Peach of a freethinker: Perry Mitchell

Name: Perry Mitchell.

Where I live: Atlanta, near Emory University.

Where and when I was born: Atlanta, 1943.

Family: My wonderful, smart wife, Pam (an agnostic); grown daughter, Susan (an atheist, I’m proud to say); liberal 98-year-old mom; larger-than-life older sister (unfortunately an apatheist; see “These are not” below).

Education: Duke University, B.A. in English, 1965; University of Iowa, M.A. in literature, 1967.

Occupation: Retired from a 40-year career in advertising as a writer, creative director and ad agency partner. I’m now a full-time househusband and volunteer.

Military service: I was drafted during the Vietnam War and served overseas in Panmunjom, Korea, in 1969-70. [In the photo, that’s where Perry is pictured on a 2008 visit.]

How I got where I am today: Good education, luck, reading constantly, working hard and smart, really thinking about what’s important in the world and in my life, not living above my means, trying to make the best of every situation (no matter how bad), being free from the irrationalities and archaic superstitions of religion.

Where I’m headed: More volunteering and financial support for causes I believe in, especially adult literacy, public radio and FFRF. I’m looking forward to Pam joining me in retirement so we can spend even more time traveling, helping others and enjoying life.

Person in history I admire and why: Bob Dylan, the greatest artist of the 20th century, in my opinion. His complex but honestly expressed worldview, as well as his ability to capture and speak to deep emotions, have resonated with me for nearly 50 years.

A quotation I like: I have this framed in my home office and try to live by it: “Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.” (Theodore Rubin, psychiatrist and writer, born in 1923). I got the quote from a great, free Internet service.

These are a few of my favorite things: Honesty, fairness, kindness, family, rock music and big band music, my iPod during exercise walks, movies, novels, traveling (just got back from the Amazon), yard work, dark chocolate, 1950s cars, competitive badminton, volunteering, and FFRF’s smart, positive and personal “Out of the Closet” billboard campaign!

These are not: Pretentious people, overly fancy restaurants, technology that quits working unexpectedly, snarling dogs, Rush Limbaugh, our idiotic wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, religions that put women down and apatheists.

My doubts about religion started: During the civil rights movement, when I was a teenager. At my family’s Methodist church in Atlanta, they put ushers outside on the steps to stop African-Americans from entering. I said to myself, “What kind of church that says it follows Christ would do that? What kind of god would allow it?” My rational thinking just took off from that point. 

Why I’m a freethinker: Because I continue to “think freely,” no religion can begin to pass any kind of rationality test. I can’t believe in anything I know is clearly untrue, i.e., virgin birth, rising from the dead, an all-powerful god who would let his world get as screwed up as ours often is. I can’t be honest with myself and live as anything but an atheist.
Ways I promote freethought: I proudly wear my “Friendly Neighborhood Atheist” and “Imagine No Religion” T-shirts. I gladly explain my beliefs and their political implications (e.g., gay rights, freedom of choice, stem cell research, aid-in-dying), to anyone who wants to have that discussion. I’m a local media contact for FFRF. When the “famous quotes” billboard campaign ran in Atlanta last summer, I was interviewed for a newspaper article and appeared three times on the local news. It was fun and helpful, I hope.

Freedom From Religion Foundation