Meet a banjo-picking member: Jim Hudlow

Name: Jim Hudlow.

Where I live: In a buzzing nest of young Earth creationists north of Spokane Valley, Wash.
Where and when I was born: Spokane, Wash., Dec. 6, 1950.

Family: I live with my 91-year-old father on rural land that our family has owned for a century. I have a younger brother. Both are strong agnostics.

Education: B.A. in philosophy and English with K-12 teaching accreditation. I’m the only atheist banjo player in the Spokane area that I know of. I also taught myself to play the hammered and mountain dulcimers and mandolin.

I’ve read the entire King James Version bible (The Skeptic’s Annotated by Steve Wells, of course!) because every skeptic should be thusly informed.

Occupation: After high school I fell into a skycap job at the Spokane airport. I met amazing people every day and got front row seats to all the concerts coming to town. After I graduated from college, I taught sixth grade for two years but then took a job with Western Airlines. I retired from Delta Air Lines (they bought Western) in 2006.

Military service: I was drafted in 1972 but was rejected as medically unfit, which shocked me. I was sure I was destined to be a “tunnel rat” in Vietnam. The 39 other guys, 16 of which had doctor’s letters trying to exempt them, were all inducted. They gave me a standing ovation as I left the building. To this day it still brings a tear to my eye wondering if any of those fine men were harmed in a war that made no sense whatever to me.
How I got where I am today: I didn’t actively seek out an atheist organization until about five years ago. It didn’t occur to me such a thing existed before then. I wish I had done it sooner. The particular subject of “faith healing” and the harm it caused, especially to helpless children, made me really scrutinize various religions. It inspired me to be much more vocal regarding religious privilege, religious exemption from safety rules, religious shield laws and so on.

Now I’m retired, play bluegrass music for charity when I can, lead a bird trip or two for the Audubon Society each year, do photography (mostly of nature) and golf with my Dad with another father-son twosome.

Where I’m headed: I’d like to continue to be involved in secular causes. I don’t consider myself “pushy,” though I often wear atheist themed T-shirts in public. I welcome inquiries. I politely andf actually respond to disparaging comments.

Person in history I admire: Charles Darwin. Not just for his On the Origin of Species, but for the process this religious man had to go through to finally present his findings to the public and his peers. How many times could he have let his religious beliefs interfere with his real world observations? How many times did he not change what he observed to accommodate the beliefs of the day that would have made life less problematic for him?
A quotation I like: This one always inspires conversation with my religious friends: “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” (Galileo Galilei)

These are a few of my favorite things: I get goose bumps every time I look at the moons of Jupiter with my 12×36 image-stabilized birding binoculars. I can see four, sometimes five or six, moons as brilliant pinpricks of light. They are the same moons Galileo looked at through his improved telescope in 1609. It is seriously inspiring.

I like playing and listening to music (except that which promotes violence), good nonfiction books, nature in all its amazing diversity, aircraft of all kinds (I just had an awesome ride in a B-17) and talking with people and hearing their personal stories.

These are not: When someone says “supposably” instead of “supposedly,” it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard; unsolicited visitations by religious folks bearing “the good news.”

My doubts about religion started: When I was 8, the country preacher came to our house to get me. Why my parents surrendered me to him I will never know. I guess they were just glad he had not come for them. Anyway, he spent the next hour, in a hot car in mid-July trying to scare the hell into me. Even at 8 I was asking questions this man could not answer. Why would god invent hell? Why doesn’t he just come down and tell us what he wants us to do in person? Anyway, I went into the car unconcerned about religion and left the car as a sweaty little atheist.

Before I die: My goals include make someone smile every day, visit a lot more historical sites in America, find more fossils and inspire children, whenever I can and without inappropriate intrusion, to be inquisitive about everything around them. I want to meet Annie Laurie Gaylor, Barbara Walker and/or Marci Hamilton, as the slightest interaction with any of these women would improve me.

Ways I promote freethought: I’ve served as secretary/treasurer and am currently president of the Inland Northwest Freethought Society, an FFRF chapter. I work with our tireless Vice President Elizabeth Rose and many other folks to show the face of atheism in the public arena so “regular” people can come to know we are, as Douglas Adams would say, “mostly harmless.”

We do this by having booths at local fairs in the Spokane and Hayden, Idaho, area. The cost is substantial and comes exclusively from member donations. We promote INFS and the Spokane Secular Society and North Idaho Secular Society. As one older woman said to me after a few minutes of conversation last year at the booth, “You know, you’re not so bad.” I thanked her and said that most people who talk to us end up feeling that way as well. I want like-minded people to know groups like ours exist so they can become involved much younger than I did.

I’ve played in a couple of religious bluegrass bands lately, to inform my skeptical side and because I enjoy entertaining. Of course I am always honest about my position when asked by spectators or preachers, but I’m polite about it in “their” house. You might be surprised by how many folks have taken me aside and said they are agnostic and only come to church for the social functions and for appearances’ sake.

I was recently voted out of one of those bands for being an atheist, which they all knew when I started playing with them over a year before. They didn’t even have the nerve to vote while I was present. I missed a practice due to a dog-walking wrist injury (don’t ask) so they voted then. Four to two for ouster. And no, I don’t feel persecuted. Go figure.

Freedom From Religion Foundation