in the fact that not only theologians but political officeholders, scholars, scientists, journalists, dramatists, performing artists, and cartoonists have joined the growing ranks of those who realize that there is no profession - no person - exempt from responsibility to prevent nuclear suicide."

"He [William F. Buckley, Jr. (1925-2008)] has always been amusing because of his refreshing and somehow winning arrogance.  His natural air of superiority ... is such that I presume it bars him forever from elective office, if that is any comfort to liberals dismayed at the entry of other rightist entertainers into the political arena.  It has long seemed to me that the combination of Mr. Buckley's flair for the drama plus his plutocratic elan makes him, in a sense, a far more romantic and classically tragic representation of The Conservative than the aw-shucks Mr. [Barry] Goldwater [1909-1998]."

[The hidden gem of this volume (pages 152-190) is "The Happy Jack Fish-Hatchery Papers" that mainly consists of correspondence between Steve Allen and writer Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976) regarding a proposed fund-raising dinner for Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley (1917-1998).  It is not possible and it is ill-advised for me to try to summarize this exchange between two artists with significant English-language skills.  The letters should be read and enjoyed in their entirety.  I had not previously been impressed with the intelligence and humor of Mr. Trumbo until I read these pages today.  JAM 1/18/2017]

"I am therefore obliged to state that my opposition to political tyranny does indeed take in all 360 degrees of the circle that stretches to the political horizon, which is to say that I am also revolted by Nazism, Fascism, and McCarthyism.  It is all very well for Communists to resent the criticisms of Liberals and Democratic Socialists; the hard fact remains that Liberals and Democratic Socialists in power do not send Communists to execution chambers and political prisons; whereas Communists in power - in country after country - do indeed exercise a barbarous vengeance against those members of the non-Communist Left whom the Communists correctly identify as their true rivals for the political affections of the masses."

"After visiting Vietnam in 1963 I did a television documentary saying we could not win a military victory there with less than one million American troops and that, since we were clearly unwilling to make such an investment, we ought to begin getting out."

"Violence enlarges constantly, moving like a blight or deadly viral disease across our society.  Simple social courtesies are rarer now [1989].  Much of this, accompanied by other evidences of physical and moral collapse, has happened during the recent eight years in which a doddering old smile-specialist [Ronald Reagan] has reportedly been making us 'feel good about ourselves.'"

"What we are considering now is the evidence that hatred - which is anger organized, anger incorporated, anger as an ongoing motivator of social conduct - appears to be far more dominant in the lives of some who consider themselves followers of Jesus than do the traditional Christian teachings about love, compassion, and the desire to treat all of God's children justly ... It is no statistical accident that many of those professional killers accurately described by the word 'terrorist' in today's world would not dream of feeling the emotion of guilt at the commission of their assorted atrocities but rather see themselves in heroic terms ... Whatever the virtues of Islam - and all forms of religion have at least some - they clearly do not include the love for one's neighbor that Jesus preached ... War, of course ... actually depends for its successful prosecution on rooting out tender Christian concerns and replacing them with the most maniacal forms of evil and destruction.  And there is certainly no shortage of embarrassment to Christianity in the consideration of that sort of fierce and warlike behavior of which Christians, by the millions, have been guilty over long centuries."

"I think ... of the shock I felt when, in my twenties, I first heard that term so popular with conservatives - bleeding hearts - applied, with a sneer, to those who, like John Cogley, actually wished to do something practical for the poor.  Such a term, of course, used as an expression of contempt, revealed far more about those who uttered it than it did about the targets of their invective.  Conservatives of the world, can't you see that we need more, not fewer, bleeding hearts?"

"[Ignatius] Loyola [1491-1556] taught ... that all physical appetites are, by nature, insatiable and that it is wrong to become enslaved by them, but the American social and economic system actually depends not only on satisfying any and all appetites, but on creating and stimulating them if they do not occur naturally ... [Loyola] gave thought to the seven deadly sins.  Every one of them is now accounted not only as a virtue but an aid to the effective working of our economy [as follows] Pride? We are never at present urged to resist its temptations ... Covetousness - the lust for money and possessions?  There are now Christian spokesmen who argue formally that financial success is a sign of God's special favor ... Lust?  The American marketplace could scarcely exist without it ... Anger?  In our time and place, it is admired partly because in films and television it is equated with courage ... Gluttony?  An entire advertising and manufacturing industry exists to encourage it ... As for envy, if by some sort of spiritual magic, it were to vanish overnight, the results in the business world would be catastrophic ... Sloth is scarcely mentioned in the present day.  The equivalent operative word is leisure.  A massive industry is erected to disguise the fact that leisure can often lead to boredom, and most especially when the pursuits of it makes possible are trivial."

" ... there is not the slightest doubt that of the literal totality of religious opinion on planet earth, a certain percentage of it is absolute error and intellectual garbage ... I've never known a religious believer who didn't thoroughly agree.  He would almost certainly be blind to that portion of nonsense in his own philosophy, but would enthusiastically concur that as regards the views of others, a great deal of absurdity is preached and believed."

 


Vulgarians at the Gate: Trash TV and Raunch Radio - Raising the Standards of Popular Culture
- Prometheus Books - 2001 - 419 pages

"It has been widely noted that for at least two decades the three major television networks have been experiencing a significant erosion of their audience.  What is happening might be referred to as the suburbanization of television.  The more discerning viewers are going off to Public Broadcasting System (PBS), the Discovery Channel, Arts & Entertainment (A&E), the History Channel, and many other news, business, and entertainment cable channels which, by and large, present superior programs that appeal to more discriminating viewers.  So far so good.  But there is a negative aspect to the equation and this is that, as the brighter viewers for the most part give up on network television, the networks' programmers feel they must continue to present shows that appeal to such viewers as they have, which inevitably adds to the general dumbing-down process that is now so troubling ... as a result of this heated competition to dominate the low end of the television marketplace, I am doubtful we have yet seen the depths to which television is capable of plunging."

"We owe to former President Ronald Reagan the unhappy fact that the FCC no longer much exercises such power [over broadcasting of vulgarity].  As part of his much-publicized effort to 'get government off people's backs.' Reagan deliberately removed the teeth from the FCC, apparently under the bizarre assumption that the broadcast media was fully capable of policing and censoring itself.  To state the point in the simplest possible terms: as of the year 2000 it was not."

"Perhaps the only thing more inherently disgusting than the [rap] lyrics themselves are the defensive references to First Amendment rights made by those who earn large amounts of money marketing this garbage to our youth."

"What kind of a society will we leave to our children - one dominated by media conglomerates that push anything for a quick buck, or one that reflects the highest standards of our heritage?  It's up to us to do something about it ..."

 

Autobiography

Mark It and Strike It - Holt, Rinehart and Winston - 1960 - 432 pages

"One of the reasons I have never permitted television to become my whole life is that it is a very here-today-gone-tomorrow business."

"Hitler's German legions, for example, were Christian, and so were the men who dropped A-bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki."

"... I have no firm recollection of ever having been twenty-three.  What a pathetic, wet-behind-the-ears age it now seems.  I was my present size, I had a wife, a baby, and a job as a radio announcer in a big city.  My voice must have been heard daily by hundreds of thousands of people - yet I was really a child masquerading as an adult.  Being thirty-eight years of age at the moment, I would like to God bless all people of twenty-three, all the poor, stupid, sweet, young people who think they have grown up and who smoke and drink and mate and have children and read popular magazines and haven't the vaguest idea of their pathetic ignorance or immaturity.  I imagine an awfully large number of twenty-three-year-old soldiers get killed in wars.  It is a terrible age."

"Audiences in general have fascinated me.  The most interesting thing about them is that they have a definite single character.  Though it is comprised of a thousand individuals an audience has only one personality.  I suppose it is this fact which makes it easy for demagogues and dictators to control large masses of people; they are really not controlling a million entities, just one."

"There is so much to do in this big, ugly, and beautiful world, and I know that like every man I shall die before I accomplish an infinitesimal fraction of what my fissioning imagination with a will of its own suggests to me."

"Currently (during a tiny particle of time, universally speaking) there are certain technical advantages which have fallen to the white man.  But there is no indication whatever that with the passing of another thousand years those technical advantages will still be available to him.  Indeed the reverse seems lately to suggest itself.  Science tells us there is no such thing as racial superiority.  As a matter of fact, those who feel they are entitled to be proud are usually not the truly superior members of their own races.  It is usually the lunatic fringe, the unstable element, the inferior types who are frantically insistent on asserting their superiority to something.  But no man is immune to the spread of harmful conceit; though it may start with the crackpots it can contaminate the majority for the simple reason that it appeals to the baser instincts that are part of all of us."

"... some people in TV can conceive better programs, and there are people and ideas on the contemporary artistic and intellectual scene that could be brought more frequently before television cameras if enough of the audience cared.  The ratings prove they don't."

Hi-Ho, Steverino: My Adventures in the Wacky World of TV - 1992

 

Farm Workers

The Ground Is Our Table - Doubleday And Company - 1966 - 141 pages

"At the moment you hold this book in your hand an American child is lying in a rural hovel, ill unto death.  He has never gotten the kind of health-care he would have enjoyed in the city.  His parents have no money saved for visits by a doctor or treatment at a hospital.  It would be dramatic to say that you can help that child.  The harsh reality is that you cannot.  He will die."

[My copy of this book is a first edition in excellent condition with dust jacket.  As I thumb through it, it appears that it has never been read.  It is also an ex-library book stamped "Lebanon [Pennsylvania] Community Library" and "DISCARDED".  To me, this is tragic.] 

"Whipsawed between the evils of the bracero program and the perversity of some growers, the American field-worker has been a pariah in the midst of plenty, a second-class citizen in a proud democracy."

"While Public Law 78 clearly stipulated that American workers were to be given preference over braceros, [Cesar] Chavez discovered in Oxnard many local domestics were unable to get jobs ... Chavez made a habit of filing complaints with the director of the California Farm Placement Service.  Over the course of several months he actually filed 1100 complaints.  Eventually he telephoned a U.S. Labor Department inspector in Los Angeles and persuaded him to come to Oxnard to inspect a field where braceros were working illegally.  The inspector ordered the grower to remove the braceros and hire local people.  The grower complied, but when the inspector returned to Los Angeles the locals were dismissed and the braceros put back to work!  This scene was repeated again and again until the day Cesar Chavez led over a hundred workers to a field after notifying newspapers and television stations of his intent."

"Though he was emphatically denied our nation's highest office, [Senator Barry] Goldwater did represent Arizona in the nation's capitol for a number of years.  There he mirrored the Southwest character, the rugged, blunt-spoken frontier attitude that trusts chiefly the land and the animals.  Quite in character, he plugged for the retention of the bracero program that gave big growers cheap manpower at the expense of the domestic farmhand."

"... Chavez grew up in labor camps and farm towns in California.  His organization is more a movement that a union.  Now [1966] three years old, the 2000-member FWA has, beside its own credit union, an unheard-of achievement, an insurance program, the newspaper El Malcriado, and a grievance committee to investigate job misrepresentations and file compensation-insurance claims for members who cannot read or write English."

"As might have been expected there are those among the local Delano [California] clergy , however, who know what side their bread is buttered on and therefore have either remained neutral in the controversy [grape boycott] or else have sided with the growers.  Their position is remarkably like that of those clergymen in the South who for two hundred years have been afraid to speak out for social justice for Negroes simply because such public statements would expose them to the disapproval, or worse, of the power elite.  It is, after all, somewhat easier to be brave about Birmingham and Selma if one lives in Milwaukee.  And it is easier to be brave about what is going on in Delano if one's church is not located in the immediate vicinity."

"The human verdict has long since been given about those individuals who accumulate enormous concentrations of wealth and power not necessarily because they are superior in intelligence or virtue but sometimes because - by accident of birth, commercial timing, or some quality of aggressive selfishness - they have stored up in their vaults treasures that, if equitably distributed, could support the families of 10,000 honest workingmen."

 

History

Meeting of Minds - Hubris House/Crown - 1978 - 181 pages

[The Meeting of Minds series is probably the greatest achievement of Steve Allen's remarkable career.  Allen devised a creative way to present history by bringing the words, opinions and thoughts of various historical figures into mini-debates between four of them at a time.  This creation could also be identified as science fiction since the individuals were brought back to life from different centuries, and given a refresher course in modern history as well as the ability to communicate with each other in one language (English).  The series was presented in 24 installments on PBS from 1977 to 1981.  There was an incredible amount of research and organization involved and Steve Allen reserves the most credit for the end product.  The concept began in 1959 but was delayed for so many years because network sponsors were fearful that the series would expose the serious political opinions of "comedian" Steve Allen and therefore, somehow, cause a decline in the sale of the sponsors' products.  To Mr. Allen's credit (and despite the shameful actions of short-sided corporations), this wonderful series was produced on independent television and then made available on various media including four volumes of hardbound books.]

[President Theodore Roosevelt, Queen Cleopatra, Father Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Paine, President Ulysses S. Grant, Queen Marie Antoinette, Sir Thomas More, Dr. Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, Emily Dickinson, Galileo Galilei, Attila the Hun]

Meeting of Minds (second series) - Crown Publishers - 1979 - 247 pages

[Frederick Douglass, Empress Tz'u-bsi, Marchese di Bonesana Cesare Beccaria, Marquis Donatien Alphonse Francois de Sade, Martin Luther, Voltaire, Plato, Florence Nightingale, Sir Francis Bacon, Socrates, Emiliano Zapata, Susan B. Anthony]

Meeting of Minds Vol. III - 1989

[St. Augustine of Hippo, The Empress Theodora of the Byzantine Empire, Thomas Jefferson, Bertrand Russell, Aristotle, Niccolo Machiavelli, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sun Yat-Sen, William Shakespeare and others: Woman, Hamlet, Romeo, Ghost of Hamlet's Father, Othello, Iago.]

Meeting of Minds Vol. IV - 1989

[Margaret Sanger, Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi, Adam Smith, Niccolo Paganini, William Blake, Leonardo da Vinci, Daniel O'Connell, Oliver Cromwell, Catherine the Great]

Travel

"Explaining China" - Crown Publishers - 1980 - 339 pages

[Steve Allen made three trips to China during the 1970s amid the great "Cultural Revolution".  This volume takes the reader to the places and people that he saw.  At the same time, this is a history book, a book of philosophy & opinion, and a search for the childhood home of his wife, Jayne Meadows.]

"The program ('A Variety Show') was fascinating.  One of the songs was titled 'I Love the Oil Fields of the Motherland.'  A singer with an Irish-tenor sort of voice and his pianist wore dark gray Mao suits.  The piano, a small concert grand, was manufactured in China.  Next we saw The Dance of the Red Lantern.  The performers, by the way, do not formally accept applause, and in fact receive surprisingly little.  When they conclude their numbers they immediately are either enclosed by a curtain or else walk briskly offstage."

"... I have long been on public record as disagreeing with President Harry Truman's decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The weapons could have been demonstrated to the Japanese without the slaughter of almost 200,000 men, women and children, mostly civilians."

"... the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was a Utopian experiment, not withstanding certain aspects of nobility, which ultimately failed, I would think, because it was based on an unrealistic assessment of human nature ... Where Mao, Chiang Ching and the Gang of Four went wrong was in carrying to harsh extremes a program that might have succeeded had it been conducted on a more rational basis.  Since there was a point, after all, to the argument that a Marxist society could hardly permit a return to the class divisions that were part of the old order, and since it was a good thing if the nation's fortunate few - the intellectuals, artists, bureaucrats, officials - knew precisely what life was like for the 90 percent of China's population living in rural areas, the people might have supported a program something like that of the Mormon Church in which the faithful are required to give one year of their lives in full service to the church before turning to more personal pursuits.  But to deliberately keep artists, scholars, administrators and others in the countryside for years was a combination of vindictiveness and stupidity which, not surprisingly, in time produced a reaction."

"A French thinker once said that every so often a man ought to take a chair, put it on top of his kitchen table, get up and sit in it, since doing so would give him a fresh angle of vision on long-familiar objects.  My three trips to China have put me in a chair on my kitchen table."

Religion

Beloved Son: A Story of the Jesus Cults - Bobbs-Merrill Company - 1982 - 241 pages

[In 1971, Steve Allen's second son, Brian notified the family that he had joined the "Love Family" Church of Armageddon in Seattle, Washington and changed his name to "Logic Israel".  This book is the of Steve Allen's ten-year education regarding Jesus cults in the United States of America.]

"I have been a lifelong student of propaganda from various churches and sects."

"If every person who is absolutely convinced that he has had a personal conversation with Jesus Christ in recent years is to be believed, then it would seem that Jesus is sending out more such messages than ever before in history.  There would be nothing wrong with that in itself - if it actually occurred.  The problem is that a good many of the messages are mutually contradictory.  It might be helpful if we could convene all those who believe they have been personally instructed by Christ so that they might thrash out the matter among themselves."

"... the true measure of man may be taken when he is displeased, when he has been contradicted or frustrated.  It is in such situations that a person of character will reveal his mettle.  There is certainly a time and place for standing up for principle, for speaking truth to power, insisting on the virtuous course, even for fighting back, by legal and moral means.  But there is never any justified place for an excessive, vicious spitefulness.  Such retaliatory attitudes are characteristic not of great men and women but of fanatics."

"If [Reverand Sun Myung] Moon imagined that his almost hysterical anticommunism would ingratiate him with Christians and Americans of traditional affiliation, he was very much mistaken, at least in the long run.  Initially he did deceive many conservatives and Christians by his fervent conservatism, but his name is now mud among Washington officialdom, despite the fact that he managed to sit in a section reserved for guests of the President, the Vice-President, and Congress during Ronald Reagan's swearing-in ceremony."

"I naturally do not suggest that life is either all intellect or all emotion.  Nor do I argue that nonrational equals bad.  There is much to life that lies outside of the scope of reason but is nevertheless valuable: the beguiling evidence of the physical senses, the content of dreams, the beauty of nature, the appeal of the arts - music, poetry, painting.  Indeed, love and sex are hardly the result of logical decision.  But the successful life is one in which the two conflicting modes of thought are maintained in some sort of oscillating equilibrium.  There must be balance.  Rationalists err if they delude themselves that the affairs of society are fully subject to the control of the reason pure and simple.  But to abandon reason is to convert society into a sort of large, unwalled madhouse in which every person is his own authority."

"Part of the problem at present is that once the untrained mind has made a formal commitment to a religious philosophy - and it does not matter whether that philosophy is generally reasonable and high-minded or utterly bizarre and irrational - the powers of reason are surprisingly ineffective so far as changing the believer's mind is concerned.  The uncomfortable reality must first be faced that science, reason and the factual record all taken together are inconsistent with a great part, if by no means all, of religious belief, though not of morality.  If we arbitrarily limit our historical research to the last five hundred years and examine the particulars of every argument that pitted the church against science, we find that by and large science has represented the more reasonable and factually correct side of the debate."

"There are still uncounted millions of young people who approach their twentieth year with only the most confused understanding of the whole area of sex, love, and marriage.  To many the three seem merged into one puzzling blur, so that millions still confuse instinctual sexual attraction with love, and then, assuming that one should marry whomever one loves, stumble into marriages, many of which cannot possibly succeed.  Many of today's young people, of course, have different ideas about sex, love, and marriage than did earlier generations, but the majority are obviously still making the historic mistakes."

[Brian departed from the Love Family in 1984 after a dispute with the leader (Paul Erdman/"Love Israel").  During an interview on October 8, 2015, Brian stated: "The leader became very corrupt.  There was a group of us  who asked him to step down, and he didn't want to step down, so I stepped out.  To be honest, in the Love Family we had our good and our bad and our ugly, and the part I liked best was the good."  Because of financial problems, the Love Family lost much of their property and many members in 1984.  The Love Family became bankrupt in 2003 although some of the groups splintered and continued commune-type existences.  Love Israel died on February 1, 2016 of prostate cancer at the age of 75.]

Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion & Morality - Prometheus Book - 1990 - 428 pages

"My Christian brothers and sisters, consider, I pray you, that you may be wasting precious time and energy, both of which are limited, in preaching to the poor and ignorant in backward parts of the world.  Are not your dedication and courage far more needed in a massive, worldwide campaign to convert the millions with whom you daily rub shoulders, those who allegedly defend the God of love by the most hateful methods, defend the God of truth with disingenuous lies and circumventions, and defend the God of justice with the most outrageous injustice?"

"The death penalty, in democratic societies, will continue to be inflicted until the majority becomes civilized enough to appreciate its essential horror and depravity."

"... I have, in just a few minutes' time, dictated the following list of commandments, widespread adherence to which would certainly improve the world ...
1. Honor love as the greatest of virtues, for it brings both immediate and distant blessings, and turn your face against hatred for it produces much of the evil in the world.
2. Strive always to be honest, not only in deed but in word.
3. Be generous in all ways, for as you are grateful for the generosity of others bestowed upon yourself, so you must share your blessings with others, and not only in the material sense.
4. If there is an all-loving God, a person would be a heartless child who would not love such a Father.  In the day of his coming, if it occurs, the loving heart will know how to respond.  In the meantime, be compassionate to that concerning which there can be certain knowledge: the world and its inhabitants.
5. Educate your children and yourself till the day of your death, for knowledge brings power to improve the world, whereas ignorance leads to confusion and misery.
6. Value freedom by being philosophically tolerant, for, though all intellectual camps are certainly not of equal value or virtue, there is as yet no court of universal appeal.  If you would have freedom to live by the light of your own conscience, you must grant the same to others, so long as they do not transgress reasonable legal codes.
7. Respect the property of others, as you wish the world to respect your own.  You have the right only to what is freely given to you, what has fallen into your hands through the generosity of nature, or what you have worked to obtain in an honest manner.
8. The vows of mutual love, exchanged in marriage, are legally and morally binding.  Do not hasten into marriage, for by that act you renounce your freedom to engage in romantic or sexual contact with others.  This commandment, too, is largely an expression of the Golden Rule.
9. Because you would not want to be physically abused yourself, therefore do not abuse others.
10. You have heard it said that children must respect their parents.  There is great wisdom in this instruction, but only insofar as parents respect their children."

"One of the most brazen insults ever offered to God was in the preaching, which persists to the current day, that the threats found in the book of Ezekiel are, beyond question, the words of the Lord.  If they are, then human on the planet live in the most detestable world imaginable, under the daily vengeance of a vicious Supreme Being whose acts are, in fact, far worse than those commonly attributed to the Devil.  Perhaps only Hitler, of all the oppressors of the Jews down through history, has perpetrated such outrages against them as the Lord is said to guarantee in the book of Ezekiel."

"I have long been convinced that a good part of the evil in the world, in addition to coming from criminally psychopathic sadists, also issues from the ranks of the Marvelous Fellows who, once they become convinced of the correctness of a given spiritual or political philosophy, are thereafter quite prepared to authorize the worst sort of cruelties on the grounds that such means are a necessary defense of their society or 'democracy.'  We must all realize that the American freedoms proclaimed in Fourth of July oratory - if, alas, frequently dishonored at other times - were by no means brought about at the urging of any traditional church.  They were achieved, in the majority of instances, over the dead body of the church, though certain individual churchman were sometimes helpful.  That is the reason why, in the American social context among others, lifelong vigilance must be maintained against religious dogmatists."

"The Bible contains an enormous amount of false information and myth."

"I am, as a result of the present study, now of the firm opinion that to the extent that the total goodness of God can be defended as a philosophical proposition, the last place to which the devout believer should turn for supporting evidence is the Bible.  There is better evidence in Nature herself - in the inherent order, enormous scale, largesse of air, water, food, sunlight, breathtaking beauty, in the human capacity for love and virtue - than in the familiar accounts of assorted slaughter, sex crimes, atrocities, murders of infants, tortures, and other abominations we read about in the Old Testament.  If all such crimes were committed by men the scriptural authors pointed to as evil, if they were condemned in some manner, some enlightening moral might be drawn.  But a great many, the devout believer is told, are performed either by God himself or by esteemed leaders and kings on his personal, clear-cut instruction!"

"A good many Christians, oddly enough, including Ronald and Nancy Reagan, are ignorant of the fact that it is not intellectually possible, or religiously respectable to hold Christian doctrines on the one hand and also to believe in astrology, numerology, or other pseudosciences on the other."

"Dear Christian and Jewish friends, I know thousands of you personally.  one of the reasons I love you is that you are personally so much better than many of your professed beliefs and religious ancestors."

"As for the poppycock about Noah taking pairs of 'every living thing of all flesh,' we are here faced, obviously, with a story written by a person so ignorant of biology that he assumed that only the few dozen living species with which he might have personally come into contact constituted the entire spectrum of animal life on planet earth.  Schoolchildren now know that there are millions of forms of animal life when we include the insects."

"The point demands frequent repetition: the Bible is in no sense the simple word of God.  Either it is not the word of God at all or if it is there is nothing simple about it.  It is rather a collection of books of incredible complexity, so impenetrable that, after 2,000 years, some of its secrets remain inaccessible.  To this day it is demonstrably the case that if, say, the Mormon religion is true and complete, then Christian Science, for example, is largely stuff and nonsense; that if the Baptist faith is truly of God, then the Catholic version is a monstrous affront to the Deity; that if Rome is right then Canterbury is sadly misguided; that if Jehovah's Witnesses constitute the true Christian fold then the Presbyterians ought to be ashamed of themselves, etc., ad infinitum."

 

More Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion & Morality, Book Two - 1993

"As both devout theologians and atheists understand, the kingdoms of faith and reason are two quite separate domains, although there is a certain overlapping area between them."

"... I know many Jews living today and because of familiarity with their virtue I consider a good deal of the material in the Old Testament an insult to the intelligence of so superior an ethnic group."

"I had been reading about burnt offerings for several weeks before it suddenly occurred to me that there was something inherently stupid about the practice of placing perfectly good food ... upon an altar and destroying it by fire ..."

"Freedom is precious - there is less of it in the world than we suppose - yet there are millions of Americans who rarely, if ever, go to the polls, rarely interest themselves in basic questions that affect their own lives; rarely give thought to the heroic sacrifices that our forefathers made in battle and death to bequeath us that freedom."

(Re Historical Evidence of the Bible) "But what would the reader think of a book on American history about which the most complimentary thing that might be said was that it was perhaps 25 percent accurate as regards certain factual details?"

"... the Bible is a poor source indeed for factual information."

"... it causes us extreme discomfort to acknowledge and internalize any information that stands in contradiction to what we want to believe.  An illustrative instance would be the reaction of millions of Ronald Reagan supporters to assorted bits of information that gradually established his remarkable ineptness.  Even many who were in the neutral or Democratic camp took quite a long time to get Reagan in focus.  He was, after all, our president - and for two terms at that - but even though literally hundreds on instances in published material flatly opposed the image of the genial, alert Great Communicator, it took a full decade for the American public to develop a more realistic picture of him.  It was simply too painful for his admirers to see that he was inadequately educated, poorly informed about both history and modern world events, thoroughly dominated by his driven wife, given to dependence of professional astrologers, and possessed of nothing more than the smiling geniality of the average salesman or radio announcer ..."

"... a language is not at all like a system of mathematical statements.  A language consists on the one hand of a strange assortment of noises made by the human mouth, and on the other of an equally peculiar assortment of marks on paper.  Not a single one of these noises or marks, or any combination thereof, can be said precisely to equal the physical or abstract reality it hopes to convey."

"Liberals for the most part oppose capital punishment; favor some degree of gun control; believe that the millions of American poor absolutely require a degree of government assistance; have specific programs to assist minority communities; tend to be more libertarian and relativist in their philosophical views; and realize that in a world still armed with nuclear weapons, old-fashioned bluster and threats toward other nations are dangerous emotional luxuries."

"No fair-minded student of the biblical record, who makes an earnest effort to let that record speak for itself, can fail to conclude that the Bible is, in the most literal sense, the greatest insult to God ever perpetrated."

"Some religious opinions are beautiful, moral, enlightening, uplifting; others are bizarre, crazy, socially dangerous, vengeful, personally destructive.  There are millions of religious fanatics in the world.  Some of them act crazy.  You wouldn't want them in your house.  You wouldn't want your daughter to marry one of them.  In addition to all the fine, admirable things done for religious reasons throughout the centuries, countless evil acts have also been perpetrated by religious individuals for religious reasons."

"In the case of the Old Testament, however, great percentages of its passages are devoted to descriptions of such unedifying behavior.  If one is determined to interpret the Bible as the word of God then that fact presents a troubling problem.  If, however, the Bible is perceived as what it almost certainly is - merely a fascinating account of a particular ancient people - then the problem evaporates."

"Religious people might find it difficult to believe, even for purposes of speculation, that personal virtue can flourish outside the framework of religion.  But everyone knows admirable individuals whose integrity is not derived from a religious background.  There might be an innate, specialized, genetic gift for virtue, just as there clearly are specialized gifts for music, art, mathematics, philosophy, or athletic prowess.  Those who become saints - and almost every faith has its holy ones - may in fact be nothing more than geniuses of virtue, just as others are geniuses in the arts or sciences."

Instructional

How to Make a Speech - 1986

How to Be Funny - 1987 [re-released in 1992]

Humor, Music, Poetry, Children's Books

Bop Fables - Simon and Schuster - 1955 - 68 pages

The Funny Men - Simon and Schuster - 1956 - 279 pages

Wry on the Rocks - Henry Holt and Company - 1956 - 177 pages

The Question Man - Bellmeadows Press - 1959 - 128 pages

Bigger Than a Breadbox (with Leonard Feather) - Doubleday - 1967 - 260 pages

A Flash of Swallows (as "William Christopher Stevens") - Droke House - 1969 - 102 pages

Princess Snip Snip and the Puppykittens (drawing by David Gantz) - Platt & Munk - 1973 - 48 pages

Curses! or ... How Never To Be Foiled Again: A Collection of Verbal Vengeance for Every Occasion - Hawthorn/Tarcher - 1973 - 119 pages

What to Say When It Rains - Price, Stern & Sloan - 1975

Schmock-Schmock! (with Thomas Ellis Katen) - Doubleday - 1975 - 189 pages

Chopped-Up Chinese - Price/Stern/Sloan - 1978 - 48 pages

Funny People - Stein and Day - 1981 - 323 pages

More Funny People - 1982

Make 'em Laugh - 1993

Gullible's Travels - 1995 [audiotape]

The Bug and the Slug in the Rug - 1995

100 Song Lyrics by Steve Allen - 1999

Steve Allen's Private Joke File - 2000

Fiction 

Fourteen for Tonight - Henry Holt and Company - 1955 - 192 pages

The Girls on the 10th Floor - Henry Holt and Company - 1958 - 188 pages

Not All of Your Laughter, Not All of Your Tears - Bernard Geis Associates - 1962 - 374 pages

The Wake - Doubleday - 1972 - 177 pages

The Talk Show Murders (with Walter Sheldon) - Delacorte Press - 1982 - 314 pages

Murder on the Glitter Box -1989

The Public Hating: A Collection of Short Stories - 1990

Murder in Manhattan - 1990

Murder in Vegas  - 1991

The Murder Game - 1993

Murder on the Atlantic - 1995

The Man Who Turned Back the Clock and Other Short Stories - 1995

Wake Up to Murder - 1996

Die Laughing -1997

Murder in Hawaii - 1999