Dan became a teenage evangelist at age 15. At 16 he was choir librarian for faith-healer Kathryn Kuhlman’s Los Angeles appearances. He received a degree in Religion from Azusa Pacific University and was ordained to the ministry by the Standard Community Church, California, in 1975. (See ordination.) He served as associate pastor in three California churches: Arcadia Friend’s Church (Quaker), Glengrove Assembly of God (Hacienda Heights), and Standard Christian Center, an independent Charismatic church loosely affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ tradition) in Standard, California. Dan was a Protestant missionary in Mexico for a total of two years.
Dan preached for 19 years. He maintained an ongoing touring musical ministry, including eight years of full-time, cross-country evangelism. An accomplished pianist, record producer, arranger and songwriter, he worked with Christian music companies such as Manna Music and Word Music. For a few years, Dan wrote and produced the annual “Mini Musicale” for Gospel Light Publications’ Vacation Bible School curriculum.
For more than two decades, Dan was accompanist, arranger, and record producer for Manuel Bonilla, the leading Christian singer in the Spanish-speaking world. He accompanied on the piano such Christian personalities as Pat Boone, Jimmy Roberts (of the Lawrence Welk Show), and gospel songwriter Audrey Meier, and was a regular guest on Southern California’s “Praise The Lord” TV show (Spanish). One of Dan’s Christian songs, “There Is One,” was performed by Rev. Robert Schuller’s television choir on the “Hour of Power” broadcast. To this day, he receives royalties from his popular children’s Christian musicals, “Mary Had a Little Lamb” (1977), and “His Fleece Was White As Snow” (1978), both published by Manna Music and performed in many countries.
Following five years of reading, Dan gradually outgrew his religious beliefs. “If I had limited myself to Christian authors, I’d still be a Christian today,” Dan says. “I just lost faith in faith.” He announced his atheism publicly in January, 1984. He tells his story in the books Losing Faith in Faith (1992) and Godless (2008).
Dan was PR Director of the Freedom From Religion Foundation from 1987 to 2004. He was elected co-president of the Foundation with Annie Laurie Gaylor in 2004, with whom he is co-host of Freethought Radio, a national weekly talkshow. He is a contributing editor of Freethought Today and is involved with the Foundation’s state/church lawsuits. He regularly travels the country and the world giving lectures, performing concerts, and participating in debates with theists, many at college and university campuses.
Nathan was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1976. He grew up in Macon, Georgia after moving there with his family at the age of 10. He returned in 1997 to attend Speed School at the University of Louisville and holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Electrical Engineering. Nathan presently works as a software engineer at Intel Corporation in Louisville. Indoctrinated at a very young age, Nate was brought up black Baptist and was a devout believer in Christ. After being selected by the pastor of his church to serve as a deacon, Nate immersed himself into studying the bible as well as several supplemental texts to prepare for ordination and began to teach Sunday school. He was ordained as a deacon at his church in 2005. Continued study through out the years raised question after question regarding the validity of the bible and the notion of a loving deity. Unable to gain answers from the bible and church leaders, Nathan could no longer reconcile the numerous errors, inconsistencies and horrors he’d learned of in the bible. He eventually came to the conclusion that the evidence did not point to a god and he left faith and superstition behind in 2010. Nathan joined Louisville’s atheist community in 2013 and has enjoyed sharing his coming out of religion story as well as participating in numerous events to get the word out that it is ok to be a non-believer and it is ok to reject the unfounded claims. He currently resides in Louisville, Kentucky with his wife Monica and sons, Aaron, Jordan and Zion.
Matt Dillahunty hosts the Austin-based webcast and cable-access television show and podcast The Atheist Experience. He served as the president of the Atheist Community of Austin from 2006 to 2013, and formerly hosted the live internet radio show Non-Prophets Radio. He is also the founder and contributor of the counter-apologetics encyclopedia Iron Chariots. Matt is regularly engaged in formal debates and travels the United States speaking to local secular organizations and university groups as part of the Secular Student Alliance’s Speakers Bureau.
Raised Southern Baptist, Matt sought to become a minister. His religious studies, instead of bolstering his faith as he intended, led him to no longer believe in Christianity and, eventually, all religions. Matt spent many years in the US Navy, before leaving to work in the field of computer software design. In 2011, he married The Atheist Experience colleague and co-host of the Godless Bitches podcast Beth Presswood.
In 2011, Matt was awarded the Atheist of the Year award by Staks Rosch writing for Examiner.com. He received the 2012 Catherine Fahringer Freethinker of the Year Award from the Freethinkers Association of Central Texas. Matt is one of the subjects of the 2014 documentary film My Week in Atheism by director John Christy.
Jim G. Helton
Jim is the Regional Director for American Atheist. He is the Founder & President of the Tri-State Freethinkers. He is the Overlord for Hemant Mehta The Friendly Atheist overseeing legislation for OH, KY, IN, WY, & WA. Through his organizations he has adopted the highway in front of the Creation Museum, challenged Gideons bible distributions, and abstinence only programs in public schools. He believes in giving back to the community and helped organize over 50 community service projects last year.
Dr. Nicole Gugliucci
Nichole is an astronomer, educator, and writer currently living in the St. Louis area. While in graduate school at the University of Virginia studying radio astronomy, Nicole discovered a passion for science education and outreach and has been teaching in some way ever since. She has most recently worked at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville as a postdoctoral fellow, instructor, and informal education lead for the citizen science project CosmoQuest. Nicole also blogs about science and skepticism for various sites, including Skepchick and School of Doubt, and she posts far too many pictures of her dog on Instagram.
Following the death of her infant son, Rebecca Hensler discovered that most online grief support groups are dominated by religion and spiritualism. Alienated by talk of angels, heaven and signs, she conceived an alternative: secular peer-to-peer support, free of mythology and mysticism. In 2011, Rebecca founded Grief Beyond Belief, an online community devoted to faith-free grief support.
Rebecca is a middle school dean with a BA in political activism and a MS in counseling. She runs Grief Beyond Belief — the original Facebook Page, the 1500+ member Facebook GBBGroup, and griefbeyondbelief.org — with the collaboration of a handful of volunteers. Through talks like this one, she aims to expand the availability of secular grief support in regions in which it is most needed.
Will is an evolutionary and cultural psychologist at the University of Kentucky. Broadly, he is interested in why people believe what they believe about the world. His research focuses on the cognitive, evolutionary, and cultural forces that facilitate supernatural beliefs—and how these beliefs, in turn, affect cognition, evolution, and culture.