|Is||Writer Editor Teacher Educator Internet personality Podcaster|
|From||United States of America|
|Type||Academia Internet Journalism Literature|
|Birth||25 February 1983, Illinois, USA|
Hemant Mehta (born February 25, 1983) is an American author, blogger, and atheist activist. Mehta is a regular speaker at atheist events, and has been a board member of charitable organizations such as the Secular Student Alliance and the Foundation Beyond Belief.
Mehta runs the Friendly Atheist blog on Patheos, in which he and his associates publish articles several times a day, and also co-hosts a weekly podcast called the Friendly Atheist Podcast.
On April 1, 2020, Mehta won his first appearance on the television game show Jeopardy!
Mehta was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1983. 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 at Neuqua Valley High School until 2014 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." After his resignation, he stayed on as the head coach of the school's speech team.
Mehta was raised in the Jain faith. He 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 across the United States. 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 his book, I Sold My Soul on eBay. He is the father of two children.
Hemant Mehta established a secular student group, Students WithOut Religious Dogma (SWORD), at the University of Illinois at Chicago while earning dual degrees there. Later, still in college, he served as board chair for the Secular Student Alliance. He interned at the Center for Inquiry where he became familiar with a lot of the national organizations and leaders in the activist world at that time. Now, he serves on the board of directors for the Foundation Beyond Belief, a non-profit charitable organization.
Mehta is a regular speaker at freethought and skeptical events around the U.S. He attempts to build bridges of understanding between believers and non-believers through his blog, The Friendly Atheist. 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.
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 $2,400,000 since it launched in 2010. 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.
Mehta writes for the "On Faith" column in the Washington Post and has been featured in a New York Times debate on prayer.
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."
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 argued that "There’s a very real downside to praying. It lulls believers into a false sense of accomplishment." 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."
Mehta was a guest on CNN on August 20, 2013 to discuss the rise of atheism among the millennial generation. Also in 2013 he began publishing "The Atheist Voice" series of video discussions on YouTube, which had over 190,000 subscribers in October 2017.
Mehta is the co-host, with Jessica Bluemke, of a weekly podcast named the Friendly Atheist Podcast, which has produced over 270 episodes as of June 2019.
In January 2006, 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. 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.
Nearly a month after the auction, an article about Mehta's experiences appeared on the front page of The Wall Street Journal,. He was featured in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Seattle Times, and the Village Voice, and on National Public Radio. 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.
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.
In August 2014, Mehta announced his latest project, God is an Abusive Boyfriend (and you should break up), based on his YouTube series, The Atheist Voice. However, Mehta cancelled the project after receiving negative feedback from his readers.