“Best Bar Mitzvah Speech”

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Here is a 13-year-old kid at the graduation of his elementary religious education. Becoming a man in the eyes of his religion and in that same moment eloquently, intelligently reflecting on it in a way that renders all of it completely meaningless and ridiculous to him is quite remarkable. Taking this special moment as an opportunity in front of his whole family, his friends and their rabbi, to powerfully articulate his rejection of all of it in real-time is something we don’t get to witness every day. This was, we think, unthinkable only ten years ago. The maturity and lucidity of the Bar Mitzvah boy’s remarks are striking. It says not only that the earth has shifted under our feet, whether we know it or not, but that it is actually evolving while we post this here. The video itself was uploaded in 2007, making this family way ahead of it’s time. We are excited to be capturing America’s journey through uncharted territory in its religious identity, or lack thereof, as it happens.

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R.M.R. Co-Director Michael Dorian quoted in The Guardian

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The US Capitol Christmas tree Photograph: Jason Reed/REUTERS

REFUSING MY RELIGION Co-Director Michael Dorian was quoted in The Guardian by reporter Becky Garrison. In her article titled: Conservatives’ quagmire: the war on Christmas
Right wingers preach the Gospel according to Fox News. Their cries of holiday persecution just make them look more foolish… Read more here.

R.M.R. Co-Director Michael Dorian covered in N.Y. Times Article

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“May You Live In Interesting Times” ~ Chinese Proverb used as a curse upon an enemy

Refusing My Religion Co-Director Michael Dorian is quoted in this New York Times article. It’s about how atheists handle the holidays via the perspectives of numerous members of the diverse and colorful New York City secular community.

It’s no wonder that NYC is a fair microcosm of the differences that sometimes divide the overall movement on the actual playing field. How “assertive” should we be? How conciliatory ? Are we picking the right battles? Is our public image what it can be? How do we increase our numbers? What can we do to achieve the most important of our agreed-upon goals? And what, exactly, are those goals?

As America’s religious landscape tilts below us, the atheist movement could be positioned to have an even greater impact than it already has. Refusing My Religion has chronicled the past two full years of atheism (including a year on our other film, A Cross To Bear, about the American Atheists’ lawsuit over the inclusion of the 9/11 “Miracle” cross in the September 11th Museum). To be sure, it’s quite an eye-opening time to have documented, for those of any religious affiliation, or a complete lack thereof.

N.Y. Times article by Liz Robbins: ‘During Religious Season, Nonbelievers Assert Right to Celebrate’
In the darkness of an Upper West Side concert hall last weekend, 150 audience members holding twinkling plastic candles sang and swayed to celebrate reason and the season. Snow fell with abandon outside.

“We are not alone,” a humanist rock band crooned in a call and response… Read more here.

Alex Federici at the “Brighter Than Today: A Secular Solstice” show last weekend.VICTOR J. BLUE FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

‘REFUSING MY RELIGION’ in Becky Garrison’s article for the Washington Post today.

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Mark Poprocki / iStock

Leaving religion but finding community

By Becky Garrison

Since the Clergy Project established an online presence in 2011, this confidential resource for active and former clergy who no longer hold supernatural beliefs has grown from 52 to 470 members. Presently 80 percent or their members are based in the United States with the majority of these ex-clergy coming from evangelical and pentecostal traditions. While filming Refusing My Religion, a documentary about these religious leaders who’ve lost their faith and become atheist activists, co-directors Michael Dorian and Marc Levine documented a grassroots-level development of “godless congregations” (based on a Christian model) to provide people who’ve left religion with the “sense of community” they miss once they leave their churches. Click for the rest of the article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/wp/2013/07/10/leaving-religion-but-finding-community/

http://www.refusingmyreligion.com

REFUSING MY RELIGION – Trailer

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REFUSING MY RELIGION

Sometimes Finding Salvation Means Losing Your Faith

This story could only take place in America. What happens when preachers lose their faith and become atheist activists?

WHAT IS THIS DOCUMENTARY ABOUT?

Our feature-length documentary, REFUSING MY RELIGION, examines through intimate first-person accounts the experiences of clergy members who have left their careers in ministry, renounced religion, and gone on to become prominent figures in the secular movement.

When ministers lose their faith and “come out” not only as non-believers but as atheist activists, this is a clear indication that our society is transforming right before our eyes. We are making the definitive film about the unprecedented and rapid changes to the religious and cultural landscape of America.

As the internet and access to information continue to shape our world, religion now finds itself in a place it has never been before.

The Clergy Project is an online safe haven for former or active ministers, priests, rabbis, imams, etc. who have “moved beyond faith”. The website went public in March of 2011 with 52 original members; since then it has increased to 425.

The Clergy Project grew indirectly out of the 2010 Tufts University study “Preachers Who Are Not Believers” conducted by Daniel Dennett and Linda LaScola. In 2011 The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science provided funding to help launch TCP. Some of TCP’s founders include Dan Barker, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, clinical research consultant Linda LaScola, Clergy Project Executive Director Catherine Dunphy, and Executive Director of the RDFRS Dr. R. Elisabeth Cornwell.

A Hero, Nate Phelps

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This is our footage of Nate Phelps’s speech at the Reason Rally. Although we managed to get an outstanding interview with him for the documentary and filmed his recent stirring ReasonFest 2013 presentation, this speech still stands for us as a truly remarkable piece of oratory, and its message should be heard again and again, by many. We always wanted to post it all at a blog, so here it is from the movement’s biggest stage to date.

REFUSING MY RELIGION attended ReasonFest 2013 in Lawrence, Kansas. Orchestrated by Amanda and Adam Brown, the entire event was wonderfully thought-provoking, informative, and socially engaging. The impressive roster of speakers and panels was not to be missed as part of our film’s reportage on America’s current religious climate. The cameras were rolling nearly non-stop and we had the truly awe-inspiring experience of interviewing Nate Phelps. We’d met Nate at the 2012 American Atheists Conference and Reason Rally in D.C. and we were thrilled to catch up with him in Kansas. Notably, it took place not too far from where he spent much time growing up the son of Pastor Fred Phelps, founder of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. Nate is undeniably one of the greatest spokespersons the secular movement has. The quiet, dignified delivery from such an imposing figure conveys both composure and a powerful expression of truth one cannot help but absorb. He doesn’t have to do much to make one feel deeply moved by what he has endured. The crowd hung on his every word and many were tearful. As an acting student I had the great fortune of learning directly from David Mamet and Bill Macy through the Atlantic Theater Company. They taught us many lessons about art, human nature and life, including regular reminders that most powerful people don’t need to pound their chests or shout to get others to listen. Nate has this kind of unforgettable and placid presence about him. We would highly recommend seeing him speak if you have the chance. His calm demeanor juxtaposes a horrific childhood against where his life is now, and his journey getting here is nothing less than riveting. He will have you completely enthralled, causing you to reflect upon humanity and the world in which we live in a way that is rarely elucidated so profoundly. We are deeply honored to have him in our film as someone who understands better than most anyone that sometimes finding salvation means losing your faith. He is, to be sure, a great, humble man and we all need our heroes. Nate Phelps is simply there for everyone in just this way.

Nate Phelps is Executive Director of the Calgary Center for Inquiry; and a member of the board of directors for Recovering from Religion. To learn more about Nate, please visit his website: www.natephelps.com

“I Couldn’t Keep It To Myself”

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“I Couldn’t Keep It To Myself”

Candace Gorham, Ex-Shevangelist: The Rarest of Atheists

Truth be told, Candace Gorham is a microscopically tiny sliver of the overall shifting demographic trend toward non-belief in America. Like a little-known-of, truly rare specimen in the wondrous biosphere of human life, Candace might well be one of just a truly small few, if not the only black female former evangelical minister turned atheist. Who came out! And who now is writing a book: The Ebony Exodus Project: Why Some Black Women Are Walking out on Religion—and Others Should Too
here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Ebony-Exodus-Project-Religion/dp/1939578027

But getting to Candace was no easy feat. With an almost anthropological determination, we picked up pieces of stories, discovered names, and were led in the right direction. In the midst of everything, Catherine Dunphy’s vital support as Executive Director of The Clergy Project facilitated an exchange between Todd Stiefel and us. Many know of Todd for his Stiefel Freethought Foundation’s philanthropy within the atheist movement. But what many don’t know is that he’s also a dedicated hands-on activist. As soon we were in touch, he began offering to help. He then facilitated interviews for Refusing My Religion with Dr. Bruce Little of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and with Christian radio-show host of Called2Action Steve Noble. And then at a Triangle Freethought Society meeting in Raleigh, of which Todd is also a part, that night’s speaker was Edwina Rogers, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America. She was giving a presentation to a huge room packed with atheists in the belly of the Bible belt about the “rise of the Nones” and how this directly affects the movement’s lobbying efforts in D.C. It was an extraordinary atmosphere, given the geography. So, through due diligence and the efforts of numerous people willing to help along the way, we eventually met Candace. And this is how it’s been time and again while making this film. An intricate odyssey of truly impressive people and unforgettable experiences all interwoven “like it was meant to be.” Our ramblings eventually caught us up with the one and only Candace Gorham.

Then, we were interviewed on the radio last week by another journalist also with that same anthropological hunger, Jamila Bey. Jamila is one of the few others so dialed into this evolving socio-cultural landscape that she also knew of Candace, and of what Candace does for Recovering From Religion, Darrel Ray’s organization which has been at the vanguard of supporting refusers of religion. (You can hear us on Jamila Bey’s radio show here discussing Candace and the making of Refusing My Religion) http://voicerussia.com/radio_broadcast/72286564/110545611.html )

Candace, rare as she may be, can speak for untold numbers of black women in America who feel suffocated by a faith they no longer have. Or anyplace where women are oppressed by religion for that matter. How many will she inspire to live truthfully regardless of the inevitable consequences? And, how important is her book, The Ebony Exodus Project, to the Secular movement… ?

So now, a glimpse of REFUSING MY RELIGION’s interview with the courageous and pioneering Candace Gorham…

CANDACE’S BOOK LINK:

http://www.amazon.com/Ebony-Exodus-Project-Walking-Religion/dp/1939578027/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1366073574&sr=1-1&keywords=ebony+exodus+project

ALL OTHER LINKS:

http://clergyproject.org/

http://recoveringfromreligion.org/

http://www.stiefelfreethoughtfoundation.org/

http://www.trianglefreethoughtsociety.org/

http://biologos.org/blog/author/little-bruce-a

http://c2athisweek.org/CMS/

http://secular.org/

http://voicerussia.com/radio_broadcast/72286564/110545611.html

“Muhammad Doe”

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“But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

What is wrong with the part is wrong with the whole. When one person suffers, humanity suffers.

Throughout the making of our documentary REFUSING MY RELIGION, there have been many moments that have struck Michael and me in the pit of our guts. Many of them have been unanticipated, generated by our pursuit of telling the story of those who live truthfully in spite of its consequences. We find ourselves different since we started on this journey. Our mission is for this post to touch to you in the very same way things hopefully will through our film. This can transform the way we look at the world around us when telling the story of those who continue to suffer and those who have experienced personal victory by coming out as atheists against all adversity. Our travels presented us with several such individuals. One of them has come out and one is still living in secrecy. Hearing their stories was an unforgettable experience. It made us yet again grasp the gravity of this project. One is from Iraq, has come out and has thrived as a humanist activist. His name is Faisal Saeed Al Mutar. Faisal has managed to survive attempts by Islamic fundamentalists in his home country to murder him for his humanist activities. He moved here to the States only weeks ago, having been granted political asylum. Relatively safe now, he can and is continuing to thrive doing what he loves, being a humanist activist, and an impressive one he is. He has founded and runs the phenomenally successful Global Secular Humanist Movement. We are deeply moved by his story and are honored to share it with you in our film. The other we can refer to only as “Muhammad Doe”. Originally from a Middle Eastern nation where there is Sharia law, he is still in hiding somewhere in the states. He is unable to publicly come out as an atheist because he feels that even in this country, there will be those (including his family) who would kill him for doing so. These two stories of men from Muslim countries who are secular clearly represent the personal dichotomies of pastors in the Clergy Project, both those who have unshackled themselves and those who still lay in wait, hiding, desperately looking for a way to “come out”. We also found out that Faisal and “Muhammad Doe” knew of the Clergy Project. They were familiar the names Jerry DeWitt, Teresa MacBain, Mike Aus, and “Adam Mann”. The former ministers in our film who have come out in the Clergy Project have actually inspired these men from the Middle East to do the same. This beautiful cycle is the very mechanism of inspiration. It underscores all of our humble efforts as filmmakers in sharing these stories. We know that in a Madrasa somewhere there will be a kid who hears the words and sees others who have gone first. This might help that kid to summon the strength to live truthfully. Even though we find ourselves many years removed from the end of slavery, the right to sit in a bus where you want to, the right to vote, the Holocaust, and suffrage, the final work of the Civil Rights movement is not done. Not here nor abroad. Amazingly, this world still has profound, infuriating and frightening intolerance of all forms. There is much needed work to be done. We hope this film serves as inspiration to those who fear for their lives because they want the freedom to live reasonably, truthfully. This world deserves tolerance for all who live in it, and we are determined to serve its creation and growth. We strive to increase compassion, awareness and knowledge. Besides, what else is there to do?

REFUSING MY RELIGION On Air w/ Jamila Bey this Thursday, April 11th from 6-7pm, est.

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We are so fired up to be on the air with the great Jamila Bey this Thursday, April 11th from 6-7 PM est. We will be on for the entire hour discussing our experiences making our documentary REFUSING MY RELIGION. Please listen in and feel free to share the info. Listen to us here live: http://ruvr.condensa.ru/ruvr05_eng_us.html Thank you!

Jamila’s show is also carried by:
Washington, DC: AM 1390 AND WTOP 103.5 FM HD-2
NYC: AM 1430
Chicago: WILV 100.3 FM HD-2
Miami: 99.9 HD-2.

Jamila’s website: http://sparwithjamila.com

Jamila Bey is a journalist based in Washington, D.C., where she hosts the weekly radio show: SPAR with Jamila Bey, which airs on AM 1390 in Washington and AM 1430 in New York City.

Jamila is also a contributor to the Washington Post blog, “She the People,” and a frequent guest on the MSNBC show, “Up With Chris Hayes.”

Can't wait to be on Jamila Bey's SPAR radio program!

Can’t wait to be on Jamila Bey’s SPAR radio program!

Link

Thank you Hemant! Honored to be covered by and have Hemant in our documentary.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/04/05/a-documentary-film-about-pastors-who-lose-their-faith/