Meet an FFRF member: Valerie Tarico

Name: Valerie Tarico.

Where I live: Seattle, Wash.

Where and when I was born: Indiana, 1960.

Family: Husband of 24 years, Brian Arbogast, who is my best friend, and two awesome college student daughters who still like us! Funky fact: My elder daughter exists only because I was able to abort an infected pregnancy and start over. We conceived her before that first, unhealthy pregnancy would have come to term. I am grateful every day to the kind doctors who gave us a second chance and made her life possible.

Education: Graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois (Billy Graham’s alma mater); University of Iowa, Ph.D. in counseling psychology.

Occupation: Freelance advocate and writer, focused on challenging religious fundamentalism and on helping to make thoughtful, intentional childbearing the new normal.

How I got where I am today: I kept asking the questions that were off limits. So wicked!
Where I’m headed: When I’m not working to undermine the corrosive power of biblical literalism, I’m working to help catalyze a technology revolution in contraception. That means a transition from outdated everyday or every-time birth control methods, like the pill and condom, to long-acting IUDs and implants that literally toggle the default setting, making pregnancy opt-in rather than opt-out.

Taking human error out of the equation drops accidental pregnancy and abortion to near zero, with bonus health benefits like lighter menstrual periods and less cancer. I want to make “surprise” pregnancy actually surprising in Washington state by 2030, so that 90% of babies are born by design rather than by default. Beyond that, I suspect I’m headed for the Urban Death Project’s compost bin.

Person in history I admire: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who makes both left- and right-wingers uncomfortable with her clear-eyed, unflinching challenge to Islamic oppression of girls and women. As someone on the left half of the political spectrum, I’m ashamed of how progressives treat her. I’m also completely infatuated with Van Jones, Sam Harris, Cecile Richards and Neil deGrasse Tyson. (My husband knows.)

A quotation I like: “We are each other’s business; we are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” (American poet Gwendolyn Brooks) “Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty.” (modern Renaissance man Jacob Bronowski) “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” (anthropologist Margaret Mead)
These are a few of my favorite things: Ancient trees, misty ferns, the smell of damp earth, silences, manual labor, timeless architecture, people who are kind and curious and who step up.

These are not: Light pollution, garish disposable buildings, willful ignorance, careless cruelty.

My doubts about religion started: I never could understand how my I was going to be blissfully happy in heaven while my childhood friend, Kay, (a Mormon) was being tortured in hell. If I find it painful that kids are starving in Africa or rhino babies are losing their mamas, or that ISIS is torturing and killing people in the Middle East, why would I be fine in a heaven that coexists with hell?

Before I die: I think climate change is the core moral issue of our time and that the growth of human need is driven in large part by unsought and unwanted childbearing. I’d like to see the trend lines moving on both of these issues, to see that there’s hope for that we can attain sustainable abundance in a thriving web of life.

Ways I promote freethought: I write for online news and opinion sites, including Salon, AlterNet, TruthOut and The Raw Story and also post all of my articles for subscribers at (sign up!). I wrote a book, Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light. I have a YouTube channel with videos about the psychology of religion at I support the hard work of freethought organizations, including Foundation Beyond Belief, Recovering From Religion and, of course, FFRF.

Freedom From Religion Foundation