Warren Allen Smith
- Category : 1921-births
- Type : MGP
- Profile : 1/3 - Investigating / Martyr
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Unexpected 3
American writer, humanist and gay rights activist, a World War II veteran and an outspoken atheist, he dubbed himself as "the atheist in a foxhole".
He wrote a 1,237-page tome, Who’s Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists and Non-Theists. The book’s list price was $125, which may have come as a relief to believers.
Since 1948, Smith compiled reams of research on the people who, like himself, either don’t believe in God, question God’s existence, or, at very least, are skeptical of all organized religions. The first 50 years or so of Mr. Smith’s research constituted a labor of love, of the non-theistic variety, but after getting a computer around 1990, he began to think that maybe he had a book.
Smith wore stylish neo-retro half-rim glasses and, from the neck up, looked like a well-kept Buck Henry. Neck down, he seemed to be channeling Ed Grimley, his dark work pants riding high on a reddish-orange, plaid-patterned work shirt. He was a proud "Stonewall Veteran." He always loved to raise a ruckus, get some attention.
Growing up in the tiny town of Minburn, Iowa, Smith played basketball with baseball great Bob Feller and listened to Dutch Reagan (Ronald Reagan) calling the play-by-play on the local radio station. His dad owned a grain elevator and played for the Chicago Cubs farm team. Mr. Smith was raised as a Methodist and served as pianist for the local church. "Being a good Methodist, of course, I believed that miracles could occur and God could stop the sun."
However, in his mid-teens, he began a 50-year journey through "nihilism, agnosticism, deism, Emersonianism, pantheism, transcendentalism, Unitarian humanism of the John H. Dietrich - Curtis W. Reese vintage, free thought, rationalism, naturalistic humanism" and, most recently, "humanistic naturalism."
Drafted into the U.S. Army, Smith first saw New York before being shipped off to Europe. Released from active duty, he returned to college under the G.I. Bill, studying philosophy at the University of Chicago and then returning to the University of Northern Iowa to major in English. There, in 1948, he said he founded the first Humanist Club on any college campus.
Mr. Smith hitchhiked to Columbia University, where he entered graduate studies and founded a second Humanist Club, of which intellectual John Dewey was the first member. Asked to define humanistic naturalism, Smith said, "To me the important thing is the scientific method of reason. I define things using the physical and natural sciences." But, said Smith, "I think it was Emerson who said, ‘Speak today what today you think, speak tomorrow what tomorrow you think. Even if it’s the opposite of what you think today.’ So, yeah, I change my viewpoint every day."
Around the same time as he entered Columbia, Smith met a Costa Rican student named Fernando Vargas, who would become his lover and business partner for over 40 years, until Mr. Vargas’ death in 1989. "We became lovers from the first week on," said Mr. Smith, adding that Mr. Vargas was an atheist as well.
When the 1950s arrived "nobody was out," so to speak, "but there was a subculture here that was wild." Smith and Vargas were mutually non-monogamous. Smith was in his late 20s before he really knew he was gay, and by that time, was already a humanist.
In 1961, Smith and Vargas opened up an independent recording studio in the Times Square area called the Variety Sound Corporation. Vargas handled the recording and Smith the accounting. In the more than 20 years that Variety was open, the customers included Liza Minnelli, whom Marvin Hamlisch brought in to record her first demo, Paul Simon, John Guare, Harold Prince, and for 25 years, cosmic jazzbo Sun Ra. Smith also taught high school English in New Canaan, Connecticut, and at the Bentley School in the city.
Smith, nearing 80, looked darned good for a heathen. "I do think I’m a happy person," he said.
Smith's book is a compilation of more than 10,000 names, according to the author’s count, including Manhattan director Woody Allen, a self-described agnostic with "one foot in atheism," according to his entry; humorist Steve Allen; billionaire Warren Buffett, agnostic; Microsoft’s Bill Gates; The Silver Chalice co-star Paul Newman; Die Hard franchise Bruce Willis; The Perfect Storm heartthrob George Clooney – doesn’t believe in Heaven and Hell, not sure if he believes in God; artists Lucian Freud, "not a believer in the various organized religions"; Frida Kahlo, atheist; Matisse; astronomer Edwin Powell Hubble; writers Samuel Clemens, Charles Dickens, Tony Kushner, Camille Paglia, atheist; Joyce Carol Oates; Harold Pinter; Will Self; Mr. Vidal; H.G. Wells; New York Times owner Arthur Ochs (Punch) Sulzberger Jr.; The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, agnostic; columnists Russell Baker, skeptic, Molly Ivins, non-theist; musicians Billy Joel, atheist; Michael Stipe, doesn’t believe in God; Barry Manilow, who once when asked if he believed in God, replied, "Yes. His name is Clive Davis, and he’s the head of my record company"; radio talk-show host Howard Stern; director Nora Ephron, who is included, not because she’s responsible for You’ve Got Mail, but because, according to Who’s Who in Hell, she told the Daily News in 1997 that she was not a believer in God "in a formal sense."
There on page 1,026 is an entry for Mr. Smith, where he describes himself as a "roué and a sybarite," a signer of both the Humanist Manifesto II and the Humanist Manifesto 2000, where he recounts how he earned his own place in Hell.
In 2015, Smith took control of the website Philosopedia, intended to be a resource for philosophers as well as a comprehensive index of the world's most prominent atheists. He died on 9 January 2017 at the age of 95.