Great Profile of Atheist Couple Living in Colorado Springs

The Colorado Springs Gazette has a really great article profiling Becky Hale and Gary Betchan, the couple that runs EvolveFISH (Hale is also President of the American Humanist Association):

Becky Hale and Gary Betchan (Michael Ciaglo – The Gazette)

They live in evangelical Christian mecca Colorado Springs and things haven’t easy for them as atheists:

Hale said she was fired without cause after being ‘outed’ as an atheist at a mandatory employee sensitivity training session. Betchan said that employees who attended one manager’s ‘voluntary’ Bible study meetings at his former job got the best assignments.

One day, they say, a neighbor knocked and asked to meet the couple after other neighbors had showed her a petition seeking to oust ‘freethinkers ‘ and ‘blacks’ from the neighborhood.

And a member of Betchan’s former Unitarian youth group said she was pressured to participate in a prayer meeting before her swim team’s meet at her District 20 high school. When she begged out of attending, she was benched.

‘At that moment, we knew we knew we needed to do something,’ Betchan said.

‘It has never been the atheists who have burned Christians at the stake,’ Hale said. ‘We would like to live in a place where my daughter is not afraid to have people find out she does not believe in God. We would like to work in workplaces where promotions are based on performance, not attending the right church. We would like atheists to be able to run for political office without persecution or being treated like second-class citizens.’

That’s all they want — equal treatment — and yet they can’t find it in a city where you pretty much have to believe in the right God to be treated fairly.

But this is the way you combat that sort of prejudice: you put yourselves out there and show that you’re reasonable, normal people. You dismantle the stereotypes and let everyone know you’re a part of the community. Hale and Betchan have done a great job in a tough situation.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Shay Olivarria

    It’s sad to hear that things like this are still happening, but I’m glad that this couple is willing to stand up and be counted. Atheists are “bad” people. We shouldn’t have to hide.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

      Atheists are “bad” people.

      Atheist admits we are bad people. News at 11.

  • johannsone

    I can’t believe we are still trying to keep “the blacks” out of neighborhoods. That sounds crazy, just crazy in 2013. Seriously, I was at a local mall yesterday and there were at least 7 nationalities represented in the throngs of people and as a white person, I was about 5% of that group. As a non religious person, I was probably close to the same percentage. I’m glad they got some media time. Good for them showing the world what being human should be.

    • Sandra Duffy

      I think this was a couple of decades ago. They are talking about what motivated them to become activists. Hopefully things are improved since then.

    • Gus Snarp

      People still try to keep “the blacks” out of neighborhoods today. I have heard people talking about it in my neighborhood. Usually they talk in euphemisms of varying levels of disgusting, starting with “property values”, then moving down to “section 8 housing”, to asking the barber if he’s going to close down his shop or learn to cut curly hair, to outright saying they need to “keep the blacks out”. And I don’t even live in the rural south, but in a mid-sized mid west city. I don’t know what any of those people would have thought if they knew a liberal atheist like me was in their midst.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gary.rooney.39 Gary Rooney

    I wouldn’t mind meeting them when I’m vacationing at the end of June.

  • Jim Hudlow

    I’ve purchased a lot of items from their site…I am happy to see I am supporting such a worthy and reasonable couple…

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    it can’t be legal to be fired for being an atheist. they should get a lawyer.

  • LesterBallard

    I’m not going to go out of my way to show I’m “reasonable and normal”. I’m going to be treated equally under the law, or I’m going to do something to see that I am.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Lohman/654649135 Scott Lohman

    There is also an interview with her on “Atheists Talk”.

    http://mnatheists.org/news-and-media/podcast/829-rebecca-hale

  • randall.morrison90

    Lot of funny stuff on evolvefish.

    Lot of hateful stuff too.

    • C Peterson

      For instance?

    • Slaughter

      I used to have the “procreate” emblem on my minivan until someone swiped it.

    • Spuddie

      “Hateful” meaning that it pokes fun at Christian privillege and the whining people use to justify their discrimination of others based on sectarianism.

  • randall.morrison90

    I don’t know about atheists burning Christians at the stake.

    They did put them in a lot of GULAGS, though.

    Oh, wait…that wasn’t because of atheism…or it was because they wanted to get rid of religion and there are casualties when you do that…or they weren’t True Atheists…or Stalin had a mustache…or something like that.

    Anyway, the victims died…the excuses were not of much comfort to them I am pretty sure.

    • C Peterson

      Correct. It had nothing to do with atheism. It had to do with believing what you were required to believe. Plenty of atheists, who didn’t, ended up in the gulags as well.

      Lots of despotic governments and organizations have demanded that their followers believe certain things. Religions, of course, are the masters of that particular way of doing business.

      • randall.morrison90

        Officially Atheistic Governments killed more people in the last century than in all the wars since the fall of the Roman Empire.

        And in many cases it was because of their desire, as atheists, to eliminate religion.

        Thus, it was in fact because of Atheism.

        Face it. Deal with it.

        • Spuddie

          Um no. But its a cute ploy to ignore 2000 years of accrued atrocity in the name of Christ, Allah and every other form of sectarian hatred out there.

          In fact sectarian violence continues to be the leading cause of unrest in the world, even after the fall of the USSR.

        • C Peterson

          And what do you think that proves? What evidence do you have for your conclusion that this is connected with the desire to eliminate religion?

          If you look at the death rate in per capita terms, rather than absolute numbers, theocracies have been many times more destructive to human life than any modern governments. The reality is, in the last century the capacity to kill in volume has been greatly enhanced by technology. The western world has largely eliminated theocracies, leaving only “atheistic” governments to kill their own citizens. And those governments weren’t notable for their atheism, but for their totalitarianism.

          No, atheism, even in some official form, doesn’t lead to death or destruction. Ever. People aren’t killed in the name of atheism. People aren’t denied rights in the name of atheism. Not even the Soviet Union did that.

        • decathelite

          “Your group of people have killed 100 people. My group has only killed 50 people. My group is therefore morally superior to your group.” Did I summarize your comment correctly?

    • Spuddie

      Religious minded people just called them concentration camps. =)

      Despots like to use any kind of belief to justify themselves. Nowadays despots like religious fundamentalism.

      Using the old Stalin/Mao/Pol Pot = atheism ploy is generally a sign someone is ignorant of history and wants everyone else to know that as well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alan-Burnham/100003095363229 Alan Burnham

    Our fundamentalist religious friends will not stop until we are a third world disaster. They don’t care because they are going to “heaven”. The only peace I will get after battling my whole life will be death, and I am NOT afraid. Thanks and Praise to Mr Mehta for his guidance.

  • Christopher Borum

    I’m always amazed that Colorado Springs and Boulder are in the same state.

  • Merimint

    The stories this reporter told about bad community behavior happened 20 years ago. They were the STARTING point for this couple’s activities. But similar things continue today.

  • Gus Snarp

    I just can’t decide, empty fish with feet, or Darwin fish. I don’t like it looking like I’m elevating Darwin to a god, it just feeds into the creationist argument that we “worship” Darwin and science/atheism/materialism/whatever is a “religion”, but I do want to be clear, and if someone breaks the feet off, it will still say “Darwin”…. I could go with “evolve” but then I’m conflating the biological theory and fact with the notion of personal change, contributing to misunderstanding of evolution…

    • C Peterson

      Actually, I like the double entendre inherent in the “evolve” version. If it’s a conflation, it’s a nice one, because both senses are relevant.

    • Anna

      I had a Darwin fish for years, but recently switched over to an FSM. The only problem with that one is that it’s less well known, so a lot of people might not get what it means. On the plus side, less chance of vandalism?


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