In 1880, freethinking attorney George Walser tried a new experiment in the American heartland — a community dedicated against Christianity, “the only town of its size in the world without a priest, preacher, saloon, God or hell.” In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we’ll tell the story of Liberal, Missouri — its founding, its confrontations with its Christian neighbors, and its ironic downfall.
We’ll also puzzle over how a woman can suddenly be 120 miles away in just a few minutes.
Sources for our feature on Liberal, Mo.:
J.P. Moore, This Strange Town — Liberal, Missouri: A History of the Early Years, 1880 to 1910, 1963.
Lawrence O. Christensen, William E. Foley, and Gary Kremer, Dictionary of Missouri Biography, 1999.
Tom Flynn, ed., The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief, 2007.
Steve Everly, “History of Southwest Missouri Town Shows Triumph of Faith Over Skepticism,” Nevada Daily Mail, Dec. 26, 2001.
Marvin Vangilder, “Missouri Town Might Assure Stockton as Atheist Target,” Associated Press, Sept. 4, 1963.
“Necrology,” Missouri Historical Review, July 1910.
“Missouri Geography: Community Experiments,” in Walter Barlow Stevens, Missouri the Center State: 1821-1915, Volume 2, 1915.
George Henry Walser, The Life and Teachings of Jesus, 1909.
This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener David White, who sent these corroborating links (warning — these spoil the puzzle).
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Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.
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