The Gospel According to John
John Wilson grew up in Houston, Texas amidst a varied but conservative Christian family heritage. Baptized Lutheran, and raised Episcopalian with a touch of Baptist, John’s sense of Christianity developed in more liturgical settings. While the idea of a personal savior implanted itself early on, John turned seventeen before that concept truly took root, changing the way he thought and acted. John cultivated an early interest in Christian Apologetics and eventually earned a B.A. in Philosophy from Texas A&M University (2006). Toward the end of his undergraduate career, John engaged Contemporary Continental Philosophy, being confronted with thinkers like Jacques Derrida, Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, and Emmanuel Levinas. Studying these thinkers forever changed the way John viewed certainty, and undermined the confidence he had in traditional apologetic approaches and modern philosophical strategies. John’s post-graduate studies at Dallas Theological Seminary (M.A. Biblical Studies; M.A. Christian Education, 2011) further challenged John’s traditional understandings of faith and its relationship to certainty.
While he still identifies with more conservative expressions of Christianity, John feels compelled to explore the bounds of his faith, and has reworked his views on important doctrines such as Female Eldership, Paedobaptism, Annihilationism, and Universal Salvation. While these views are not very popular amongst his conservative friends, John has found a very welcoming and encouraging environment at Trinity Harbor Presbyterian Church (PCA) located in North Texas, where he lives with his wife and son.
The Gospel According to Jordan
Jordan Monge grew up in an atheist home in Orange County, California. Though her parents never taught her what to believe, they did always encourage her to ask questions. Between asking questions and attending her father’s philosophy classes, Jordan identified as an atheist by age 12 and began debating with anyone who was willing to pick a fight over religion. Little did her parents suspect that, eventually, asking the right questions would lead her to faith. As a Harvard freshman, Jordan got into a series of debates with a friend about ethics, God, and the Bible that she lost miserably. By the end of the year, she was baptized as a Christian. Though she still struggled with doubts, she hasn’t given up on faith yet. After graduating, she worked for The Veritas Forum, which host events on life’s tough questions and the relevance of Jesus to all of life. Now she is working as a tutor while working on another book project – a debate with her father about God.
In her Gospel, Jordan discusses how philosophy led her into the arms of Jesus Christ, the ways that others (who doubted!) helped her answer her questions, and how doubting doubt may help us return to where we started and to know the place for the first time.
The Gospel According to Daniel
Raised by a theology professor and reared in a seminary environment, J. Daniel Sawyer cut his teeth on words like “epistemology” and “fideism,” which put him at a severe disadvantage when it came to playground politics in grade school. An early and staunch adherent to natural theology, his interest in Christian history and world mythology led him to pursue a career as a writer in genre fiction, which he considers the modern domain of mythmaking and the native arena of popular philosophy.
While writing a book on ethics and the arts in Christian theology, Dan discovered that the faith he loved was no longer a faith he held. The experience marked subsequent fictional works–murder mysteries, comedies, and thrillers in several genres–which linger lovingly over the themes of doubt, responsibility, humility, humor, and the longing that humans experience when confronted with the naked face of incomprehensible grandeur.
When not writing or producing audiobooks, podcasts, and video shorts through his company AWP, Dan takes advantage of his native San Francisco Bay Area to participate in local motoring clubs, mentoring local youth in writing and critical thinking, and combating pessimism in all its pernicious forms.
In his Gospel, Dan explores doubt as a fulcrum of culture, delving into the history and ethics of impertinent questions, the heroes of doubt inside and outside of faith traditions, and the meaning of courage in the teeth of uncertainty.
The Gospel According to Faisal
Faisal Saeed Al-Mutar is an Iraqi born writer, public speaker, community manager, computer geek and a Human rights activist living currently in the United States. He is an advocate for freedom of thought, science, reason and the free market of ideas and economy.
Faisal is the founder of the Global Secular Humanist Movement and Secular Post.
The Gospel According to Alix
Alix Jules was raised in Brooklyn, New York, in the midst of a Haitian immigrant family strongly influenced by Roman Catholicism. Raised to value the power of the human intellect as a force for personal and social improvement, Alix also threw himself headlong into religious pursuits. After some time in preparation for the Roman Catholic priesthood, Alix rejected that tradition and began a journey of religious exploration and criticism that eventually led him to embrace of atheism, freethought, and Humanism.
Alix is the current Coordinator for the Dallas–Fort Worth Coalition of Reason, and is commonly involved in issues and topics regarding the role of diversity in the atheist community as well as atheism in diverse communities. He also chairs the Dallas–Fort Worth Coalition of Reason’s Diversity Council and is a former Executive Director for the Fellowship of Freethought, a family-based organization founded on the values of secular humanism and charitable principles. Alix has been featured in Ebony magazine, the documentary “Godless,” and is a national speaker on behalf of freethought and Humanism.
In his Gospel, Alix talks about the myriad ways in which doubt impacts different cultures, including the Black community in America. He discusses the distinctive way that faith vies for political power and influence in demographics that have been denied societal privilege, and how the value of doubt is a critical tool for personal and social justice.
The Gospel According to David
David Tamayo is president and founder of Hispanic American Freethinkers, Inc (HAFree – a 501(c)(3) non-profit national educational organization). He has a Bachelor in Computer Science from George Washington University and a Master in Management and Information Technology from University of Virginia at Charlottesville. David is former president and current vice president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of N. Virginia. He was a Director of the Board and founding member of Camp Quest Chesapeake (a Summer Children’s Camp in VA) and has served as Regional Platelets Donation Coordinator for Freemasons in VA. For many years, David volunteered as a mathematics teacher for GED students, and currently provides seminars on critical thought to High Schools in Virginia where he also volunteers as a high school mentor. He is an active member at Center for Inquiry, Inc. as well as half a dozen other secular organizations that inculcate education to young teens and adults.
In his Gospel, David discusses the challenges and opportunities that doubters face within the Hispanic/Latino community, both here in America and around the world. He also shares his experience with balancing doubt and belief within the Freemason community.
The Gospel According to Stephen
Stephen Mooney hails from Cincinnati, raised as a Christmas-and-Easter Presbyterian. Religion took a back seat to secular education but served as a cultural marker; “who we are” and “who we’re not” vs. “what we think.” He first looked at Christianity from the “hero-with-a-thousand-faces” angle, seeing faith through the tropes and themes of popular fiction. Others took religion much more seriously. Twice they transformed his life. First, when coming to terms with his own bisexuality at the age of sixteen, the anti-gay rhetoric from the religious right forced an ideological fight he did not choose. A decade later, he’d get another lesson in the political adulteration of religion when he joined the Army. Stephen has had careers as a theatre artist, an infantryman and a registered nurse.
In his Gospel, Stephen focuses on doubt and religion in the underpinnings of military conflict, in the Army experience, and as an Afghanistan veteran. He wrestles with the civic duties of faithful and faithless, arriving at a win-win situation in the judicious application of doubt in ultimate service to Christian principles.
The Gospel According to Tammerie
Tammerie Day was born and raised in South Texas, just north of Mexico, an upbringing that has shaped her cooking, ethics, and spiritual life. An abrupt shift at age 5 from the community church of her toddler years to a Southern Baptist church did not go well; she left the church at about age 15 and stayed gone until her own children were toddlers. In rapid succession, she left a successful career in corporate communications, spent a few years raising kids and writing books, found church again – among Mennonites of all places – entered seminary, helped start a new church, turned out to be happily gay, left the Mennonites, entered doctoral studies, and is now a working theologian who has served as a pastor and chaplain, and taught in seminary, undergraduate, denominational and congregational settings. An experienced and creative group and retreat leader, Tammerie has a deep appreciation for opportunities to cultivate the sacred in a wide variety of interfaith and faith-optional gatherings. She now lives in Hillsborough, NC, with her partner and two college-age kids. Tammerie is the author of three parenting books as well as Constructing Solidarity for a Liberative Ethic: Anti-Racism, Action, and Justice, published by Palgrave MacMillan in 2012.
In her Gospel, Tammerie explores the creative nature of doubt, as a spur to enliven spirit, body and soul; abandon death-dealing religions and faith systems; and re-conceive God. Her toolkit includes poetry, epistemologies, interpersonal neurobiology, mysticism, storytelling, and theological reflection.
The Gospel According to Melanie
Melanie Clemmer was born in Southeast Pennsylvania and was raised in the Franconia Conference of the Mennonite Church, now part of the Mennonite Church USA. She attended Mennonite-run schools from preschool to grade 12 that emphasized learning, spirituality, and what she now recognizes as a Humanistic philosophy. The same emphasis continued during her time obtaining a Bachelor’s degree at Messiah College in central Pennsylvania, where graduates where encouraged to use their training to make a difference in the world. Messiah was also where Melanie was exposed to different views well outside the Anabaptist tradition, an learning process that was part of the general education curriculum.
Melanie maintained an active part in the Mennonite church well after moving to Texas in 1997, facilitated by what some would call a “liberal” world view that allowed for women to actively participate in Church leadership and a strong emphasis on peace and social justice. During her late 20’s/early 30’s, however, after a period of self examination and meeting many new people and new ideas, she realized she could no longer be part of a community that still actively excluded people on the basis of sexual orientation or that expected people to accept one religion as the only right way. She began to explore other avenues of liberal Christianity and Universal faiths, and eventually came to the conclusion that Secular Humanism was the philosophy that allowed her to truly serve fellow humans without the constraints of a doctrine. Melanie has since become involved with the Fellowship of Freethought in Dallas serving as both Outreach Director and Executive Director. As Outreach Director she was proud to help pilot the Volunteers Beyond Belief program sponsored by Foundation Beyond Belief.
In her Gospel, Melanie explores the use of doubt as way of changing the social structure and creating a more free and just society without the trappings of religion.
The Gospel According to Zachary
Zachary Moore was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, in a loving Christian home influenced primarily by Reformed theology. The religious instruction of his childhood and adolescence emphasized Biblical literacy and conservative values, and he participated as an active member of the Church. During his early adulthood, Zach was exposed to the paradigm of Biblical literary analysis, and began a period of self-reflection and self-criticism which ended in his apostasy. Trained as a molecular biologist at the University of Cincinnati, he now lives in Dallas–Fort Worth with his wife and son. Since leaving his faith, he has become active in many freethinking and secular humanist organizations, and has served on the Board of Directors for Camp Quest Texas, the Fellowship of Freethought in Dallas, and the Foundation Beyond Belief.
In his Gospel, Zachary discusses the value of doubt to parents as they bring up the next generation of children, survey the broad landscape of secular organizations in America today, and examine the development of congregations and other church-like organizations that appeal to the modern disciples of doubt.