In Conversation with Melissa Krawczyk – Atheist, Secular Humanist, and Skeptic

Image Credit: Melissa Krawczyk.

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Melissa Krawczyk is an atheist, skeptic, and secular humanist by worldview and science mom, Arabic speaker in training, and author-to-be by professions, and has worked in a variety of domains including materials and engineering science, ergonomics consulting, and skincare. Here we talk about her work, views, and upcoming-unfinished book.

*Note: This interview was conducted on Friday, August 4th, 2017.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: You grew up in an Evangelical home on the east coast of the United States up to 2000. After 2000, you moved to California. What was life like in an Evangelical “born again” home?

Melissa Krawczyk: Until I was about 15, I grew up outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was a great home. I had a great family. We went to church a lot, but not excessively. Most of my friends were probably from church, and I had friends at school as well. We went to church every week. Sometimes, we had Bible studies. In the Summer we spent at least a week or two at Vacation Bible School. Some of those are my best memories. My parents were very loving and friendly people.

We had restrictions like not listening to music. We described it as only being able to listen to elevator music, so if you’d walk into a major building downtown and you heard it in the elevator, that’s about all we could listen to. So, no pop music. We didn’t get to watch many movies. We did get to watch televistion, but it had to be pretty bland, and generic. Nothing offensive.

I didn’t see a PG-13 movie until I was actually 13. My mom would let me go to dances, but we couldn’t tell my grandparents. It was restrictive, but it didn’t feel that restrictive as a child. There were just things we didn’t do that other friends got to. But I had a lot of friends and we had a lot of fun at church.

I don’t think I really realized that there was anything different from anyone else. It was just the way it was. It was a happy home life.  I will say that I became much more fundamentalist and Evangelical myself as I grew older – late in high school and college. More so than my parents. My own views diverged greatly as time went on.

Jacobsen: What were the views of the young earth creationist family members when no one else was watching?

Krawczyk: I don’t think any of us ever, ever thought of ourselves as young earth creationists. It was just the way it was for us. God created the Earth and everything in it in six, literal, 24-hour days, with a day to rest called the Sabbath. Adam and Eve were real people created by God and imbued with souls. They lived in this magical garden where there was no death. Everything was happy.

Dinosaurs, as far as I was aware, lived at the same time as people. There were references in the Bible that I was told referred to dinosaurs as “leviathans” or creatures with legs like Cyprus trees. They were big things. We were told that these were the dinosaurs. They lived alongside people. I never had any concept of how old the Earth was according to modern, real science. A couple thousand years seemed plenty old to me.

There were two original people. When Eve was tempted by Satan in the form of a snake in the Garden of Eden to eat an apple, she shared it with Adam. They were kicked out and everything perfect went bad. Therefore, we had original sin from that day forward. Basically, that mistake cost all of us ever after. When we are born, we are separated from God because of that sin by that first man and woman.

I think the most important features were that God created the Earth and everything in it. He created man and woman as they are today. There was no evolution at all. Everything was created as individual species. There was no change from one thing to another. I remember hearing things like “Well, we’re not descended from monkeys.” I don’t remember talking to my parents too much about it. I remember in school, the few times we started to talk in science about something that might touch on evolution, I remember them saying something like, “Just learn what you need to learn at school, we’ll tell you the real truth at home.”

They didn’t make waves. They went stealth, under the radar. This is the right thing, anyone who teaches you otherwise is deceived.  Sometimes people would say that scientists were being used by the Devil. That wasn’t very common, and I can’t say that I heard that from my own parents.

It was literal, 24-hour days. Humans appeared as they are. Even was created from Adams rib to be a helper, which subsequently meant that – I don’t if if the word subservient ever came up, but man was the head of the household.  Those things all go together.

Jacobsen: When did the young earth creationist view become untenable for you?

Krawczyk: I never really ran into anyone who questioned that until I was in college. Even then not a whole lot, because most of my friends were Christian from the Rensselaer Christian Association. I do remember, probably towards my senior year or even my first year in grad school, reading some books that were trying to reconcile the age of the Earth according to science with some of the creationist accounts in the Bible. I don’t remember finding anything convincing, but I do remember reading a few books. I am surprised I found anything at the time, because they would have been in the Christian bookstore. We didn’t really have the Internet resources yet, so it was a bit hard to find information. It was still tenable to me, even though I got to a point by the time I graduated as an undergrad where I didn’t think it was a big deal if another Christian thought an old earth was possible. As long as they believed that God created everything or had a significant hand in moving it along, I wasn’t so attached to the age of the Earth. It wasn’t not a core belief.

It wasn’t until a couple years after I graduated, that I was really encouraged to question things by my boyfriend at the time, who is now my husband. He would point something out as we were walking: “Look at that spider. Isn’t it amazing that spiders evolved to do these amazing webs.” He would tell me some scientific information and I would say, “It is an amazing example of God’s beautiful design work.” [Laughing] He would look at me. He couldn’t believe that I really thought those things and he would ask me questions. We would argue back and forth about it. Eventually it got to the point when I realized that I didn’t really understand enough of what evolutionary theory was to combat it. So I decided to start reading. [Laughing] You know what happens when you read… You learn things, [Laughing]!

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Krawczyk: Let me go back a bit, I think this was my year of grad school at RPI. The church I was involved in there was a Baptist church and they were the most strict, and most fundamentalist church I had ever been to and I was really involved with that church my whole time at school.  They had an outreach program, where they would reach out to the new engineering students at RPI. They would suck us in, bring us to church, take care of us, feed us, love us. They were wonderful people. They were loving people, who were really happy to make us feel like we had a home away from home. One of the things that I do remember is going to an intensive course in  young Earth creationist science. I think the guy whose material we used was Kent Hovind. Looking back now, there were some very fantabulous ideas about how the great flood came about, with a canopy of water over the Earth, how they fed all of the animals on the ark, etc.

I had gotten a full indoctrination on some of these theories of “creation science.” I felt confident that this was really what happened. My pastor was telling me, and he’d studied, so clearly this was it. I don’t think I ever thought to question anything or look at any source materials.

It wasn’t until a few years after I graduated when my boyfriend was questioning me. I got frustrated that I couldn’t win the argument, so I started reading more books, and I started learning about what evolutionary theory was. I realized I didn’t know anything about it. The little snippets I got growing up were that we are not descended from monkeys. Well, no! That is not what evolutionary theory says. It doesn’t say we’re descended from monkeys. I learned about natural selection and about common ancestry and things I had never heard before. It was until I found a book called Finding Darwin’s God by Kenneth Miller who I believe was either a microbiologist, or a cell biologist, but also a practicing Catholic, which, by that point I had decided did fall into the realm of Christianity.

Reading his book – and I read it twice, though I couldn’t recall much of it right now – but he gave me permission to allow myself to think about the science as potentially true and yet not have to discard my belief in God. It had been framed as a choice like that to me for years. You either believe it all, or you’re not a real Christian.

Jacobsen: I believe there is a term for that called False Dichotomy.

Krawczyk: Yes! Reading his book was a big turning point for me. It allowed me to look at the science and learn. I still believed in God. Miller gave something that was a potentially plausible way for both to be true – for me to continue believing and not have to turn my back on everything, but still advance with science.

I was an engineer. I was in materials science and engineering. I wanted to be an astronaut. I was not anti-science. I just had this big section of things that I was not allowed to touch. I didn’t let myself analyze it. You are not encouraged to question these ideas as a child. It just is. It just is the way it is. I’d say about 15 years ago was when I really accepted evolution, but I was still a believer.

Jacobsen: What were your rationalizations for being a good Christian?

Krawczyk: We were taught from a very young age to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your soul.” God is the person you love above all other people.

We were created to worship Him and to love Him. So, my rationalization for trying to be a good Christian was to show God that I loved Him. I wanted to do what was right. God was right. Anything that he said was right. Whatever commandments were in the Bible – those were right.

Showing your love for God was obedience to his commands. The Bible was literally true. I wanted to please him. I wanted to show that I was a good person. I wanted to go to Heaven.

Even though we were told that once you accept Jesus Christ into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior, and have a relationship with Him, that you were saved, and that you’d be together with God in Heaven, there was also definitely fear. Fear that I wasn’t really good enough. Fear that I wasn’t really saved, that I hadn’t done it right. I’ve met a lot of other Christians who came from similar backgrounds who always worried that when they asked Jesus into their heart to save them from their sins, to wash away their sins. That we didn’t do it right. That quite a few of us found ourselves doing it again. That saying the sinner’s prayer – Lord forgive me, I accept Jesus into my heart – still left fear in the background.

Mostly, I was doing what I thought I was supposed to do. I believed there was an omniscient, omnipotent Creator who was up up there watching everything I did and I wanted to please Him. He was our Father; our Father in heaven. You want approval from your parents.

There was one other thing that made me want to try to be a good Christian. In high school, I wasn’t terribly good. I fell away from the things that we were supposed to doing, like most teenagers, you get involved with relationships and I was a bit promiscuous, that sort of thing. When I got to college, that was my chance to really get it right. I was going to do everything right. That became a strong driver for me. That is when I became really, really rigid and much more fundamentalist than I was growing up.

Jacobsen: When did you fall in love after graduate school? And how, was the time simply ripe?

Krawczyk: It was shortly after I had mutually broken off an engagement with a guy in Scotland. I was determined to date no one, but I met Tom through a mutual friend. He was a great guy and I really liked him. He called me and wanted to take me out after we met at a party. The biggest problem was that he was not a Christian, not a believer. That was a huge problem, even though I liked him. That was unacceptable. You are taught not to be yoked with non-believers, because you will pull in different directions and you’ll go in the wrong direction. You are only supposed to marry another believer, and really only be close friends with other believers. He had grown up without any religion at all.

His parents left Catholicism when they were teenagers. He was sort of a blank slate. He was willing to come to church with me. He came to Bible studies, he came to youth group meetings. He did all of these things. I figured that he was very interested and that if he was not a believer then, that he probably would be soon, so it was probably okay to date him. Once I told myself that, it was very fast. I just met the right guy. He was a great guy. It was pretty quick. It was a problem, though.

Jacobsen: Is that a common theme in interbelief partnerships or potential partnerships?

Krawczyk: I think it is a problem for a lot of people. It is a difficulty at least. It depends on how rigid your own beliefs are, how strong your own beliefs are, what type of background you came up in. There’s a lot of negotiation. For Tom and I, it wasn’t very difficult. He came to church but didn’t believe any of the stuff. As long as I didn’t try to make him believe anything, he was fine, he was supportive. He didn’t try to change my mind on anything. In this case, it was an overall easy situation. I was by far the most devout person he had ever met in his life. But I think it becomes more of an issue for a lot of people when you end up having children. We have two. Once we had our first child, it became more difficult because we had to navigate what things we would be teaching to our child.

Jacobsen: On the day after Christmas in 2010, you bought the book by Dan Barker entitled Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists. Did this trigger a transformation for you?

Krawczyk: Absolutely. I have no idea how I heard about his book. Absolutely none. I don’t know if I heard about it on a radio show or heard it being bashed or promoted. I have no idea. This is a plug for e-readers, because if I did not have a way to anonymously purchase that book, I would have never bought it. Kindle was a win. I had already had a number of friends encouraging me over the last 5 or 6 years, or even longer, to consider reading books and writing by people who did not believe, just to expand my understanding of other people. One of my friends was an atheist, but she didn’t really call herself an atheist. Her family background was Hindu, but she did not believe in God. However I heard of this book, I think it intrigued me that he was an ex-Evangelical preacher and songwriter. It completely stunned me that someone could claim that they had left and become an atheist.

I read that book. As I read it, he went through the arguments, stages in faith, various small crises as he was going through faith. I identified so much with them, because I’d heard all of the same arguments and questions and answers. I call them “Sunday school answers.”

By the end of it, I remember putting it down and sitting there quietly and saying out loud, “Everything I have ever believed is a lie.” It was crushing and dark. It had systematically destroyed every argument that I had to support my faith. I did not know what to do. I didn’t tell anybody that I read that book. I didn’t tell my husband. It was a depressing Christmas vacation.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Krawczyk: [Laughing] It was about celebrating the birth of Jesus and I was thinking, “All of it might be wrong.” It was really, very stressful. I don’t remember how long after, but not long after I thought, “Well, this is one person’s experience. I need to do some research.

I have to figure out if this is actually true or just one person?” So, I got online. Fortunately, we did have the internet at that point. I found a blogger named Rachel Held Evans who had written a book called Evolving in Monkey Town. She had grown up in an environment similar to mine in terms of the teaching that she’d received. She is pretty liberal. She had a blog that had all sorts of people and had things like “Ask A Lutheran,” “Ask A Jehovah’s Witness,” “Ask A Mormon,” and so on. I do not know if she did those particular groups, but at one point, she had “Ask An Atheist.” I thought that was interesting. It was the first time I realized it was okay to ask questions. Other people asked questions and I was not the only one asking questions about what I believed.

It was shocking to see the variety and depth of what people in the world believed. I had been exposed to other religions from friends – Buddhism and Hinduism – but vaguely. This was the first time I realized how many different types of Christians there are and beliefs.

Dan’s book started me on a path of reading and trying to understand, and learning, and asking questions a looking outside my own head for the first time ever. That was seven years ago or so. But I still believed for probably another four years.

Jacobsen: What is a positive of religion to you?

Krawczyk: Community. That is the one thing I remember from my childhood – always having people around who would care about you. It was like a big extended family. People you would probably get along with. If someone said they were a Christian, you knew they are probably very moral and good people [Laughing]. Those seemed like positives to me. Now I realize it’s a little more complex than that. But definitely community. Belief gave me a sense of strength. With God, I felt I always had a friend, I always had someone to talk to, I had someone to help me through hard times. I had someone to help me be a better person. I found a lot of strength in that for many years.

Jacobsen: Within what is called the atheist movement now, of course, it is a number of sub-movements. Some of which do not even talk to each other.

Krawczyk: [Laughing] That’s true.

Jacobsen: What are points of critique if you were taking a neutral outsider’s view that the movements, plural, should take into account to become more effective? Also, what should be the next step for them?

Krawczyk: I like to think of it as the atheist community rather than a movement. I know there are various movements within it. Some of them really seem to be at odds. A critique from the outside – I have come from the outside very recently – it has only been about ten months since I discovered that there was an atheist movement or an atheist community.

So coming from the outside – it looks like we eat our own [Laughing]. There seems to be such a drive to make everybody the same. That reminds me of religion, sometimes. We are trying to be consistent in our aims, what we do, what we should do, what we should work towards, how we should do it, how we should think about different things.

But the only thing we necessarily have in common with another atheist is not believing in a God. Aside from that, you know nothing about someone else until you ask them. What are your values, what are your interests, what are your aims, your goals. My friend Armin Navabi, of Atheist Republic and I have talked about this before and I believe we agree pretty well in this area. There is room for everybody. There is room for all sorts of different aims within the atheist community or movement. I would like to encourage – and I’m working toward this – is not to build bridges that stand over time between different groups, but maybe build temporary bridges like those little military bridges that you put in when the river washes them out.

Jacobsen: Engineers build bridges. That is true.

Krawczyk: [Laughing] But build relationships, that allow people – who may disagree within the atheist community, that may disagree strongly on approaches or how to do something, or what we should be working for – that would allow us to work together to solve common problems, make common goals.

From the outside, there seems to be a lot of bickering and fighting. I don’t think it appeals to a lot of people, even to some of us within it. I would like us to band together when necessary and do our own thing when not necessary. Does that make sense?

Jacobsen: Were you truly afraid of being seen as an “evil atheist, an apostate, a blasphemer, someone without morals”?

Krawczyk: Yes, I absolutely was. I am not sure I ever heard the term atheist when I was growing up. But I knew the one thing that could send you to Hell, was to turn your back on and deny the existence of God. Even when I realized I didn’t believe in God anymore, I realized that my friends and my family and anyone else who believed that, would think that I was doing the most horrible thing and that I was an awful person for it.

So, that is where the blasphemy comes in. As far as having no morals, my mom said, recently, that she never taught me this. She never taught me that people who weren’t believers had no morals. A lot of Christians believe that every person has the capacity to be good, but that is a gift from God. But a lot of others, including myself, believed that if you had not accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour, if you didn’t have God in your life, that you had no ability to be moral morals and you had no moral compass. Your morals come from the Bible and indwelling of the Holy Spirit and being born again.

The idea that I would tell my family and my friends that I didn’t believe and didn’t have this. They would think that I was potentially an evil person. I would say that the most common question I have gotten since I publicly began telling people that I am an atheist is “Well, where do your moral come from?”

Sometimes people are curious and really asking but cannot comprehend how it can be possible. And you can sense that other people are saying it as “I’ve gotcha here! You are really not moral. You only think you are.” I was afraid. I was definitely afraid. The other biggest aspect that kept me from telling people at first is that I didn’t want to make my family sad. One of the things about being a Christian is that you believe that once you are saved and you’re connected with God and your sins are forgiven, that once you die, you will go to heaven all of your family will be there. Everybody you love. All of the other believers will be there.

To tell my family that I do not believe, to them, is me committing blasphemy, which means I will be in Hell. That’s a really big amount of pain to put on someone else. That kept me from talking about it for a long time.

Jacobsen: How should people come out? When should they be quiet and strategic?

Krawczyk: That is a tough question because there are so many situations people can be in and so many types of religions and so many family situations, family dynamics, social dynamics, and so on. I do not think there is a single answer to that question.

I’ll start with when you should you be quieter, and more cautious – if you are coming out of Islam. I have developed quite a few friendships with ex-Muslims. Some of my friends have been physically threatened with death or actually injured for leaving Islam because the social penalty, in many places especially in Muslim-majority countries, can be death. There are 13 countries where you can receive the death penalty for being an apostate, which is renouncing Islam. You can imagine that there are places where even if it is not illegal that you can have vigilante “justice” in a way, where people can be in real danger. That is not as common in the US, or Canada, or the UK, but it definitely happens and more in the UK. That is an extreme situation, where you have to be very cautious. I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have safe place to go, and protection and your own financial resources.

If you are in a place like I am – I’m in Southern California, pretty liberal place. I have lots of friends and support. It’s not unsafe for me to come out. I don’t know. It is a hard question.  You have to be ready to be yourself and be able to defend your decision to not be quiet about it.

One of my family members asked me, “If you knew this was going to hurt your family. Why didn’t you just keep it a secret?” I thought, “Why should I?” I asked, “Why should I keep this a secret when it is so important and affects the way I think about most things? Why should I have to hide this?”

If you are ready to deal with some flack in order to be yourself, that is when you should come out. That’s why you come out. The more people who come out and are open and honest about being secular, being atheist, and ot having a belief in God, the easier it is for everybody else.

Right now, there is a perception that we are bad people. Really, there are a lot more of us than people think. A lot of us are uncomfortable; some people don’t want to bother talking about it. Others don’t think it’s important to talk about. Others are just fearful of consequences, like I was. A little under two and half years, I was afraid of losing friends. I was afraid of losing business. You are immediately afraid of being tarred as an amoral person right off the bat – you can’t possibly be good person. That is a big burden to carry.

Jacobsen: Does this speak to a tacit theocratic tendency in America?

Krawczyk: I think so. [Laughing] I’m not even sure it’s tacit.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Krawczyk: It’s very common. Religious people are better than non-religious people in the common thinking, at least among believers – even of various faiths. I often think it would have been easier on family and friends if I had switched faiths rather than left completely because then I would still believe in God.

Now, I have crossed that line. It’s much harder for people to accept. We hear about America being a Christian nation – the U.S. being a Christian nation – and thinking our laws should reflect Christianity. So, there is a tendency for some people to want the U.S. to be a theocracy, for sure.

Jacobsen: You began to be known as your real self online. Was this scary?

Krawczyk: It was terrifying. It was only ten months ago. I became an atheist three years ago, but aside from telling a few people as I met them – as I met new friends I tested the waters by telling people. I did not post anything online that indicated I wasn’t a believer.

Maybe, things that made me look like a much more liberal Christian than I had ever been before. In the end of October 2016, my husband and I attended CSICon. It was for the Center for Skeptical Inquiry, which is a branch of the Center for Inquiry. It was a conference for scientific skepticism. There is a high crossover between that community and the atheist community.

When we walked in, there was a photo booth for an organization called Openly Secular. Their aim is to promote people being open about being secular, non-religious, or atheist so that it becomes normalized, to reduce discrimination.

I took a deep breath and I dragged my husband over and we took a picture of ourselves in that frame and then one just of myself. I posted it on Instagram before lost my nerve. I was terrified. That was the first time I was ever going to say anything online that said I was not a believer. I was posted it and I kept checking it and I didn’t get a bunch of nasty comments. I got a bunch of likes. That was a big relief.

A couple of weeks later, it was Openly Secular Day. I changed that to my profile picture. I was shaking like a leaf to put that as my profile picture, on Facebook, to have my hundreds of friends and family members see that I was saying that I was openly secular.

It was absolutely terrifying. But I started getting likes. I saw a number of friends I already had were also secular. It was amazing. But, it was scary. I also started getting messages from people I hadn’t talked to in years, and some family members, asking me to consider Pascal’s Wager and sharing Bible verses that I have known very well my whole life.

They were worried about me and wanting to bring me back. It opened me up to a lot of criticism. It was very scary.

Jacobsen: Dr. Dawkins encouraged you to write a book about your transition and experiences. What was the result?

Krawczyk: I met Richard at that same conference – CSICon 2016. We started talking after I introduced myself and he was intrigued by the fact that I had been a young Earth creationist – that I had absolutely despised him and had been taught to despise him. Not by my parents. I don’t remember anything from them, but through various apologetics and defending your faith classes that I’d been too.

For most of my life, since I’d heard of him, he was an awful, evil figure. He was just a horrible man.  An arrogant, horrible person who was trying to destroy everything I believed in, so by the time I actually read his book, The God Delusion… [Laughing]

Jacobsen: [Laughing] We have all experienced that bullying of either being told that some famous person who doesn’t believe is as such, or if they don’t target the famous person, they target you.

Krawczyk: Exactly.  So, I had thought he was a horrible, horrible person. But I’d actually booked tickets to that conference to thank him for writing The God Delusion. Because when I read that, about 4 years after I read Dan Barker’s book, I got about two thirds of the way through that and realized that I was an atheist. I had already left those other beliefs behind and had gotten to the point where pretty much everything he said totally made sense. I had still, just prior to that, thought he was an arrogant jerk. [Laughing]. My husband reminds me of that now. My husband had said, “Why don’t you read something he wrote rather than basing your opinions on stuff you’ve heard over the years? Just read something.” So, I picked The God Delusion and that changed my life. Suddenly it gave me a name. I knew what I was. I knew what category I fell into and I wasn’t the only one.

We kept in touch after the conference. I was in the process of telling family members that I was an atheist. He wanted to know how that went. We were corresponding and I was letting him know how it went with each person. At one point, a cousin on my husband’s side completely cut me off on Facebook. He said he absolutely could not be friends, or in touch with me at all. He wasn’t going to interact with me, or my family anymore, because he couldn’t respect anyone who didn’t believe in God. I was just devastated. I knew this was a possible risk, but I had known him for 18 years. I thought, “How can someone’s opinion change so suddenly when they know me. They know who I am?” I was really upset. I wrote to Richard and told him what happened. I got a response back, which I sadly, can’t find anymore, but basically said he was filled with fury about how religion can poison families. Then, shortly after, I got a message that said that I needed to write a book. I thought, “No. I’m not writing a book” But my husband said, “Richard Dawkins just suggested that you write a book. I think you should look into this.” [laughing]

I talked to Richard about it. He encouraged me to write my own story – it was unusual to come out of being a young Earth creationist and rather fundamentalist – and to tell the stories of other people. What has come out of that so far, is that I’m working on a book. The working title is Losing Your Life to Save It, and the idea is based on a Bible verse. That people have to sometimes lose everything that they care about in their lives – even risking their lives – to just be themselves, to be who you are and open about it, and to just be.

Richard said from the start that he would write the forward to the book and wanted to help by advising me. That is where it is now. I am gathering stories and will soon be putting out a survey to gather many more. I have at least 1,300 people waiting to fill out my next survey to talk about their experiences in various types of relationships and what life has been like, living as an atheist in the US and UK specifically. That is where we are at the moment. I’m writing a book!

Jacobsen: You have been involved with the publicizing and latter-planning for the LogiCal-LA conference, which is for the support of scientific skepticism. What is it? Any highlights that you would like to point out about it?

Krawczyk: Yes, it’s a new conference. It started last year in January. Bruce Gleason of the Orange County Freethought Alliance is the organizer. He runs the conference. Last year, we had a nice group. We had Sean Carroll, the physicist, as the keynote speaker. We had a lot of different great scientists from around the country and local in California. We are trying to support critical thinking, science education, and rational thought.

Los Angeles is a popular area where people live and visit, but we don’t really have anything that happens right there in that area. We are trying to gather some great minds and people who are interested in science and learning and thinking. We are trying to promote rational thought and critical thinking in the country. We really think it is lacking at this point and could use a boost.

Jacobsen: What are your next steps after the organizing and book?

Krawczyk: The book will probably take another year or two. I would like to continue helping with LogiCal-LA. I want to learn… I attended the International Conference for Freedom of Expression. Maryam Namazie’s conference in London – in July. I have been learning about the plight of ex-Muslims around the world. I’ve studied Arabic on and off for about 12 years and I have a BA in Arabic Language and Culture. I am particularly interested in people leaving Islam. I am interested in Arabic cultures and have a lot of Muslim friends.

I’m not sure exactly where I want to go, but I want to support secularism and the separation of church and state in this country. I want to help in any way that I can in normalizing atheism to the point where no one has to be afraid I like I was. No one had to be afraid to come out and say what they believe. I want people to understand, whether religious or non-religious, that families don’t have to be torn apart because of differences in belief.

We all can get along. We can all be. I’m not sure as to what the efforts will be, they are all going to be in support of those ideals. A lot of the work for the next couple of years will be going into this book. Like I said before, I’m in a position where I’m unlikely to have any real problem being out – out loud and proud about being an atheist. But a lot of people in the world are not in that situation I really want people to know that there is discrimination and it is very hard for people, even in the United States, Canada, and the UK, and it shouldn’t be. It shouldn’t have to be this way.

Jacobsen: Thank you for very much for your time, Melissa.

Image Credit: Melissa Krawczyk.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen founded In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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