Part of the 10 Questions with an Atheist series.
Hemant Mehta, blogger at and author of , is probably best known for putting his .
Before then he attended the University of Illinois at Chicago where he graduated with honors in both Mathematics and Biology. He is now earning his Masters in Math Education at DePaul University.
While at U of I Chicago, Hemant helped establish their first secular student group, Students WithOut Religious Dogma (SWORD).
Mehta is also the Chair of the (SSA) Board of Directors and has worked with the Center for Inquiry. He’s an SSA representative to the .
He currently works as a high school Math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. Everyone, welcome Hemant.
1. How would you describe yourself: atheist, agnostic or skeptic? Explain.
Atheist. It’s the word I first came to identify with and it’s stuck with me ever since. It’s also the one that has the worst stigma and I’d like to confront that stigma head-on by embracing the word.
2. When did you know you were an atheist? Did it scare you or was it a non-issue?
It was scary… I was raised with religion and I prayed and believed in a god. So when it started dawning on me that God might not exist, it was a freaky thought. The first night I went to bed without praying, I remember waking up and checking for bruises or some other sign that a god had punished me. I was scratch-free, so I figured I was onto something.
3. Ever suffer persecution as an atheist?
Not as much as other people I know. I’ve never lost a job or relationships with family members because of it. I have had a few first dates never call back because they knew I didn’t believe in God, but that’s about the worst of it…
4. What do you want to accomplish with your life?
Wow. I’m not sure. I enjoy teaching students right now (I work at a high school). I also love writing and talking about atheism and spreading the “good word.” For the time being, it’d thrill me to know I’m helping religious people make the transition into atheism because they can relate to things I write or talk about.
5. Who are your heroes? Why?
I think anyone who confronts authority for good reason deserves to be commended. I’ve heard from high school students who try to start an atheist group in the Bible Belt… and atheists who have risked friendships and popularity by standing up for what they believe. They’re regular people doing amazing things. I love that.
6. What would you like to accomplish with your blog?
I’d love for my website to be a place for real conversations about religion — with atheists and religious people commenting freely. I want to help people feel safe coming out as an atheist. I want them to bounce ideas off my readers. And I hope it will let me have a voice in the broader atheist community.
7. What’s your favorite part about being an atheist?
Umm… the women. Obviously.
8. Are there any Christian concepts that you respect?
As cheesy as they might be, I like the people who believe Jesus = love. Those are not the gay-bashers. They believe in church/state separation and compassion for others and caring for the poor and social justice. If they get that motivation from their faith, great. There are plenty of good reasons for those things outside religion, but Christians who are doing good works deserve respect for their actions, at least, if not their supernatural beliefs.
9. Does it irritate you when Christians try to share their faith with you?
Only if they’re not listening to what I have to say in response.
10. Were you ever a Christian? Would you go back?
Bonus question: What’s your take on Peter Singer?
I’ve never really read his stuff, so I’m not one to comment. Yay for vegetarianism, though.
Hemant, I think I speak for all my readers when I say thank you for opening up to us. I appreciate the time and thought you put into answering these questions. Feel free to expand on anything above.
Now, anybody have any comments or questions for Hemant? Ask away. Looking forward to hearing from you.