Many people have suggested we start an introductions section to our forum. Here it is, and I will start things off.

My name is Richard Haynes (AKA: Brother Richard). I am a writer and public speaker who happens to lives in the buckle of the Bible belt: Atlanta, Georgia.

I was raised in a nonreligious home, but as a teenage runaway, I had a very real "born again" experience. Almost immediately I became an evangelist and personally led hundreds of individuals to Christ.

I went on to receive a Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies, and became an associate minister in a 12,000 member mega-church.

In 1993, a couple of months after the birth of our eldest daughter, my wife (Angela) and I made the agonizing decision to leave our church which was engulfed in scandal. Terrified and unemployed, we began our long and arduous journey to rationality and nontheism.

I am now secularly ordained and have dedicated myself to encouraging and inspiring others to "come out" of the religious closet. I am also devoted to building the atheist community.
I maintain a blog called: Life Without Faith, and I am the executive director of this wonderful site. (Which by the way is one of the world's largest atheist social networking sites).

If you would like to invite me to speak to your local group or at your convention, please feel free to contact me.

If you have any questions you would like to ask me, post them here. I will answer them all.

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Thanks Daniel. It just so happens that I am in the process of writing a book. How much of my personal story will be in it has not been decided.

I can't wait to read your book - it sounds so fascinating - you have a rich story to tell. Thanks for the site.

It was good to read your story, and thanks so much for being the executive director of this site. I love it here, and have been recommending it to all my atheist and agnostic friends.
What is a "born again" experience? Why do you think people have them?
Deborah, thanks for the question. I forget sometimes that I still speak in "Christianese."

The term "Born Again" is a term used by evangelical Christians to describe what one must due to receive salvation from Hell and enter into a personal relationship with Christ. It comes from the Gospel of John (Chapter 3:1-8). In this passage, Jesus tells the Pharisee Nicodemus, that unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.

In recent history, evangelists call upon sinners to recite what is called the sinner's prayer. A prayer said to ask Jesus into your heart. In some form they use what is called the "Four Spiritual Laws:"

1. God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.
2. However, because man is sinful he is separated from God, and can't experience God's love and plan for his life. Because of this we deserve eternal damnation.
3. This is why God sent his only son Jesus Christ to die for our sins. So we would be off the hook.
4. All we have to do is believe, accept, and receive this free gift of God.

Once an individual is made to feel guilty for being such a bad person and is convinced that their life is meaningless without God, they are told to pray something like this:

"Lord Jesus, I am so sorry for my sins. I need you. Thanks for dying for me. Come into my life and be my Lord and Savior.

That's it. Abracadabra you are now "Born Again." Once you do it, then you find a church and then are told about what the "fine print" of this deal. Like giving 10% of your money to the church, submitting to a "spiritual authority," and giving up most of freedoms.

And, if someone doesn't accept this great and wonderful FREE gift, they burn and are tortured for eternity in Hell. Gee, what a deal.

Here's some more from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Born_again_(Christianity)
I was just wondering if you had contacted Dan Barker at the Freedom From Religion Foundation regarding your story. He is a former Baptist minister who collects testimonies from Clergy turned Atheists.
Yes, Dan and I spent some time together in DC a couple months back. He is a great guy.
Bridgette, I will leave it to BR to respond to your questions, but would like to add that he is the person responsible for making A|N what it is. There was doubt and it was cast aside. The controversy came and went last summer, but hats off to you for remaining skeptical. As a life long atheist I will gladly stand by BR and affirm his commitment to skepticism, rationalism and an end to invisible sky fairies...
Richard is not new to this site... he's been running it with money out of his own pocket and time taken away from his family. Your questions have been asked and answered before. If I wasn't so tired, I'd look all of them up for you.

I should have been in bed and attempting to sleep over an hour ago, so I don't have time to respond to your comment in full, Bridgette. You could learn more about him by reading his online journal Life Without Faith.

Kristy Vennson, Atheist Nexus board member and frequent contributor to the site suggests Why People Should Donate To Atheist Nexus.

Kristy comments in another thread: "It's a joke, of sorts. The only person called 'Brother' on this site (as far as I'm aware), is AN's administrator, Brother Richard. Richard used to be an ordained minister. When he left the church, he wanted to be able to practice as a secular celebrant, but was required on the registration form to select a title. Brother was the only title on the form that he felt did not put him 'above' others (as opposed to Dr, Professor, Father, etc.). When he started his website, Life Without Faith, Richard used the username, Brother Richard, almost as a joke. It stuck and he became well known in the atheist community as 'Brother Richard'.

Richard joined Nexus in its early days as an ordinary member, simply using the same well-known user name. When the founder, 'Thor'/Kym stood down, Richard took over and by then was also known here as "Brother Richard".

AN has no 'staff' per se. Richard runs it with a small group of behind-the-scenes volunteers."

Results of the investigation of the origins of Atheist Nexus

I'm going to empower you. Go to the main discussion page. Put the search term "Brother Richard" (with quotation marks) in the search box, and click on the wee magnifying glass icon.

Have fun.
Bridgette,

Thanks for the questions, I always welcome them.

Here’s some answers:

1. Secularly ordained is just what it says. You have to be some type of officiant to legally perform weddings and unions. I chose to be ordained secularly, because I am not religious.

2. When I was “secularly ordained,” I had to choose an official title from a predetermined list. I didn’t want to use Rev., Pastor, Father, etc. The only one I could tolerate was “brother.” It was the only name that reflected a horizontal (thus equal) relationship instead of a vertical (or superior) one.

When I started my blog, I specifically wanted to play off my religious past and experiences. A friend suggested that I use the moniker brother there as well. I also like to play off my religious past, so I have written secular eulogies for people like Arthur C. Clarke, and refer to my fellow atheist bloggers as Brothers or Sisters. I even refer to the big-dogs with the names, irRev. Dawkins, irRev. Hitchens, etc. It was all a joke, but as an interesting side effect, my site, has quite a large theist readership. I am contacted almost daily by former believers (and a few ministers) who have been helped reading my writings.

Finally, when I got involved with Atheist Nexus, as a matter of habit, I used my usual internet nickname: Brother Richard. Now, what started as a joke is stuck with me now. No one knows who I am unless I use it. To me it is no different than someone named Sally who goes by “tigerlady34” online.

3. I agree atheism is not a religion. As the saying goes, atheism is to religion as bald is to hair color. That being said, there are several wonderful things individuals and families get from churches that have nothing to do with the superstitions. We should not be afraid to develop communities of equals. Again, this has nothing to do with the definition of atheism. They are simply communities made up of atheists.

4. Yep, you’re right; I left the church due to the “scandal.” However, I remained a Christian for almost ten years. My journey to rationalism (and my wife's) was slow and complicated. I’ve told the story several times, so I won’t go into it here. Under the About Us tab you will find some links to some interviews I have done that explain in more detail.

Thanks
I've been on Atheist Nexus 10 months now. During that time it's grown from under 4,000 members to over 11,000. All of it with Br. Richard at the helm. It's been a life saver for me and many others who have felt isolated and in need of community. I for one am grateful for the committment of many in the leadership of A|N, and that includes with Br. Richard at the helm.

Frankly, the nastiness of this attack is uncalled for. So someone with no sense of irony can't see the humor in the name Br. Richard. So someone cant understand how a family in crisis could make a journey to reason together. If you have so much distrust in A|N, why are you here?
Bridgette, there has never been any doubt on this site that Richard is 100% genuine. Concerns were raised in the very first weeks of the site about the authenticity of the originator of the site, Kym (Thor) - they were soon dispelled. However, because of the need to have someone in charge who had the complete confidence of the community, Kym put the future of the site first, and stepped aside in favour of Richard. Richard was already established, and well known, as an atheist from his Life without Faith website.

Richard took on a huge job of establishing Nexus at enormous personal and financial cost to himself and with no promise of recompense. He has the approval, friendship and trust of major atheists such as Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, Margaret Downey, Dan Barker, Pen Jilette and Stuart Bechman. Further, he has steered this site through some often troubled waters to the roaring success it is today - the largest atheist social networking site in the world with over 10,000 members added in just one year, and membership increasing at approximately 250 members a week.

Richard's personal story of deconversion is entirely credible. He was involved in a major televangelical ministry and did leave after a scandal (in which he, himself, played no part other than in exposing aspects of it). It was after being ostracized by members of the ministry and congregation that he and his wife determined to re-examine their faith. This occurred, as I understand it, over a relatively long period, with the ultimate result that both rejected Christianity and began to realize they had been 'duped'. Richard then decided to use his considerable talents at evangelism to speak out against the lies spread by theists.

A part of the 'service' he could offer to the secular community was to become secularly ordained so that he could legally perform weddings, funerals, etc. He chose the title 'Brother' because it was the only one on offer that suggested a horizontal, equal relationship with his clients.

I am writing this to you because I consider myself a personal friend of Brother Richard, we have worked side by side (along with many others) from the inception of this site, and because Richard has recently had a health crisis in his family which has demanded his attention. I expect he will answer you when he can, but he may not have the time to write at this length.

It is unfortunate, Bridgette, that you have come onto this site and, without sufficient information, have decided to put 2 and 2 together and make 5.

Let me repeat. There is absolutely no doubt about Richard's authenticity as an international ambassador for atheism. He works hand in hand with atheist leaders around the world and is accepted by all of them for his hard work, dedication and talents.

There is not one 'whiff' of scandal anywhere about Richard. Not one. He is exactly what he says he is.

Cynicism and skepticism are valuable tools in an atheist's arsenal, but you have based your reasoning on too little knowledge - this is always a mistake.

Had you simply asked politely as many others have here, "Who is Brother Richard, and why does he use that title?" you would have been given all the information on which to make an informed assessment. Instead, you have gone off half-cocked and cast aspersions on one of the hardest working and most effective atheists in the world.

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