Marie D'Elephant was immersed in the Christian religion as a child. She attended a Lutheran church growing up and then General Baptist Conference. She took church very seriously as its message satisfied her need for black and white in the world. Correspondingly, her doubts about the supernatural also began early, at the age of 13. The Christian high school she attended required "religion class" every year and in her freshman year, the teacher pretended to be New Age on the first day in order to challenge the students' beliefs and their ability to defend them. Well, that backfired. That experience along with common sense sprung Marie on a journey of doubt. Her teen years were tumultuous as she attempted to respect and follow her doubts while her peers, family, and community all agreed that the doubts were baseless and that coming to the right conclusion was a matter of life and death.
When she graduated from high school, she decided to double down on her faith and signed up to do a Discipleship Training School through Youth With a Mission in Mexico. The religious culture was more dogmatic and toxic than anything Marie had experienced up to that point and it galvanized her faith. However, as a recurring theme, Marie's religious passion couldn't withstand her doubts. After being a missionary in Mexico for 2 years, she returned home and continued on her deconversion journey. By her mid-20s, she was no longer calling herself an Christian but was still dealing with the fallout of losing her faith and her entire worldview. Taking their place were major depression, an eating disorder, and panic/anxiety disorders. Marie has spent the subsequent years getting help for her religious trauma, hitting on topics such as autonomy, agency, assertiveness, and authenticity. Now, even at 38 years old, she deals with her religious trauma on a daily basis.
She discovered the Everyone's Agnostic Podcast
in 2016 after hearing Ryan Bell from Life After God interviewing Cass Midgley. She started listening to the podcast and found the tone profoundly refreshing. There were plenty of angry atheist podcasts out there but this one seemed to strive to treat others with compassion, to seek empowerment and healing, to embrace nuance, and to develop a life that is fulfilling. In her first email to Cass and Bob as a fan, she invited herself on the show and casually offered that she could co-host anytime they needed her (foreshadow much?). Her interview in late 2016 was deeply healing and cathartic for her. When Cass shared that Bob was leaving the show and that Cass was feeling stretched thin, Marie immediately felt inspired to be a part of it all. She began doing administration for the show and soon after became the co-host for a year until Cass retired the show in October 2019. But Marie wasn't done talking. She started a spin-off podcast entitled Everyone's Autonomous
which revolves around endlessly diverse themes of autonomy and empowerment for individuals recovering from religion.
Marie is self-employed as a secular activist
, life coach
& speaker with a specialty in ethical non-monogamy, and virtual assistant (for Dave Warnock
and Dr. Marlene Winell
). Marie enjoys being alone, being with people, hiking, boxing, street photography, Spanish, zumba, remedying her education, cannabis, talking about feelings & relationships, swearing, doing scary things, and being authentic as fuck.
Gretta Vosper is passionate about the work of capturing the “off-label
benefits” of religion, most particularly the improved subjective
wellbeing experienced by many of its adherents, for individuals and
communities for which religious belief or practice is no longer
meaningful. She has served West Hill United Church
for over two
decades, supporting its transition to becoming a theologically non-
exclusive community, the first of its kind within traditional Christianity.
After describing herself as an atheist for the purpose of being in
solidarity with Bangladeshi secular bloggers, her denomination
launched a heresy trial against her. After three and a half years, the
matter was settled and Gretta continues in ministry at West Hill with
A best-selling author, Gretta has written three books:
Gretta serves on the Board of
The Oasis Network
, an organization
supporting the creation of meaning-making community beyond
religious belief. She founded the now-retired Canadian Centre for
Progressive Christianity, has served as a Director of
The Clergy Project
an organization providing support to clergy who no longer believe, as a
Governor for Centennial College and on the Board of the
Ecumenical Community of Chautauqua
As a senior minister with the Metropolitan United Church and well-known syndicated religion
columnist, Bob Ripley’s personal and professional life for the past three decades was defined by his
Now, years after stepping down from the pulpit, he has made a stunning transformation, declaring
himself an atheist after what he calls a gradual journey of self-discovery.
Bob has said that his deconversion from faith was no less radical and joyful than his conversion to
faith was. His talk will surely inspire all who attend, religious and non-religious.
In his new book,
Life Beyond Belief: A Preacher’s Deconversion
(which will be available at the conference for $10),
Ripley – who served as minister at
Sarnia’s Dunlop United Church from 1987-94 – explains how a renewed curiosity and appreciation
for science and concerns with certain “distasteful” biblical passages fueled a profound investigation
into his own beliefs.
“I had come to the conclusion that all religion was man-made,. “I wrote the book to give people a
fuller understanding of why somebody would make such a 180 degree turn.”
The journey from believer to unbeliever started roughly seven years ago, Ripley explains, crediting his
decision to take early retirement from the Church to waning passion for preaching.
“The fire had gone out of my belly,” he said, adding the transformation from a devout senior religious
figure to skeptical atheist did not take a “linear” path.
Ripley credits scientific discovery as “pivotal” in propelling his journey towards atheism by providing
answers to profound questions of human existence that were previously only explained by religion.
“In the history of our species, when we didn’t understand ‘who we were, how we got here’ we needed
to create stories and mythology that would give an explanation,” he said.
“As science has increased our understanding of how we got here and how huge the universe is, then
the need for stories and mythology to explain them has dwindled.”
Now living in London, Ripley says the response to his de-conversion has been mostly positive. One
former congregant told him his contributions as a minister are still valued, even if he no
longer identifies as a Christian. “She expressed great appreciation for what I did for her and her
family while I was their minister,” he added. “That really comforts me … my change of mind has not
negated the good that I did in almost 45 years in ministry.”
Annie Laurie Gaylor
Co-Founder: Freedom From Religion Foundation
, Madison, Wisconsin, 1976, when she was a college student, with
her mother Anne Nicol Gaylor. Annie Laurie first joined FFRF’s staff in 1985, and served as editor of Freethought
Today, FFRF’s newspaper, until 2009. She became co-president with Dan Barker in 2004. The Foundation
incorporated as a national nonprofit educational organization with two purposes in 1978 under the leadership of Anne
Nicol Gaylor and works to protect the constitutional principle of state/church separation and to educate about
nontheism. Annie Laurie’s books, all published by FFRF, include:
Annie Laurie has overseen countless lawsuits on behalf of the Freedom From Religion Foundation to
keep religion out of government, and has served as a plaintiff in many of them.
As a college student she persuaded the University of Wisconsin-Madison to stop holding graduation prayers. She
graduated in 1980 from Journalism School, University of Wisconsin Madison, where she was editorial page editor of
the Daily Cardinal, and was recipient of the Ken Purdy Scholarship. She edited and published The Feminist
Connection from 1980-1985, pronounced the “most nonpatriarchal” feminist periodical of its time by author Meridel
LeSueur. She was on her first feminist picket line at age 14, was co-chair for more than a decade of the Feminist
Caucus of the American Humanist Association
, and is co-administrator of the Women’s Medical Fund, the longest
continuously-operating abortion rights fund in the nation, founded by her mother Anne Gaylor, Prof. Robert West and
Peg West. The all-volunteer fund has helped more than 25,000 indigent Wisconsin-area residents exercise their
constitutional right to safe abortion care. She is married to Dan Barker, they have a grown daughter, and live in
Dave Warnock is a former conservative Evangelical pastor and church leader for almost 40 years. About ten years ago, he began a process of examining and
investigating the faith claims of Evangelical Christianity for the first time in his life and came to the conclusion that the faith he had given his life
to was something he could no longer embrace. At first calling himself an agnostic, in the last few years he has purposefully begun to embrace the word ‘Atheist’.
In so doing, he's doing what he can to de-stigmatize this word (which simply means “non-theist”) and seeking to show that atheists can be good people,
exhibiting the same morals and values as people of faith.
His exit from Christianity was basically due to the tenants of his life-long faith no longer aligning with his core beliefs of toleration and acceptance of
all people, and his belief that life is to be lived for the moments that are contained within this one life we know we have; rather than viewing this life as
a “temporary” life until we enter eternity. Turning his back on this faith came at huge personal cost with the loss of almost his entire community of friends,
the end of his 37 year marriage, and the loss of relationship with two of his three children, which has also deprived him of being a part of his six
grandchildren’s lives to this day. As we know, life is random, chaotic, and unpredictable; and it’s no different for him. On February 26, 2019, he received the
devastating diagnosis of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). A series of doctor visits, a blood test, MRI, more doctor visits, and finally an EMG at one of the most
prestigious hospitals in the country was followed by the cold and clinically fatal diagnosis along with instructions to put his clothes back on and where to
find the elevator outside the exit from the neurologist’s office. No follow-up plan… no counselor referral… just to go home and die in 3-5 years.
Suddenly for him this precious and brief life became infinitely more precious and incredibly brief. Instead of succumbing to the depression, anger, and
hopelessness this debilitating fatal diagnosis often brings, he immediately decided to begin “Dying Out Loud,” - living life to the fullest and making
plans to travel as much of the world as his body would allow. He wanted to see places to which he’d never been and spend time with people he knew and loved,
while also experiencing the joy of meeting new people and cherishing the beautiful “moments” life offers all of us. This life change soon morphed into what
is now known as the Dying Out Loud tour
he travels to speak at venues all over the country (actually, the world), doing interviews on podcasts and
YouTube shows, and basically spreading his message anywhere he can.
Bio from FFRF
Dan became a teenage evangelist at age 15. At 16 he was choir librarian for faith-healer Kathryn Kuhlman’s Los Angeles appearances. He received a degree in Religion from Azusa Pacific University and was ordained to the ministry by the Standard Community Church, California, in 1975. (See ordination.) He served as associate pastor in three California churches: Arcadia Friend’s Church (Quaker), Glengrove Assembly of God (Hacienda Heights), and Standard Christian Center, an independent Charismatic church loosely affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ tradition) in Standard, California. Dan was a Protestant missionary in Mexico for a total of two years.
Dan preached for 19 years. He maintained an ongoing touring musical ministry, including eight years of full-time, cross-country evangelism. An accomplished pianist, record producer, arranger and songwriter, he worked with Christian music companies such as Manna Music and Word Music. For a few years, Dan wrote and produced the annual “Mini Musicale” for Gospel Light Publications’ Vacation Bible School curriculum.
For more than two decades, Dan was accompanist, arranger, and record producer for Manuel Bonilla, the leading Christian singer in the Spanish-speaking world. He accompanied on the piano such Christian personalities as Pat Boone, Jimmy Roberts (of the Lawrence Welk Show), and gospel songwriter Audrey Meier, and was a regular guest on Southern California’s “Praise The Lord” TV show (Spanish). One of Dan’s Christian songs, “There Is One,” was performed by Rev. Robert Schuller’s television choir on the “Hour of Power” broadcast. To this day, he receives royalties from his popular children’s Christian musicals, “Mary Had a Little Lamb” (1977), and “His Fleece Was White As Snow” (1978), both published by Manna Music and performed in many countries.
Following five years of reading, Dan gradually outgrew his religious beliefs. “If I had limited myself to Christian authors, I’d still be a Christian today,”
Dan says. “I just lost faith in faith.” He announced his atheism publicly in January, 1984. He tells his story in the books:
Dan was PR Director of the Freedom From Religion Foundation from 1987 to 2004. He was elected co-president of the Foundation with Annie Laurie Gaylor in 2004, with whom he is co-host of Freethought Radio, a national weekly talkshow. He is a contributing editor of Freethought Today and is involved with the Foundation’s state/church lawsuits. He regularly travels the country and the world giving lectures, performing concerts, and participating in debates with theists, many at college and university campuses.