BRAIN FOOD

Here is a mix of individuals who in one way or the other are very passionate about and supportive of the movement towards a secular humanist world. Through debates, discussions and interviews they are keeping the arguments sharp, alive and up to speed with the progress of science and current political events. Enjoy the videos and feed your mind with interesting personal stories, strong opinions, challenging ideas and inspiring thoughts about our past, present and future.


CARA SANTA MARIA

Cara Santa Maria (born 1983) is a Los Angeles Area Emmy and Knight Foundation Award winning journalist, science communicator, television personality, producer, and podcaster. 

Cara currently co-hosts/co-produces the Saturday morning television show FabLab on Fox and reports on local issues for SoCal Connected on KCET. She also hosts the digital companion series for the popular competition reality show America's Greatest Makers on TBS. Cara is the creator and host of a weekly science podcast called Talk Nerdy with Cara Santa Maria and co-hosts the popular Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast. She is a founding member of the Nerd Brigade and co-founded the annual science communication "unconference" #SciCommCamp.


ALI RIZVI

Ali A. Rizvi grew up in Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan before moving to Canada and the United States when he was 24. Rizvi has been writing extensively about secularism in the Muslim world for several years, contributing to The Huffington Post and other major media outlets like CNN. Rizvi is also a medical communications professional and a trained physician and oncologic pathologist. He has recently published his first book, The Atheist Muslim: A journey from religion to reason and co-hosts the brand new Secular Jihadists Pod Cast.


NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON

Neil deGrasse Tyson, (born 1958) is an American astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and science communicator. Since 1996, he has been the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York City. The center is part of the American Museum of Natural History, where Tyson founded the Department of Astrophysics in 1997 and has been a research associate in the department since 2003.

Tyson's research has focused on observations in cosmology, stellar evolution, galactic astronomy, bulges, and stellar formation. He has held numerous positions at institutions including the University of Maryland, Princeton University, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Hayden Planetarium.

In May 2009, Tyson launched a one-hour radio talk show called StarTalk with Guests ranging from colleagues in science to celebrities such as GZA, Wil Wheaton, Sarah Silverman, and Bill Maher. The show is available via the Internet through a live stream or in the form of a podcast.


MONA ELTAHAWY

Mona Eltahawy (born 1967) is a freelance Egyptian-American journalist and commentator based in New York City. She gained American citizenship in 2011. She has written essays and op-eds for publications worldwide on Egypt and the Islamic world, including women's issues and Muslim political and social affairs. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, The New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, and the Miami Herald among others. Headscarves and Hymens, Eltahawy's first book, was published in May 2015.

"Do Arab men hate women?" With these five words in a controversial magazine article, she shot to fame, unleashing a devastating critique of women’s rights in the Arab world. In the season premiere of Head to Head , Mehdi Hasan challenges Eltahawy on her views regarding the status of women in Arab states. Are Arab or Muslim societies inherently patriarchal? And how does the narrative of Islam as sexist play into geo-politics and Western stereotypes of the Middle East?


ANTHONY PINN

Anthony Pinn is Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University, where he is also the founding director of the Center for Engaged Research and Collaborative Learning.  Pinn is also the director of research for the Institute for Humanist Studies, a Washington DC think tank.  His interests include the intersections of popular culture and religious identity and non-theistic trends in American public life.  He is the author/editor of over thirty books including, Noise and Spirit:  The Religious and Spiritual Sensibilities of Rap Music (2003) and The Hip Hop and Religion Reader (2014).


DEEYAH KHAN

Deeyah Khan (born 1977), is an Ex-Muslim Norwegian film director, music producer, composer and human rights defender of Punjabi/Pashtun descent. She is an outspoken supporter of women's rights, freedom of expression and peace.

She is the founder and CEO of production company Fuuse. Her debut film as director and producer, Banaz A Love Story (2012), won a Peabody Award (2013) and won the 2013 Emmy Award for Best International Documentary Film and British Royal Television Society nomination for Best Current Affairs Documentary. In 2015 she made a film where she sets out to find out why the jihadi message has such an alluring hold on young Westerners. In Jihad: A Story of the Others, Deeyah meets one of the godfathers of the British jihad, who went abroad to fight, and who preached extremism to thousands of young Muslims across the UK and the West.

She is the founder and producer of World Woman, an annual international festival of art and activism in Oslo.


SAM HARRIS

Sam Harris (born 1967) is the author of five New York Times bestsellers. His books include The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, The Moral Landscape, Free Will, Lying, Waking Up, and Islam and the Future of Tolerance (with Maajid Nawaz). The End of Faith won the 2005 PEN Award for Nonfiction. His writing and public lectures cover a wide range of topics—neuroscience, moral philosophy, religion, spirituality, violence, human reasoning—but generally focus on how a growing understanding of ourselves and the world is changing our sense of how we should live.

Harris's work has been published in more than 20 languages and has been discussed in The New York Times, Time, Scientific American, Nature, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, and many other journals. He has written for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Economist, The Times (London), The Boston Globe, The Atlantic, The Annals of Neurology, and elsewhere. Harris also regularly hosts a popular podcast.

Sam Harris received a degree in philosophy from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA. Harris is considered a member of the "Four Horsemen of New Atheism", alongside Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and the late Christopher Hitchens.


HAMED ABDEL-SAMAD

Hamed Abdel-Samad (born 1972) was born as the third of five children, the son of a Muslim Sunni Imam. Abdel-Samad came to Germany in 1995 at the age of 23. Abdel-Samad studied Japanese, English and French in Cairo as well as political science in Augsburg. He worked as a scholar in Erfurt and Braunschweig. In Japan, where he was involved with eastern spirituality, he met his second wife. He taught and conducted research until the end of 2009 at the Institute for Jewish History and Culture at the University of Munich; his dissertation topic was: Bild der Juden in ägyptischen Schulbüchern ("Image of the Jews in Egyptian textbooks”). Subsequently he decided to become a full-time professional writer.

A member of the Muslim Brotherhood in his university days, a stay in a summer camp run by them triggered doubts, causing him to become skeptical, and finally identify as an atheist. In mid-2015, he launched Box of Islam show on his official YouTube channel and Hamed.TV which has 35k+ subscribers and 5M+ video views.


MATT DILLAHUNTY

Matt Dillahunty (born 1969) is an American public speaker and Internet personality, and was the president of the Atheist Community of Austin from 2006 to 2013. He has hosted the Austin-based YouTube channel, webcast and cable-access television show The Atheist Experience since c. 2005, and formerly hosted the live internet radio show Non-Prophets Radio. He is also the founder and contributor of the counter-apologetics encyclopedia Iron Chariots and its subsidiary sites.

He is regularly engaged in formal debates and travels the United States speaking to local secular organizations and university groups as part of the Secular Student Alliance's Speakers Bureau. Alongside fellow activists Seth Andrews and Aron Ra, he traveled to Australia in March 2015 as a member of the Unholy Trinity Tour. In April 2015 he was an invited speaker at the Merseyside Skeptics Society QEDCon in the United Kingdom.


AYAAN HIRSI ALI

Ayaan Hirsi Ali (born 1969) is a Somali-born Dutch-American activist and former Dutch politician. She is the founder of the AHA Foundation and is known as a women’s rights activist, champion of free speech, atheist and best-selling author. She is a leading opponent of female genital mutilation and she is also known as someone who is not afraid to speak out when she feels it necessary.

Ayaan’s journey began in Somalia in 1969 where, as a young girl, she was subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM). From very early on, she questioned the subjugation of women she saw all around her; while listening to a sermon on the many ways women should be obedient to their husbands, she couldn't resist asking, "Must our husbands obey us too?"

Ayaan’s path led her many places, but upon being forced by her father to marry a distant cousin, she fled to Holland and claimed political asylum. Once there, she worked her way up from being a janitor to serving as an elected member of the Dutch parliament. As a member of parliament, she campaigned to raise awareness of violence against women, including honor killings and FGM, practices that had followed her fellow immigrants into Holland. She became a U.S. citizen in 2013 and that year was made a fellow at the Kennedy Government School at Harvard University and a member of The Future of Diplomacy Project at the Belfer Center.


RYAN BELL

Ryan Bell (born 1971) is a former Seventh-day Adventist pastor who decided to put 19 years of being a church leader behind him after spending 2014 living as an atheist and chronicling his experiences on his blog Year Without God.

Bell, now Founder and Senior Consultant at the organization Life After God that grew out of Ryan Bell’s 2014 journey. Quite early in Ryan’s exploration he wrote that the primary question that occupied his mind was not so much, “Is there a God?” but if there isn’t, “Now what?”

Life After God exists to empower people and communities to live deeply into the space after God. This in-between world is lonely and uncharted. Our mission is to create safe, hospitable space for people to explore their doubts, recalibrate their ‘moral compass,’ and create new friendships.


LAURENCE KRAUSS

Lawrence Maxwell Krauss (born 1954) is an American theoretical physicist and cosmologist who is Foundation Professor of the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, and director of its Origins Project.

He is known as an advocate of the public understanding of science, of public policy based on sound empirical data, of scientific skepticism and of science education, and works to reduce the influence of what he opines as superstition and religious dogma in popular culture.

Krauss is the author of several bestselling books, including The Physics of Star Trek (1995) and A Universe from Nothing (2012), and chairs the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Board of Sponsors.


SARA HAIDER

Sarah Haider is an American writer, speaker, and activist. Born in Pakistan and raised in Texas, Sarah spent her early youth as a practicing Shia Muslim. In her late-teens, she began to read the Quran critically and left religion soon after. In 2013, she co-founded Ex-Muslims of North America, where she advocates for the acceptance of religious dissent and works to create local support communities for those who have left Islam.

In addition to atheism, Sarah is particularly passionate about civil liberties and women’s rights. You can reach Sarah and read more about EXMNA at www.exmna.org.


RICHARD DAWKINS

 

Richard Dawkins (born 1941) is an English ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author. He is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford, and was the University of Oxford's Professor for Public Understanding of Science from 1995 until 2008. Dawkins first came to prominence with his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, which popularised the gene-centred view of evolution and introduced the term meme. With his book The Extended Phenotype (1982), he introduced into evolutionary biology the influential concept that the phenotypic effects of a gene are not necessarily limited to an organism's body, but can stretch far into the environment.

Dawkins is an atheist, and is well known for his criticism of creationism and intelligent design. In The God Delusion (2006), Dawkins contends that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist and that religious faith is a delusion. He opposes the teaching of creationism in schools.
Dawkins has been awarded many prestigious academic and writing awards and he makes regular television, radio and Internet appearances, predominantly discussing his books, his atheism, and his ideas and opinions as a public intellectual.

After Richard Dawkins’ success with the book The God Delusion, he created the "Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science" with its headquarters in the United States to work toward a world in which religion no longer interferes with the advance of science and in which people use their critical thinking skills to evaluate theist claims about the nature of reality. In January 2016, the RDFRS announced that it was merging with the Center for Inquiry.

 


KACEM EL GHAZZALI

Kacem El Ghazzali (born 1990), is a secularist writer and activist and is one of the few Moroccans to publicly announce to be an atheist. Mostly known for his unapologetic atheism, his writings stress the importance of freedom of thought which lacks in the Islamic countries.

El Ghazzali is the author of the Bahmut blog, one of the most controversial blogs in the Arab world, and has received a number of death threats because of his views. (English version is here.) His blog discusses issues ranging from freedom of expression to political Islam. He used to be the head of the Youth Chapter at the Moroccan Center for Human Rights and is a member of the Executive Board of the Moroccan Blogger Association and CyberDissidents.org Blogger Board and one of its founders.

In 2012, he launched the "Masayminch" initiative, which calls on Moroccans who do not observe Ramadan to eat publicly. Moroccans born in non-Jewish families are forbidden by law to drink, eat, or smoke in public during Ramadan. El Ghazzali is one of the few atheist activists in Morocco and is a proponent of religious and sexual freedom. He has been living as a refugee in Switzerland since 2011. He has appeared repeatedly in international media, including television. For more info please visit his website.


BILL NYE

William Sanford "Bill" Nye, (born 1955) popularly known as Bill Nye the Science Guy, is an American science educator, television presenter, and mechanical engineer. He is best known as the host of the PBS children's science show Bill Nye the Science Guy (1993–1998), and for his many subsequent appearances in popular media as a science educator. Currently, he is the CEO of The Planetary Society.

In September 2012, Nye claimed that creationist views threaten science education and innovation in the United States. In February 2014, Nye debated creationist Ken Ham at the Creation Museum on the topic of whether creation is a viable model of origins in today's modern, scientific era. In reaction to the debate, Nye published the book Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation in 2014.


JESSICA AHLQUIST

Jessica Ahlquist (born 1995) is an activist and public speaker who filed a lawsuit in 2012 against Cranston High School West, where she was a student, to remove a religious prayer from its auditorium. The suit, Ahlquist v. Cranston, was filed with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union, and was ultimately decided in Ahlquist's favor. During the lawsuit, Ahlquist received hate mail and was verbally attacked by her peers, media outlets, and online. She received death threats, and required police escorts to and from classes. On the day following the ruling, Rhode Island State Representative Peter G. Palumbo spoke on a local radio show and referred to Ahlquist as "an evil little thing".

Since the lawsuit, Ahlquist has received a variety of media attention, and she has been an invited speaker at a number of events, including the Reason Rally, the Texas Freethought Convention and Skepticon 5.

Two high school students from other states have described their objections to school prayer as inspired by her activism. She has received a number of awards, including the 2011 Thomas Jefferson Youth Activist and the American Humanist Association's 2012 Humanist Pioneer Award.


CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS

Christopher Hitchens aka "Hitch" (13 April 1949 – 15 December 2011) was an Anglo-American author, columnist, essayist, orator, religious and literary critic, social critic, and journalist. He contributed to New Statesman, The Nation, The Atlantic, London Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, Slate, and Vanity Fair. Hitchens was the author, co-author, editor or co-editor of over 30 books, including five collections of essays, on a range of subjects, including politics, literature, and religion. A staple of talk shows and lecture circuits, his confrontational style of debate made him both a lauded and controversial figure and public intellectual.

Hitchens was an antitheist and he once said that a person "could be an atheist and wish that belief in God were correct," but that "an antitheist, a term I'm trying to get into circulation, is someone who is relieved that there's no evidence for such an assertion." He often spoke against the Abrahamic religions. When asked by readers of The Independent (London) what he considered to be the "axis of evil", Hitchens replied "Christianity, Judaism, Islam – the three leading monotheisms.


HEINA DADABHOY

Heina Dadabhoy spent her childhood as a practicing Muslim who never in her right mind would have believed that she would grow up to be an atheist feminist secular humanist. She has been an active participant in atheist organizations and events in and around Orange County, CA since 2007. She is currently writing her forthcomin book A Skeptic's Guide to Islam and her blog "Heinous Dealings" can be found here.


DANIEL DENNET

Daniel Clement Dennett III (born 1942) is an American philosopher, writer, and cognitive scientist whose research centers on the philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, and philosophy of biology, particularly as those fields relate to evolutionary biology and cognitive science.

He is currently the co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies and the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University. Dennett is an atheist and secularist, a member of the Secular Coalition for America advisory board, and a member of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, as well as an outspoken supporter of the Brights movement. In his book Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Dennett writes that evolution can account for the origin of morality. He rejects the idea of the naturalistic fallacy as the idea that ethics is in some free-floating realm, writing that the fallacy is to rush from facts to values. In his 2006 book, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, Dennett attempts to account for religious belief naturalistically, explaining possible evolutionary reasons for the phenomenon of religious adherence.

Dennett is referred to as one of the "Four Horsemen of New Atheism", along with Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens.


MARYAM NAMAZIE

Maryam Namazie (born 1966) is an Iranian-born secularist and human rights activist, commentator and broadcaster. She is spokesperson for Iran Solidarity, One Law for All and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. Maryam Namazie is also the spokesperson of Fitnah - Movement for Women’s Liberation and co-hosts the TV-Show Bread & Roses, a free-thinking, taboo-breaking TV magazine broadcast in Iran and the region via New Channel TV.   To follow and support her work please visit her website.


PENN GILETTE

Penn Fraser Jillette (born 1955) is an American magician, juggler, comedian, musician, inventor, actor, and best-selling author known for his work with fellow magician Teller as half of the team Penn & Teller. He is also known for his advocacy of atheism, scientific skepticism, libertarianism and free-market capitalism.


MAAJID NAWAZ

Maajid Usman Nawaz, born 1977, is a British activist, author, columnist, radio host and politician. He was the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for London's Hampstead and Kilburn constituency in the 2015 general election. He is also the founding chairman of Quilliam, a counter-extremism think tank that seeks to challenge the narratives of Islamist extremists.

Born in Southend-on-Sea, Essex to a British Pakistani family, Nawaz is a former member of the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. This association led to his arrest in Egypt in December 2001, where he remained imprisoned until 2006. Reading books on human rights and interacting with Amnesty International, which adopted him as a prisoner of conscience, resulted in a change of heart. This led Nawaz to leave Hizb-ut-Tahrir in 2007, renounce his Islamist past and call for a "Secular Islam".

After his turnaround, Nawaz co-founded Quilliam with former Islamists, including Ed Husain. He wrote an autobiography, Radical, which was published in 2012. Since then, he has become a prominent critic of Islamism in the United Kingdom. In 2015 he collaborated with Sam Harris on the book Islam and the Future of Tolerance which has been published with the explicit goal of inspiring a wider public discussion by way of example. In a world riven by misunderstanding and violence, Harris and Nawaz demonstrate how two people with very different views can find common ground.

He is a regular op-ed contributor, debater and public commenter. He presented his views on radicalisation in front of US Senate Committee and UK Home Affairs Committee in their respective inquiries on the roots of radical extremism. He is a weekly columnist for The Daily Beast, and hosts his LBC radio show every weekend 12-3 pm.


SAYYED AYAD JAMAL AL-DIN

Sayyed Ayad Ra'ouf Mohammad Jamal al-Din was born in 1961 in the city of Najaf. His family was from the city of Nassiriya, in Dhe Qar Province, southern Iraq – the province which he represented in the outgoing parliament. His father was an Arabic teacher and scholar, who authored 50 books on language and faith. His uncle was Mustapha Jamal al-Din, a well-known poet.

Sayyed Ayad Jamal al-Din is unique among the post-invasion Iraqi politicians and clerics. Despite being a cleric, he advocates secular political culture, and although he spent 16 years in Iran to pursue theological studies, he rejects Khomeini's notion of wilayat al-faqih (the rule of the jurist) and is one of the harshest critics of Iran and of what he perceives as its interference in the Iraqi political system. Finally, while he is a Shi'ite as well as a Sayyed – meaning a descendent of the family of the Prophet Mohammad, who therefore wears a black turban – he has distanced himself from the Shi'ite marja'iya in Najaf, the highest center of teaching and authority in Shi'ite Islam. He is also unique in that he was not known to be active in the anti-Saddam Iraqi groups in the Diaspora. He is a young, charismatic, and articulate intellectual – capable of delivering his lectures extemporaneously and with clarity and conviction. While deeply religious, he does not hesitate to call for the separation of religion and state and for the promulgation of secular laws. In an age in which so many clerics are accused of fomenting hate and espousing violence, Jamal al-Din stands out as a voice of peace, reform, and moderation.