“One of the coolest aspects of the paramotoring is flying low,
landing on things and places where no other craft could alight,” says Jeff Goin.
(Photo: Tim Kaiser)
Name: Jeff Goin.
Where I live: Naerville, Ill.
Where and when I was born: Mansfield, Ohio, 1962.
Family: My parents, Sara and Eugene Goin; older brothers, Mike and David; and an older sister, Cecilia.
Education: K-12 at Mansfield Christian School; B.S. in aeronautical science, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, Fla.
Occupation: Southwest Airlines captain, but many other irons glow in the fire.
How I got where I am today: Early on I had a passion to fly and started at age 13 in gliders. After some interesting detours, I ended up at one of the few consistently profitable airlines. Southwest has been an incredible ride. I’m very indebted to my parents. Beyond their obvious genetic contributions were tolerance, encouragement and support of my flightful fantasies.
Like all of us, I popped out with eyes open wide, knowing nothing of superstitious belief systems. Then I went to Christian school. It was an easy choice for a kindergartner: Say this prayer or burn in hell forever. My nonreligious parents felt the school offered a better education, and maybe it did. We went to an Episcopalian church, but it was mere ritual.
I started taking religion seriously in my late teens, worked as a Christian radio DJ, played Christian keyboard and married a devout believer. I was saving souls, or so I thought. Answers in Genesis made me a young Earth creationist. Evolution was never really on my radar, so tossing it as a theory wasn’t that hard.
The turning point started several years after my wife died in a freak accident, along with my pastor’s untimely death in the presence of many clasped hands. The big change was when I got into powered paragliding and my friends changed. No longer did I have all those connections mutually pulling me into blind faith. I quit going to church. Blind faith’s coffin was closing.
In 2009 on a trip to Australia, I spent 10 days with a fellow pilot who is a science-minded skeptic. I mentioned my doubts about evolution. He answered all of my objections with sound evidence and gave me a series of podcasts (Evolution 101) to listen to on my flight home. I devoured them in great gulps.
The final nail in blind faith’s coffin came from Answers magazine, which I was still getting. In a sidebar on how to defend belief, it gave the No. 1 thing: “Don’t let them take away your foundation — the bible.” I realized then it wasn’t about science or evidence or reason. They were just painting a pretty science coating on the rusty nail of superstition. I’d been hoodwinked.
Being free to think, to consider evidence on its own merits without running it through “god glasses” is the most incredible feeling. I now see religion as a hallucinogenic drug: “This is your (healthy) brain.” “This is your brain on religion” (brain sizzling in frying pan). I’m glad to be out of the frying pan.
Where I’m headed: I want to keep learning how to point out the folly of blind faith but also to educate others and help them reach their own realizations, while being tactful but convincing. The Christian superstition is well-entrenched and will take many, many generations to eradicate. Look how long people believed in the Greek gods.
Why I care about humanity on this level is beyond me but, for whatever reason, I have a drive to see it headed down the right path. For one thing, it’s a given that eventually we’ll need to leave this planet as a species and religion will only hold us back. Plus, who do you want running government when an earth-shattering meteor is detected, a religious fundamentalist leaning on prayer or a rationalist who will get scientists to work on deflecting it? As I’ve heard somewhere before, “Nothing fails like prayer.”
Person in history I admire: Thomas Jefferson had the right idea: Maybe there is a god, but he’s nothing like the one religion describes. What a shame that Jefferson’s role in our great country’s founding is being diminished by religious zealots trying to rewrite history.
A quotation I like: “The more you see the world in black and white, the less accurate is your picture.” (It’s my own.)
These are a few of my favorite things: A good friend, a morning paramotor flight in the warm summer air with my favorite music thrumming above the motor’s hum, learning (second only to seeing the light of realization wash over someone I’m helping to learn), a cool chunk of new information that changes my mind about something because of its impeccable logic, evidence and reason.
These are not: People who refuse to think or refuse to acknowledge the power of logic.
How long I’ve been a freethinker: About two years and looking forward to many more.
Why I’m a freethinker: It’s the best and most honest way to view our world. It’s the process of science, a process that has uniquely shown its efficacy over all others at acquiring cool, useful, knowledge.
Best way I promote freethought: I produced a video, “The Puzzle of Life,” for a Reason Project contest. You can see it at CelebrationofReason.com, which is maintained by my roommate, Tim Kaiser. I maintain AdoptReality.com.
A subtler effort is encouraging people to think critically about science and how it works. Equally important is supporting groups like FFRF that value freethought. For fun, I comment frequently on YouTube, always trying to tactfully and lightheartedly point out the folly of nonsense.