Meet a Member: Space enthusiast embraces life, wisdom with Gill Gregory Kanel

Name: Gill Gregory Kanel

Where I live: I have lived in Orange County, Calif., my entire life, the last 26 years in Fullerton. Currently, it is just my 18-year-old cat Meg sharing my home with me.
Where and when I was born: February 1959 in Fullerton.

Family: I am lucky enough to have freethought in-laws and family members. My 91-year-old mother-in-law, Alice Haddock, and her partner of 40 years, Arthur Ellard, my niece Devri Speaks and my great-nephew Ulysses Mariner, and many more nephews and nieces. I have no children.

Education: K-12 in the Anaheim School District. Age 18 and up: The rough-and-tumble school of business and life.

Occupation: I’ve been a small business owner for 31 years. I own the Kanel Corporation, a machine shop specializing in aerospace and medical products.

How I got where I am today: Strong freethought parents, Vern and Jeanine. They are gone now. A proud public education with thoughtful and tenacious teachers. A desire to never stop learning, and, most importantly, listening to wise people.

Where I’m headed: I am not sure where I am headed, but whatever the future holds for me, I am going to embrace it with enthusiasm and a smile on my face.

Person in history I admire and why: Carl Sagan. I grew up during the space age, humanity’s first adventures into space. Sagan connected this exploration with the science of cosmology and astronomy. He made those subjects cool, just like him. Calm and articulate, Carl made me see the world and the universe in a new way. I came to understand that we are truly stardust, and so is everything this planet is made of. Our world is a grain of sand in the ocean of space. We live on a cosmic outpost, and there will be no resupplying us. We need to take care of what we have and each other. Carl Sagan was the messenger and I listened. Thanks, Carl.

A quotation I like: “Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try. No hell below us; above us only sky.” — John Lennon

These are a few of my favorite things: Hugs, family, music, cooking, my space collection, learning new things, reading, football, baseball, the ocean and the forest.
These are not: Ignorance, intolerance, injustice, televangelists, mega-churches, creationists, liars.

My doubts about religion started: When I was about 10. Every evening I would watch the news about the Vietnam War. They would discuss how many soldiers were killed or wounded. This continued for years and years. I asked myself if there was a God, why would he let this happen? Why didn’t he put a stop to all the killing? I also saw violence in the streets, and at colleges here in America. I saw segregation and hate. These are the kind of things I couldn’t believe would happen if there was a God.

Before I die: I want to see, in person, America’s newest rocket with people on board, launched from Kennedy Space Center. I would also like the majority of this planet’s energy to be provided by renewable sources.

Ways I promote freethought: Indirectly, by supporting FFRF through my contributions. Also, I certainly don’t refrain when asked about my thoughts on religion and my atheism, whether it is by someone at my front door or in other social settings.

I wish you’d have asked me: Why did I join FFRF? As a student of history, even by the age of 10, I came to realize that religion and the church had played a dominant role in shaping the world I was living in, and not for the good. From the Crusades to the Inquisition to the witch hunts, the unspeakable human cruelty that religion has served upon humankind needs to be recognized and stood up to, because it continues today. FFRF has the courage and conviction I appreciate to meet this challenge. After becoming aware of FFRF through your ad in Scientific American magazine, I joined your fine organization with great pleasure. Keep up the wonderful work you do.

The Constitution is on our side.

Freedom From Religion Foundation