Rebecca Goldstein - This year's recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award
Rebecca Goldstein grew up in White Plains, New York, and did her undergraduate work at City College of New York, UCLA, and Barnard College, where she graduated as valedictorian in 1972. She was born into an Orthodox Jewish family. Rebecca has taught philosophy at Bernard College as well as at Columbia, Rutgers, and Trinity College. The Christian Science Monitor named her book, "36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction", as the Best Fiction Book of 2010.She is married to last year's Dawkins Award winner, Dr. Steven Pinker.
Dr. Steven Pinker
Dr. Steven Pinker is an experimental psychologist and one of the world’s foremost writers on language, mind, and human nature. Currently Harvard College Professor and Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, Pinker has also taught at Stanford and MIT. His research on visual cognition and the psychology of language has won prizes from the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Institution of Great Britain, the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, and the American Psychological Association. He has also received seven honorary doctorates, several teaching awards at MIT and Harvard, and numerous prizes for his books The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, and The Blank Slate. He is Chair of the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary, and often writes for The New York Times, Time, and The New Republic. He has been named Humanist of the Year, Prospect magazine’s “The World’s Top 100 Public Intellectuals,” Foreign Policy’s “100 Global Thinkers,” and Time magazine’s “The 100 Most Influential People in the World Today.”
Richard Haynes (Brother Richard) is a writer and public speaker living in Atlanta, Georgia. He was raised in a nonreligious home, but as a teenage runaway, he had a "born again" religious experience. Almost immediately, Richard became an evangelist and personally led hundreds of individuals to Christ. Richard went on to receive a degree in Biblical Studies, and became an associate minister in a 12,000-member Atlanta mega-church. In 1993, a couple of months after the birth of his eldest daughter, Richard, and his wife Angela, made the agonizing decision to leave their church which was engulfed with scandal. Terrified and unemployed, they began their long and arduous journey to rationality and nontheism. Richard is now secularly ordained and has dedicated himself to building nontheist communities, and encouraging others to "come out" of the atheist closet. He is President of Atheist Nexus International, Inc., the world’s largest coalition of nontheists and nontheist communities, and maintains the blog "Brother Richard's Life Without Faith" at Patheos.com.Richard works with Atheist Alliance of America as a consultant, focusing on working with our affiliate organizations.
Amanda K. Metskas
Amanda K. Metskas is the President of the Secular Coalition for America and currently serves as the acting chief executive, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Coalition on an interim basis. Metskas has served on the Secular Coalition Board of Directors since 2009, including in roles as Vice President (2013) and President beginning in January of 2014. Metskas has served as the Executive Director of Camp Quest, one of the Secular Coalition's voting member organizations, and Vice President of the Humanist Community of Central Ohio. In 2009, Metskas co-authored “Raising Freethinkers: A Practical Guide for Parenting Beyond Belief”, with Dale McGowan, Molleen Matsumura and Jan Devor. She holds an M.A. in political science from The Ohio State University, and a B.A. in international relations and psychology from Brown University.
August Brunsman is the executive director of the Secular Student Alliance. He has served in that position since 2001, and started getting paid for it in 2004. He also worked as a programmer for the Institute for Humanist Studies from 2001 to 2004. In 1997 he co-founded Students for Freethought at the Ohio State University where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 2001 majoring in psychology and minoring in mathematics and cognitive science.He served as the Secretary of the Board of the Humanist Community of Central Ohio from 2009 through 2013. He has volunteered in a number of roles for Camp Quest since 1999. August served as the Secretary of the Board of the Secular Coalition for America from 2006 through 2012. He is a member of the Humanist Society and performs nontheistic weddings, naming ceremonies, and memorial services as a humanist celebrant. His hobbies include cycling, painting, drawing, gardening, cooking, and programming.
Mynga Futrell is a Sacramento-based activist and retired educator who is active in several fields. She holds a B.S. in Chemistry and Earth Science, M.S. in Natural Science and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in Science Education.
In the civics arena, Futrell is co-founder (with husband, Paul Geisert) and director of the Brights movement, an organization set up to promote civic acceptance of the naturalistic worldview, and to encourage people who have a naturalistic worldview to participate in civic endeavors. She has served on the advisory board of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.
In the education field, she is on the advisory council of the California 3Rs (rights, respect, responsibility) religious liberty project for teachers initiated by the First Amendment Center. She is also lead curriculum developer for Worldview Education: Teaching about Religion in Support of Civic Pluralism, a religion-neutral professional web resource for educators.In the freethought movement, Futrell is vice-president and past president of Atheists and Other Freethinkers, and sits on the board of directors of the American Humanist Association.
She has been an educator at all levels of instruction, from an elementary open classroom through university professor.
Rebecca "I'm actually an atheist" Vitsmun
Most people will remember Rebecca Vitsmun from last year's CNN interview with Wolfe Blitzer where she responded "Well, I'm actually an atheist" to his repeated question of "Did you thank the Lord?" after her home was destroyed in an Oklahoma tornado.
She spoke at the Atheist Alliance of America convention in Boston last year and was such a hit that we just had to have her back.
The start of Ian Harris' comedy career was pretty traditional — relationships, observations, the usual.
But after the birth of his daughter, Harris decided the life of a touring comedian would be too tough on his new family. He took some time off, intermittently doing comedy in between doing voice-over work, running a gym and training MMA fighters.
When he decided to get back into comedy in 2011, Harris said he didn't want to return to the same old thing. He is a fan of science but not of religion. Harris, a longtime atheist, wanted to do something a bit closer to home.
"I'd always done some jokes about ghosts or religion, but it wasn't very cutting edge," he said. "When I came back I said, 'I'm going to do something I really enjoy.' Before my agent would say, 'Do the impressions and talk about your family and let's get you a sitcom.' Once I was removed from the scene, I realized that I could do whatever I wanted because 'Mad TV' doesn't have to see me do my impressions.
"I find beliefs to be funny," Harris said. "For whatever reason, I think it's hilarious. I love science, and I love doing scientific debunking through comedy."
As a "skeptic comic," Harris takes aim at commonly held beliefs, including religion, ghosts, the paranormal and alternative medicine.
"People always want to debate me," he said. "I think it's fun to have that discourse. People think that means that I want to be angry and want to argue, but I don't go around looking for fights."
Horus Gilgamesh was raised Catholic before being “born again” in college when he began following a calling toward full-time ministry, Mainly focused on youth evangelism and Biblical literacy around the world, he found himself on a missions trip to Africa when a fearless young boy approached, pleading, “Chakula? Maji?“ - Swahili for “Food? Water?” Having only a Bible to offer the child, Horus suddenly became quite aware of his own guilt in sidestepping the realities of this life while selling a promise of an eternal one. For the next five years, he took a very critical look at Christianity, culture, and the teachings of the Bible - a journey that ultimately led him away from the faith.
Horus later teamed up with his good friend and illustrator, Agnes Tickheathen to create a private online gag page for a circle of interfaith friends. The project quickly took on a life of its own as a growing fan base demanded the development of their first bestselling book, “Awkward Moments (Not Found In Your Average) Children’s Bible.” Known for his wit, wisdom, and patience when conversing with “crazy Christians" and "militant atheists” alike, his Facebook page (http://facebook.com/AwkwardBible) continues to be one of the fastest growing outlets for people who are willing to think critically about what they were taught in Sunday school as children.
Dr. Richard Carrier
Richard Carrier is a world-renowned author and speaker. As a professional historian, published philosopher, and prominent defender of the American freethought movement, Dr. Carrier has appeared across the U.S., in Canada and the U.K., and on American television and London radio, defending sound historical methods and the ethical worldview of secular naturalism. His books and articles have received international attention. With a Ph.D. from Columbia University in ancient history, he specializes in the intellectual history of Greece and Rome, particularly ancient philosophy, religion, and science, with emphasis on the origins of Christianity and the use and progress of science under the Roman empire. He is the author of Proving History: Bayes's Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus, Sense and Goodness without God, Not the Impossible Faith, Why I Am Not a Christian, and Hitler Homer Bible Christ, and a major contributor to The Empty Tomb, The Christian Delusion, and The End of Christianity, and for his copious work in history and philosophy, online and in print. He is currently working on his next books, On the Historicity of Jesus, Science Education in the Early Roman Empire, and The Scientist in the Early Roman Empire.
Born in poverty on St Louis’ north side, Steve Hill has acquired a lifetime of experience in what it’s like to grow up in America as an African American male.
After graduating high school in 1979, Steve continued in his father and brothers’ footsteps and joined the United States Marine Corps. He served for 5 years, becoming a Sergeant, and moved to Los Angeles to work in the aerospace industry.
7 years later, he became restless for a more exciting endeavor and joined the California Department of Corrections (CDC). He gained insight into the system by working at 2 maximum security prisons for 10 years.
Due to a “slight” disagreement with the CDC, Steve was re-trained as a Real Estate Appraiser. He founded his own company, Anaverde Appraisal, in the Antelope Valley (in northern LA county) during the early 2000’s real estate boom.
The mortgage meltdown and Wall Street corruption cemented his decision to speak for those in the middle class with no voice, lobbyist or advocacy group. With an extremely keen sense of humor, he hits the stage with a stand up performance that enables people to see relevant issues from a very funny, but drastically different, perspective.
Steve has set his sights on spreading his knowledge for the upcoming 2014 midterms. He performs as an activist all over the United States.
Diana Castillo is the State Chapter Coordinator for the Secular Coalition for America. As part of her job, she organizes volunteers to lobby for secular issues on a state level, which includes legislative analysis and lobby trainings. She holds a B.A. from Smith College in government and Latin American studies. Prior to joining the Secular Coalition, she interned and volunteered with COLAGE, an organization that works with youth with LGBTQ parents and guardians.
Ben works wth the Pathfinders Project, a yearlong international service trip sponsored by Foundation Beyond Belief, a nonprofit created to focus, encourage, and demonstrate humanist generosity and compassion. Through Pathfinders Project, humanist volunteers (the Pathfinders) are supporting clean water, education, human rights, and environmental conservation work around the globe. In July of 2014, the Pathfinders will work with Foundation Beyond Belief to select and develop the launch site for the Humanist Service Corps.
Prior to the beginning of this project, Ben Blanchard was a biomedical major at St. Cloud State University, serving as president of SSA-SCSU as well as VNC for the UpperMidWest Network for the National SSA. Now is is traveling around the world to try to help lay the ground work for the Humanist Service Corps.Ben aspires to create plastic-eating bacteria, then become a pediatric oncologist. In his free time, he enjoys absorbing knowledge, friendly debates, doing science, and amassing nerd-cred.
Hardware designer, software programmer and author, Bob explores intellectual arguments in favor of Christianity (Christian apologetics) from an atheist perspective and critiques Christianity’s actions in society.
He is the author of several books, including Cross Examined: An Unconventional Spiritual Journey, and A Modern Christmas Carol. He is also the blogger behind Cross Examined, which resides in the Atheist Channel at Patheos.com.
Sam Mulvey is Executive Producer of Ask An Atheist and continues to work alongside a group of talented volunteer hosts, production assistants, and writers to bring the voices and stories of freethinkers to the airwaves. Nearly as important as the media itself is our growing community of nonbelievers. To that end, the crew of AaA frequently hosts post-show meetup events in the Tacoma area.Sam is an atheist grown from a long line of agnostics, Sam was shocked by poor media coverage of atheists while collaborating with co-creators Mike, Casey, and Jeremy to make Ask An Atheist a reality.Besides hosting, Sam organizes AaA events in the Tacoma area and is responsible for most of the post-production on radio episodes. He sits on the board of directors of Humanists of Washington, and is a former board member of Seattle Atheists.
Travis "The Big Funny" Simmons
Travis Simmons (aka The Big Funny) is highly regarded & widely applauded for his brilliant observations and amazing impressions! The Big Funny Travis Simmons has over 3 million video plays on Youtube and he is in the Regular rotation on Raw Dog Comedy and Jamie Foxx's Foxxhole on Sirus XM Satellite Radio. He is a crowd favorite everywhere: “2012 Grit City Champion,” “2013 Big Sky Comedy Competition Runner-up!,” & 2nd runner-up in "2009 Seattle International Comedy Competition”.Travis decided to dedicate his life to making people laugh by being honest, telling the truth, and sprinkling in an impression or two.
Marsha Botzer has served the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and progressive communities for over 30 years, as a founding member of Equality Washington, the Seattle LGBT Center, and on boards of Pride Foundation, Safe Schools, Lambert House, Seattle Counseling Service, and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. A founding member of Equal Rights Washington, a past co-chair of Seattle’s LBGT Commision and chair of the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services Advisory Committee, Marsha also served as co-chair of The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in 2005-6 and 2009-10. She is a founding member of Out in Front Leadership Project, founded Seattle’s internationally known Ingersoll Gender Center, and served as a national co-chair of the 2008 Obama Pride Campaign. In 2009 she served on the Leadership Committee of Equality Across America and spoke at the Capitol Rally in Washington, DC. In 2011 Marsha received the Jose Julio Sarria Civil Rights Award and the Washington State GLBT Bar Association Award. In 2013 she was selected for the Inaugural U.S. Edition of the Trans 100 List.