Meet a Nebraska member: Robin Buckallew

Name: Robin Buckallew.

Where I live: Hastings, Neb.

Where and when I was born: Alameda, Calif., 1960.

Family: My husband, Fritz, a retired librarian who shares my love of good books, art movies and theater; my son, Chris, 32, who now lives in Alameda and works with computers; my Irish setter, Murph, who never demands to be the center of attention and has managed to prevent the postman from breaking into the house and killing us.

Education: I have bachelor’s degrees in political science and biology, an M.S. in biology, a Ph.D. in environmental science and a master of fine arts in playwriting.

Occupation: I teach environmental science and other science courses to college students.
Military service: None, but I did volunteer with Service to Military Families at the Oklahoma City Red Cross for three years.

How I got where I am today: It was a combination of genetics and environment, and my family can take substantial blame (or credit) for both! I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian family but created havoc by starting to ask questions when I was 10. I stopped praying, but continued asking questions. Instead of going to heaven, I decided to go to college.

Where I’m headed: I hope I’m headed for Broadway (as a playwright, not an actor), but I’d be content with the small stage. Then, when it’s all over, I plan to be fertilizer. That seems to me the most fitting end for someone who has spent years studying plants.

Person in history I admire: Robert Ingersoll — not only a great thinker but a great orator and an all-round good guy. Charles Darwin, who was willing to set aside what he thought was true and accept what the evidence showed. I wish we could all do that. Lorraine Hansberry, who managed to get to Broadway in spite of being female, black and a nonbeliever.

A quotation I like: “I did not see why the schoolmaster should be taxed to support the priest, and not the priest the schoolmaster.” — Henry David Thoreau.

I also like Carl Sagan’s answer to a young man worried how he would have meaning in his life if there were no God: “Do something meaningful.”

These are a few of my favorite things: My husband, sunsets, cats, reading, photography, theater. Any activity that managed to combine all of these into one would be my idea of “heaven.”

These are not: People who go on about my “god-given gift.” People who say there is a reason for everything. People who can’t figure out whether to use to, too or two. Porch missionaries who insist on asking me how I explain everything around us and argue when I answer evolution and organic chemistry. Athletes who point to the sky every time they score.

My doubts about religion started: When I was 10 and my grandmother gave me my first “grown-up” bible. I actually read it, and the stories didn’t quite match what was in my bible stories for children book. Then, when I went to high school, I began to doubt even more when I learned mythology. So many gods, most of whom no one believes in anymore, caused me to wonder about “my” god. I wrote a letter to the ancient Greeks to explain what we believed, and realized it sounded as weird as what they believed.

Still, I didn’t use the word “atheist” to describe myself until I was 45. I called myself a deist for a while, then used agnostic. Once I started calling myself atheist, people always said, “Surely you mean agnostic,” which only made me more likely to use atheist, because I will no longer let other people define for me what I believe.

Before I die: I would like to complete my women of the bible play series and manage to put on a festival of them. I would like to take a tour of Europe. I would like to discover and name a previously unknown species of plant.

Ways I promote freethought: I am the faculty adviser for the secular student club at our college, and I have brought in speakers. I have a local atheist meet-up that currently has about 32 members. I wear my freethought T-shirts around locally and on trips to Lincoln and have had conversations with people about freethought as a result. I write freethought novels. I am currently working on starting a freethought play festival, and as soon as I find a venue, I have some theater professionals who are willing to help me.

I wish you’d have asked me: What freethought books have I written? I have written several books that are freethought fiction. Four are currently in print. The first I wrote was called The Diary of Mrs. Noah. It is a new take on what is obviously a myth. The second is called Transformation. It takes place in a world where the church has taken over, banned the birth control pill and women working, and just in general made a nuisance of themselves. Yesterday & Tomorrow is about a woman who meets a man claiming to be the devil, which leads to a rethinking about who is really good and who is evil.

The last one, Alpha & Omega, is about the adventures of a police detective who encounters a very old man claiming to be Paul of Tarsus. Paul leads him on a battle against the Catholic Church. This is actually a trilogy, but the last two aren’t out yet. I am also working on a book of freethought short stories called The Wandering Atheist that is still in the editing process.

Freedom From Religion Foundation