Taking atheism to a practical place—Hemant Mehta, FBB board chair


HemantMehta (1)Author, Friendly Atheist blogger, and FBB board chair Hemant Mehta will be the featured speaker at the Heart of Humanism Awards Dinner, Saturday July 19, at FBB’s Humanism at Work conference.

In the spring of 2009, Foundation Beyond Belief was just an idea. I had a lot more questions than answers about how to move it forward. But I knew for sure who my first choice was to steer the ship with me: Hemant Mehta.

Hemant was already a prominent voice in the movement, and an intelligent, articulate, and levelheaded one at that. Through his Friendly Atheist blog and his presence on the boards of several organizations, he had shown himself to have the mind and heart for the job. I assumed he was too busy to serve on the board, but I asked anyway.

To my surprise and delight, he said it was “too important to pass up.” He’s served as FBB board chair ever since.

“I’m a supporter of many atheist organizations, but many are focused on issues that are no longer personally relevant to me,” he explains. “I don’t need to convince myself that atheism is okay anymore. I don’t need the support of a student group anymore. I’m someone who’s on the verge of starting a family and who works a regular job. So the idea of joining an organization that’s all about instilling positive values in the broader Humanist community was right up my alley. It’s a cause I fully support and one I want to see succeed.”

Hemant sees FBB as part of a sea change in freethought. “For several years, we saw a major media spotlight on arguments against God’s existence—and the fact that atheists exist!—through the bestselling books by the ‘New Atheists.’ Making that case will never get old, but for those of us who have been atheists for a while, there’s a simple question we have to ask ourselves: Now what?

“So we have to explore other issues. How do we raise children without religion? How do we find communities of like-minded people, if we want that? How can we do good in this world and put our Humanism into action? Those are all extensions of our Humanism that we can now explore in depth because we’ve passed a point when simply admitting our godlessness to ourselves and coming out as atheists is enough. That’s why I love Foundation Beyond Belief. It takes atheism to a more practical place.”

“I’m thrilled at everything Dale and our staff have accomplished in just a few years,” he says, “and the future looks even more promising. Our future projects will really enhance and spread the impact we have, whether that’s pooling our donations to support one great charity, sending students overseas on secular service trips, or making sure that we can raise money even more quickly and efficiently in the case of a tragedy. There’s no other group in our movement that does these things as well as FBB does and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Ten years from now, Hemant would like to see Foundation Beyond Belief become a household name among secular people and families. “I want all members of those families to make giving a habit, much like many religious families have done because of their churches. I want our movement to be less focused on proving God doesn’t exist—because, in ten years, I hope that’s just more of a given—and more focused on how we can make the world a better place because we know there’s no higher power looking over us or an afterlife awaiting us.”

For more information on the Humanism at Work conference, or to register, visit www.HumanismAtWork.org