No God, Know Peace: Introduction

Tom Flynn

In the April/May 2013 issue, FREE INQUIRY invited readers to submit autobiographical essays describing the life-stance odysseys that had led them to their present positions of secular humanism or atheism. This project was in some ways a return to FI’s roots. During its first decade, the magazine made a point of commissioning essays titled “Why I Am Not a . . . .” Inspired by Bertrand Russell’s short book Why I Am Not a Christian, each article detailed a writer’s intellectual and moral journey from a childhood of religious belief to his or her current humanist or atheist orientation.

With FI well into its fourth decade, we thought it apt to solicit new writing in this vein. With luck, we thought we might receive enough entries to assemble a cover feature for a future issue.

We had no idea what a torrent of impassioned writing our request would unleash. Ultimately we received forty-one publication-quality essays totaling approximately fifty-three thousand words. We have decided to present twenty-six of the top entries, nine of them in this issue. The remainder will be serialized over the next three issues of FREE INQUIRY. Rather than cluster them together by category (all the ex-Catholics in one issue, for example) we will present essays reflecting a variety of religious backgrounds in each issue between the one you hold in your hands and the August/September issue, in which the series will conclude.

Later in the year, all forty-one essays will be issued in book form by Inquiry Press, the new publishing imprint of our supporting organization, the Center for Inquiry.

It should come as no surprise that FI readers are so articulate or that they hail from such diverse religious and philosophical backgrounds. Often (but not always), their partings from their original worldviews demanded deep reflection and emotional struggle.


Tom Flynn

Tom Flynn is editor of Free Inquiry, executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism, director of the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum, and editor of The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief (2007).