Meet a ‘couple’ of members: Kendal J. Taylor & Christine Taylor

Kendal J. Taylor

Name: Kendal J. Taylor.

Where I live: In Petoskey, on the northern tip of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.

Where I was born: My family was living in Leslie, Mich., but I was born at Mercy Hospital in Jackson. Under Catholic rules of the day, if there had been a problem during my birth and the choice came down to saving my mother or me, I would never have known her.

Family: My partner and wife, Christine, lets me live with her and for that she should receive some important award like the Nobel Peace Prize. We each have children and grandchildren by previous marriages but they are all off doing their own thing.

Education: Leslie High School, graduated in 1957. I took a couple of stabs at community college but had a hard time staying centered. Then in the 1960s, I came face to face with conservative, fundamental Christianity and embraced it warmly. I enrolled in an Independent Fundamental Baptist seminary in 1967 and threw myself into it completely: student body president and yearbook editor and graduated second in my class.

Occupation: Through the years, I have had more occupations that I can count on all my fingers and toes, but currently, at age 75, I work full time for the family division of circuit court in the county where we live.

Military service: I volunteered for the U.S. Army in 1958 and spent two years at Fort Knox, Kentucky. After basic training. I spent a few months as a broadcast specialist, producing broadcasts about Fort Knox for local radio stations.

One cold and rainy morning, the headquarters company was standing at attention as the commanding officer barked orders. From a window in the building behind us came a call, “Hey, could you hold it down out there; we’re sleeping in here.” It was a building occupied by the 158th Army Band. I said, “That’s where I want to be.” I asked my mother to send me my trumpet, practiced up, auditioned and got a transfer to the band and spent my remaining Army time with the band.
How I got where I am today: My mother’s father was a Methodist evangelist, so when she married my dad she went in the opposite direction. You know, the really bad stuff like drinking alcohol, dancing and playing cards. She occasionally sent me to Methodist Sunday school down the block.

Even during the time I was in seminary, I began to have doubts about what I was being taught. Some of it made no sense at all to my logical side. I told myself it was just the old devil whispering in my ear. I would have to exercise faith and put the doubts out of my mind. I learned to ignore the thoughts that said to me, “This is a bunch of baloney.”

After graduation and ordination, I began to pastor Baptist churches and eventually found my way to Ventura, Calif. The doubts continued, so I decided to keep track of answered prayer (mine and others’) to prove God’s existence and omnipotence. What happened was quite the opposite. What my study revealed was that no prayers were being answered. In the cases where something happened after a prayer, it was pure coincidence and logically would have happened without a single prayerful word.

I remember the night it all came apart for me. I lived in the parsonage next door to the church, and on a Saturday night I went to the church to pray for the Sunday morning service. I left the lights off and knelt at the altar at the front of the auditorium. It was a large, cavernous building and as I prayed, my words echoed around the high ceiling and came back to me. I thought, “No one is listening to this, I’m talking to myself!” I stopped speaking, stood and walked out the door with just one thought in mind, “I have to get out of this business.” And in 1976 I did.

I stumbled along for years never feeling quite comfortable with my decision to ditch God. Then, somehow, about 10 years ago, I came across Richard Dawkins’ wonderful book The God Delusion. At last I saw what I had done was not a horrible mistake for which I would spend an eternity in hell. I had made a conscious decision to embrace truth and escape a world of falsehoods and deceit. What a relief! I could look at the beauty of the sky and not worry that Big Daddy was scowling back.

I began to wonder if there were others who had taken a similar path or, perhaps, had never believed the big lie. I searched online and found the Freedom from Religion Foundation. I joined immediately and began to talk to my Catholic wife about my thrilling discoveries. A few months after joining, we enlisted FFRF’s help to spread the word and held the first meeting of the Freethought Association of Northern Michigan (FANM) on April 10, 2011.

Where I’m headed: At that first FANM meeting, five brave people showed up, having no idea what they were getting into or where it might go. We went around the table and told our stories of nonbelief. We have been meeting the second Sunday of each month ever since and have added a monthly meeting called “Skeptics in the Pub.”

For two years, Christine and I led FANM as it took surprisingly steady baby steps. We have twice outgrown our meeting space. I still serve on the board.
Person in history I admire: I would have to choose Richard Dawkins. His works define humankind and evolution. The God Delusion changed my life.
A quotation I like: “Don’t tell your problems to people: 80% don’t care and the other 20% are glad you have them.” — Lou Holtz, ESPN sportcaster and retired football coach

These are a few of my favorite things: Playing golf with my wife, ballroom dancing, kayaking and cruising in our beautiful yellow 2003 Chevrolet SSR with the top down.

These are not: Pet peeves — the older I get, the fewer there are.

My doubts about religion started: Shortly after I entered seminary.

Before I die: Shucks, if I live long enough there will be nothing left on my bucket list.

Ways I promote freethought: Maintain membership in FFRF, support and work with FANM and be a good example of a nonbeliever.
I wish you had asked: Now that you have come to an understanding of the truth, how do you feel about your years in the religion business? I am ashamed, ashamed that I could have been so gullible.

Christine Taylor

Name: Christine Taylor.

Where I live: Petoskey, Mich.

Where I was born: South Haven, Mich., the oldest of six children.

Family: Husband Kendal, the love of my life, and two sons.

Occupation: I have worked for many years in the behavioral health care management and human resources fields. I have my eye on retirement in a few years. My favorite job has been and will always be, mother to my wonderful two boys.

How I got where I am today: I was raised in a strict Catholic family with frequent contact with both sets of grandparents and extended family. My mother’s people were Catholic, so holidays were big celebrations at our house and included going to Mass. My father’s people were various Protestant denominations.

When I was younger, I would visit my father’s mother in the summer and she would invite me to go to church. I started to notice the pastor often said derogatory things about Catholics in his sermons. One time after services, I was standing next to my grandmother and one of her friends came up and asked her if I was one of the “lost souls.” (Grandmother had introduced me as one of her Catholic grandchildren.) I was only 11 but I understood that I was not really welcome there. That was the last time I went to church with her.

I attended Catholic elementary, high school and even four years of at a Catholic university. I thought about becoming a nun. That was probably due to being the wallflower, ugly duckling, “no date for prom” type of girl, that is until I got to college. Once I started dating, I determined that being a nun would not be a positive thing for me — something about that vow of chastity.

It was an all-girls college. Freshman year (1969) was all about succeeding in a learning environment for women. But by sophomore year, the college allowed 10 Catholic seminarians to come on campus for classes. By my junior year, the college went co-ed and campus life was never the same.

A quotation I like: “Knowing what’s right doesn’t mean much unless you do what is right.” Teddy Roosevelt is credited with this quote, which mirrors what I strive to do in my personal and professional life.

My doubts about religion started: In my adulthood. I had stepped away from the Catholic Church in my 20s. But once I had children, I felt the need to bring them us as Catholic. I felt that they needed a “moral compass” and could choose their own direction later on. I had also determined that the local Catholic school was much better academically than the public schools.

When my youngest son was in fifth grade, he started some discussions with me and then the priest about the existence of god. It was conflicting with his desire for logical thinking. Both my sons stopped practicing Catholicism when they were in high school.

After my first husband initiated a divorce, I turned to the church even more, adding volunteer activities and Pentecostal services. A year later, I determined that in spite of doing everything that I was told I was doing right, my divorce was final. All my prayers and church-centered activities hadn’t saved me from this fate. I was mad at god and abandoned the Catholic faith. My Catholic friends and family still hope that I will someday get over this phase, but I will never return to religion.

A few years later, I met my second husband. Based on Catholic doctrine, I knew that if I married this divorced man I would be excommunicated. I was not going to allow anyone to tell me not to marry this wonderful, loving man. So I decided to step away from Catholicism and gradually accepted that I am a nonbeliever.
Over the years, occasionally I was visited by different church missionaries (Jehovah’s Witness, Baptist, etc.). They always started out, “Are you saved?” I usually responded, “Yes, I am a recovering Catholic and I am not interested.”

A couple years ago, a local pastor knocked on my door and asked if I went to church. I replied, “No, my husband and I are both atheists.” He reacted like I had hit him and said that he had never met an atheist before and made a hasty retreat to his car. I felt satisfied with finally admitting to someone that I was not a believer. What a relief!

Before I die: On my bucket list is travel to Europe. I enjoy cooking and would love to cook my way across Italy and France. I would love to learn more about those cultures.

Ways I promote freethought: My husband and I started talking about our respective nonbelief early in our marriage. I was very supportive of his idea to start a freethought group in our community. That group’s first meeting was a positive, yet scary, statement for both of us.

I am happy to report that we are still active with this group as well as others supporting the separation of church and state, locally and nationally.

Freedom From Religion Foundation