Hemant Mehta

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Hemant Mehta
Hemant Mehta.jpg
Born (1983-02-25)February 25, 1983
Illinois, U.S.
Pen name The Friendly Atheist
Citizenship United States
Education M.S. in Math Education, Biology
Alma mater University of Illinois at Chicago, DePaul University
Notable work(s) I Sold My Soul on eBay, Friendly Atheist blog

www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/
Hemant Mehta voice recording

Hemant Mehta (born 1983) is an author, blogger, and atheist activist who gained fame for "selling his soul" on eBay. Mehta is a regular speaker at atheist events and has sat on the boards of charitable organizations such as the Secular Student Alliance and the Foundation Beyond Belief. He also runs a blog on Patheos, Friendly Atheist, in which he posts multiple times a day.

Biography[edit]

Hemant Mehta was born just outside Chicago, Illinois in 1983.[1] He graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2004 with a double degree in math and biology and began teaching in 2007. He acquired a master's degree in math education from DePaul University in 2010 and a national board certification in teaching in 2012. He taught high school math in Naperville, Illinois[2][3] until recently when he announced on Facebook and his blog that he had submitted his resignation to the school, citing that "As much as I love being in the classroom, the opportunities online are just a lot greater right now, and I don’t want to have any regrets down the road about not taking this chance while I have it."[4]

Although he was raised in the Jain faith, Mehta became an atheist as a teenager. Seeking to learn more about what motivated many Americans to be religious, he decided to attend and take notes at a number of churches around the country. He based his choice of churches to attend on the results of an eBay auction in which he offered his bidders, ”I am an atheist. You can bid on where I go to church or a temple or a mosque, etc." Mehta's experiences at the churches became the basis for the book I Sold My Soul on eBay.[5]

Activism[edit]

Hemant Mehta established a secular student group, Students WithOut Religious Dogma (SWORD),[6] at the University of Illinois at Chicago while earning dual degrees there. Later he served as board chair for the Secular Student Alliance[7] and now serves on the board of directors for the Foundation Beyond Belief, a non-profit charitable organization.[8]

Mehta is a regular speaker at freethought and skeptical events around the U.S.[9] He attempts to build bridges of understanding between believers and non-believers through his blog, The Friendly Atheist.[10] Due in part to his positive message, he is also invited to speak at atheist events such as the one he presented at The Reason Rally or at the American Atheists Annual Convention in March 2012.[11][12][13]

A vocal advocate of building an atheist community, Mehta's activism includes fundraising for charitable causes. He helped establish and serves on the board of the Foundation Beyond Belief, which has raised more than $1,000,000 since it launched in 2010.[14] He also established a church cleanup fund in response to reports of church vandalism in Bend, Oregon, in 2012. The vandals tagged the church with allusions to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and Mehta's readers contributed nearly $3,000 in one day to help clean up the damage.[15]

Mehta writes for the "On Faith" column in the Washington Post and has been featured in a New York Times debate on prayer.[16][17]

When asked about his beliefs his response is clear: "Simply put, I have never seen any evidence of 'God's work' in action. I've seen what people think is God's work, but which actually has perfectly natural explanations. I believe that most people are good, even when nobody's looking. I believe our best path to discovering the truth lies in science, not religion."[18]

Hemant Mehta presents scholarship check to Jessica Ahlquist at Reason Rally

Hemant Mehta continues to challenge religious believers with straight talk in a non-confrontational fashion. In June 2013 he wrote for the "Room for Debate" series in the New York Times, where he exclaimed that, "There’s a very real downside to praying. It lulls believers into a false sense of accomplishment."[17] In July 2013 he held an open discussion at the Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, where he explained his frustration at being confronted time and again with the same arguments for believing in God. He also commented that, "Many Christians had negative stereotypes about atheists that prevented fruitful conversation."[19]

Mehta was a guest on CNN on 20 Aug 2013 to discuss the rise of atheism among the millennial generation.[20] Also in 2013 he began publishing "The Atheist Voice" series of video discussions on YouTube, which now has over 90,000 subscribers.[21]

With Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins at "An Appetite for Wonder - An Evening with Richard Dawkins October 3, 2013. Evanston, Illinois, USA.

Published Works[edit]

In January 2006, Hemant Mehta posted an auction on eBay where he explained his background in atheism and offered to go to the worship services of the winning bidder's choosing.[22] The auction ended on February 3, 2006 with a final bid of $504 from Jim Henderson, a minister from Seattle, Washington. Mehta later donated that money to the Secular Student Alliance, a non-profit organization for which he served as Chair of the Board of Directors.[23]

Nearly a month after the auction, an article about Mehta's experiences appeared on the front page of The Wall Street Journal,[23] leading to a flurry of media coverage. He was featured in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Seattle Times, and the Village Voice, and on National Public Radio.[24] Henderson asked Mehta to visit a variety of churches and write about the experiences on Henderson's website, offthemap.com. Mehta eventually wrote about his visits at nine different churches as well as two additional pieces dealing with atheist conventions and Christian media. I Sold My Soul on eBay contains Mehta's observations and critiques of the churches along with background on how he became an atheist.[25]

Other published works include The Young Atheist's Survival Guide published in 2012 and The Friendly Atheist: Thoughts on the Role of Religion in Politics and Media published in 2013. The former is aimed at students, teachers, and parents who may face ostracism due to their lack of religious belief. The latter is intended as a study guide for the many things written by Mehta.[26]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Freethought of the Day". Freedom From Religion Foundation. Retrieved 8 April 2014. 
  2. ^ "Making Math and Atheism Friendly". Freethought Today, Vol. 30 No. 1. January–February 2013. 
  3. ^ "Find the Data". Find the Data. Retrieved 5 February 2014. 
  4. ^ Mehta, Hemant (July 26, 2014). "I Made a Big Life Decision the Other Day". The Friendly Atheist. Patheos. Retrieved 07-27-2014. 
  5. ^ Sheahen, Laura. "I Sold My Soul on Ebay — Interview with Atheist Hemant Mehta". Retrieved 14 September 2013. 
  6. ^ "Author Profile: Hemant Mehta". Amazon.com. Retrieved 29 September 2013. 
  7. ^ "Hemant Mehta" (Bio), Speakers list (Secular Student Alliance) 
  8. ^ "Meet the Board". Foundation Beyond Belief. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  9. ^ "Secular Student Alliance Speakers". Secular Student Alliance. Retrieved 2013-06-15. 
  10. ^ "About Hemant Mehta", Friendly Atheist Blog (Patheos), retrieved 2014-01-20 
  11. ^ "Reason Rally Hemant Mehta". YouTube. 29 March 2012. Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  12. ^ "Official Schedule". ReasonRally.org. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  13. ^ "2012 National Convention of the American Atheists in Washington, DC.". American Atheists. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  14. ^ "Meet the Board". Foundation Beyond Belief. Retrieved 5 February 2014. 
  15. ^ Alicia Inns (June 26, 2012). "Atheists Raise Funds For Vandalized Bend Churches". KTVZ.com. Retrieved 5 February 2014. 
  16. ^ Quinn, Sally. "On Faith". Washington Post. Retrieved 5 October 2013. 
  17. ^ a b "A Useless Habit, With a Dark Side". New York Times. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  18. ^ "Hemant Mehta". DFWCOR Diversity Council. Coalition of Reason. Retrieved 5 October 2013. 
  19. ^ Dolan, Eric W. "‘Friendly Atheist’ informs megachurch: We’ve heard all of it before". Rawstory.com. The Raw Story. Retrieved 28 September 2013. 
  20. ^ Chidi, George. "Hemant Mehta on rising atheism among millennials: ‘It’s not that Christianity is unpopular, it’s that it’s untrue.’". Raw Story. Retrieved 5 October 2013. 
  21. ^ Mehta, Hemant. "The Atheist Voice". The Atheist Voice. Youtube.com. Retrieved 20 July 2014. 
  22. ^ "Mehta's original eBay auction (via Internet Archive Wayback Machine". Archived from the original on 2006-08-18. 
  23. ^ a b "Wall Street Journal article, reprinted on Off-the-map.org". 
  24. ^ "Author Spotlight: Hemant Mehta". WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. Retrieved 23 February 2014. 
  25. ^ Mehta, Hemant (2007). I Sold My Soul on eBay. WaterBrook Publishing. ISBN 1400073472. 
  26. ^ Mehta, Hemant. "The Friendly Atheist: Books". Pantheos Press. Retrieved 29 September 2013. 

External links[edit]