By Matt Coker
By R. Scott Moxley
By Charles Lam
By Nick Schou
By Gustavo Arellano
By Gustavo Arellano
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
Originally from New Jersey, Tim Leedom was born to a Quaker father and Catholic mother, yet he somehow turned out to be a flaming liberal—and a University of Kansas football standout. His stint in the football program overlapped the playing days of future Chicago Bears Hall of Famer Gayle Sayers and future mediocre Bears quarterback Bobby Douglass. But the teammate Leedom remains closest to is his former brother-in-law Les Steckel, who in 1984 replaced the legendary Bud Grant to become the third coach in Minnesota Vikings' history and at 38 the youngest coach in the NFL at the time. Steckel made more history when his team lost a franchise-worst 13 games in his lone season. Grant came out of retirement to replace him.
Leedom married (and later divorced) Steckel's sister, and the two buddies campaigned for Bobby Kennedy. But Leedom was drawn into the anti-war movement and politics, while Steckel was drawn into the Marines and God. Steckel's now president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
"We're still good friends, we just don't talk about religion," Leedom says. "He thinks the Earth is 6,000 years old. He's one of the greatest minds of the 13th century."
Leedom went on to complete his studies in journalism and political science at the University of Hawaii because "in Kansas, there was not much to do," while in the Islands during the '60s there certainly was plenty. He turned his college internships in government into full-time jobs as an administrative assistant to the governor and lieutenant governor of Hawaii and an aide to the state legislature.
He eventually returned to the mainland, and in 1978 started Manoa Valley Publishing Co., which he still owns. It put out Leedom's children's book, The Light Side, and a book on the Dead Sea scrolls he co-wrote with Silkwood producer Larry Cano. Leedom returned to his gridiron roots in 1984, starting a company that organized tryouts for pro-football prospects. He sold the business eight years later to a Newport Beach-based scout. Leedom went on to become an editor for 10 years at Truthseekers, the oldest freethought organization in the world, before landing at Intellevision, a Laguna Beach company that does film and TV commercial production work. He and Murdy are currently working on an Intellevision educational documentary together.
As if the film, publishing and athletic worlds were not challenging enough, Leedom has also branched into art, commissioning an oil painting called Satyagraba, the word Gandhi coined to refer to firm but nonviolent resistance. It depicts 20 men and women of peace, including Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, John Lennon, Anwar Sadat, Dag Hammarskjold, Yitzhak Rabin, Abraham Lincoln, JFK and RFK. The painting made the rounds to three presidential libraries (Kennedy's, Carter's and Clinton's) before winding up at the United States Peace Institute in Washington, D.C.
The vast contacts Leedom has cultivated over the years, in all his diverse lives, came in handy during the birthing process for The Book Your Church Does Not Want You to Read II.
"He's got friends in all walks of life," says Murdy, who has been working as Leedom's research assistant for eight years. "It's helped us a lot."
Fourteen organizations in this country, ranging from the People for the American Way to the National Educational Association, have issued a document that informs parents and teachers that public schools can be a proper place to teach Comparative Religions as an academic discipline. Such a course of study could make a major contribution toward erasing much of the religious illiteracy in this nation; it could also make a major dent in bigotry, prejudice and religious superstitions that exist everywhere. But now, when this issue is proposed locally, some will say, 'Oh, but we do not need or want our young people to be exposed to the other great religious traditions. All they need is Jesus Christ. That's where the truth is, for it was Jesus who said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Light." That's all our young people need.'
What people taking this position do not know—and this is a mark of their own religious illiteracy—is that practically every religious leader or hero has said exactly the same thing. Zoroaster used exactly the same words, saying, 'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light.' The Buddha used the same language, as did Lao Tzu of Taoism. The vast majority of mythological formulas attached to Jesus were borrowed from Mithraism, Zoroastrianism, Egypt, Babylon and the Greek Mystery religions.
The Book Your Church Does Not Want You to Read was published by the magazine for Truthseekers. It explored the myths, origins and identical stories of stellar/pagan/Christian beliefs, but the aim was to be more educational than inflammatory. However, Leedom notes it was also the first national publication to mention the then-budding pedophile-clergy scandal.
Contributors to the first book included Freedom From Religion president Dan Barker, former American Humanist Association president Edd Doerr and Cal State Long Beach religion professor Robert Eisenman, who has been credited worldwide for gaining scholarly access to the Dead Sea scrolls. But the writer who Leedom credits as being his most valuable player was the late TV pioneer Steve Allen.