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Name: Dustin Clark.
Where and when I was born: Champaign, Ill., Jan. 23, 1988.
Family: My mother, Laurie; my father, Randy; and Tyler, my older brother.
Education: Millikin University, Decatur, Ill., philosophy, class of 2010; University of Wisconsin Law School.
My religious upbringing was: Methodist. I was full of existential angst for a few years because I thought girls found the brooding sexy (I was wrong). That phase faded away, and I realized I am an atheist. I was pretty passive about my nonreligion aside from the occasional irritation at an irrational action in the name of some old dusty god. I thought it was odd to become impassioned about a nonbelief. Then, some friends and I were sharing a pizza, and I made some offhand, off-color remark, and a friend laughed and said, “Yeah, I could see you doing that because you don’t care about anything because you’re an atheist.”
Hurt, I asked my friend if he thought I did not care about him. It was at that time that I realized that misconceptions like my friend’s abound around the subject of atheism, and I have a duty to help eliminate those misconceptions and make sure that our rights are respected and protected.
How I came to work as an FFRF legal intern: I had not heard of FFRF until a spring law clerk position was posted on the Law School’s career website. I became excited at the prospect of gaining actual legal experience while helping a cause I stand behind.
What I do here: I conduct legal and factual research into potential church/state violations. I draft legal letters for the staff attorneys.
What I like best about it: I can keep the state from making a kid who already feels different from everyone else feel even more alone.
Something funny that’s happened: They hired me.
My legal interests are: I would like to be a civil litigator. I enjoy labor and employment and tort law.
My legal heroes are: Well, no one is perfect, but I have always liked Judge Learned Hand and Justice Hugo Black.
These three words sum me up: Salty, pink (inside a blender or black hole), amiable.
Things I like: Golf, weight lifting, stand-up comedy (performing and watching), Prague.
Things I smite: Brussels sprouts, ice giants, Nietzsche.
Freud explains religion
Name: John Senter Compere.
Where I live: Chandler, Ariz.
Where and when I was born: Ellisville, Miss., Oct. 17, 1934. When I tell people I grew up in Mississippi, I usually add, “Please don’t hold that against me. I left as soon as I found out you could!”
Family: Joyce Compere, wife; Layne Starling, daughter; Virginia Starling, granddaughter; LouAnn Vaughn, daughter (husband Scott Vaughn); Padgett, Rachael and Sydney Vaughn, granddaughters; Lee Compere, son; Shelly Baldenegro, daughter (husband Art Baldenegro); Ashley and Lindsey Baldenegro, granddaughters.
Education: Central High School, Jackson, Miss., 1952; Mississippi College, Clinton, Miss., B.A. in English and history, 1956; Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C., bachelor of divinity, 1961; School of Pastoral Care, Baptist Hospital, Winston-Salem, N.C., certificate in pastoral counseling, 1963; Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, M.A. in psychology, 1969; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Ph.D. in clinical psychology, 1972; Jung Analytic Institute, Zurich, Switzerland, post-doctoral training in psychology, 1977.
Occupation: Clinical psychologist and professional speaker (retired).
Military service: During graduate school, I was a civilian auxiliary chaplain at a North Carolina Air Force radar station.
How I got where I am today: I was ordained at 18 and served as a student summer missionary in Alaska (1952, 1955). I was pastor at rural Baptist churches during college and youth minister at a campus church during seminary, then full-time pastor at two Baptist churches. I left the ministry in 1967 at age 32 and went back to graduate school.
After receiving my Ph.D., I taught psychology at Wake Forest University, 1972-77 and maintained a private practice from 1972-89. I started speaking professionally in 1981 and still speak occasionally on my journey from fifth-generation Southern Baptist minister to atheist.
Where I’m headed: I’m clearly headed where we all are headed, to the oblivion of death, for me, sooner than later. I do not fear it, though I cannot imagine not existing. Until then, I will continue trying to live each day to the fullest, with honesty and kindness to people and animals.
Person in history I admire: Nelson Mandela, a true statesman if ever there was one, and American Revolution-era writer Thomas Paine.
A quotation I like: “The world is my country. To do good is my religion.” (Thomas Paine)
These are a few of my favorite things: Classical music (including good religious music), babies and young children, Yorkshire terriers, cats, well-written editorials, tennis, raquetball, cycling, seeing (or helping) someone live up to his/her potential, Low Country barbecue (vinegar-based sauce), well-delivered oratory, a poignant story, serious programs about cosmology.
These are not: Violence in movies or on TV, people talking loudly on cell phones in public, rap music, auto races, most conservative politicians.
My doubts about religion started: In my freshman year in college. I was already an ordained minister and was preparing to deliver a sermon in a large “First Baptist” church. Out of the blue, I found myself asking if there could possibly be such a thing as eternal punishment for finite “sins.” I had not met or read or talked to anyone who challenged religion and had always taken what I learned in church as the absolute truth.
Once the questions began, I couldn’t stop them. I continued in the ministry and the faith for 14 more years, before I admitted to myself that I no longer believed any of the dogma I had been taught and had been preaching. I knew many of my liberal minister friends had asked some of the same questions I was asking, but they had somehow been able to stay in the ministry, while casting doubt and joking in private about many of the faith-based tenets they were professing in public.
I had to leave the ministry to avoid doing that and becoming what I call “publicly phony and privately cynical.”
Why I’m a freethinker: I’m basically a scientist at heart and believe in evaluating evidence. Once the blinders were off, my study of the bible made it clear to me that this book was anything but a “holy” book. In fact, it’s a horrible book, with a few inspiring passages in it. It’s a collection of myths and suspicious “history” from Bronze Age ignorant people and has little, if any, relevance to the real world of today.
Ways I promote freethought: I’m vice president of the Valley of the Sun FFRF chapter and a member of the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix. I’ve published a book, Towards the Light: A Fifth-generation Baptist Minister’s Journey from Religion to Reason, and I am asked fairly often to speak on subjects of the various chapters in my book. I’m also one of the early members of the Clergy Project and coordinate the screening process we use with new applicants to our private online site.
Each Good Friday, the Miles City Ministerial Association sponsors “Walk With the Cross,” during which Christians gather at a church at one end of Main Street and march a large wooden cross to Riverside Park at the other end of the street. A service is held and the cross is planted in the public park for Easter weekend. FFRF member Kelly Thibault has protested with an FFRF banner in the past, and this year was no different. Thank you, Kelly!
Yahoo! Answers lets readers online ask questions which other readers respond to.
Q. What is the best way to stop your child from becoming an athiest [sic]? I don’t want any of my children to be punished by God.
A. David M.:
Do not educate them, or expose them to critical thinking, logic or science. Lie to them constantly about how the world works. Feed them a steady diet of mumbo-jumbo dressed up like real knowledge — the [creationist] jumbo jet in the whirlwind, for example — and pretend that it is deep wisdom.
Make them loathe their own natural bodies and functions. Convince them they are small and weak and worthless and need redemption. Tell them everything enjoyable is grievously wrong to even think about, and that their only fun should be in grovelling to an invisible friend.
Ensure that they resent anyone who is not like them in every way — skin color, nationality, political opinion but especially creed. Make such people out to be evil and vile and give them — impotent minorities all — the fictional power to somehow oppress and persecute the vast majority who do think like you.
Teach them to laugh at and dismiss out of hand any faith but their own. Early — early mind you — make sure they are taught the difference between superstitious deadly error — that one raving lunatic in the desert told the truth about a vicious god who killed people, and divine eternal truth — that another raving lunatic in the desert told the truth about a vicious god who killed people.
Instruct them with all severity and import to never question for themselves — to never think for themselves — to never live for themselves — but to seek answers only in one — just one — particular set of semi-literate Bronze Age folk tales.
Above all, and this cannot be overemphasized, make sure they cannot spell, use correct grammar or understand basic English words.
That should do the trick.