Saturday, June 28, 2014

“Not Our Problem”: An Open Letter to the Canadian and Dominican Governments

This letter may be republished in its totality without prior consent.


The Government of Canada c/o
Stephen Harper, Prime Minister
John Baird, Foreign Affairs Minister
Bob Paulson, RCMP Commissioner
Peter MacKay, Attorney General

The Government of Dominica c/o
Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister
Evelina Baptiste, Director of Public Prosecutions


Dennis Augustine

I am writing today to call upon the governments of Canada and Dominica to honor their roles as guardians of justice and the lives of their citizens by bringing my sister, Canadian Citizen, Sarah Lynn Augustine, to stand trial for the September 16, 2010 murder of her two children, Canadian Citizens, Rachael Vigilant Augustine (five years old) and Sophia Vigilant Augustine (two months old) in Mahaut, Dominica.

Sarah was arrested for these crimes in Dominica in 2010.  At the time she was suicidal and showed signs of having experienced a postpartum psychotic episode.  Recognizing how ill Sarah was, the former DPP of Dominica was keen to see her repatriated to Canada for treatment since it soon became apparent that Dominica was ill-equipped to treat her but wanted some assurance that she would in-fact be treated in Canada and eventually returned when she was fit enough to stand trial.

My family worked tirelessly to try to make that happen.  We thought that surely the Canadian and Dominican governments would work something out but Foreign Affairs on both sides indicated that they could do nothing since there was no extradition treaty between the two countries.  My attempts to involve the Canadian Attorney General and the RCMP similarly fell on deaf ears. “These crimes happened in another country. It’s not our jurisdiction” they said. I was in shock. I explained that the murderer and the victims were all Canadian citizens. How could it be that a Canadian could murder others and Canadians could be murdered in a foreign country and the Canadian government was not interested?

When it became evident that no deal would be brokered the Dominican DPP simply discontinued Sarah’s trial and released her into my hands to be repatriated and treated in Canada.  While we were glad that Sarah would be treated (I doubt she would have lived much longer had she stayed in prison in Dominica given her condition) we were not pleased that upon arrival in Canada she would have no official restrictions placed on her whatsoever but we had little choice and only a brief window of time to get her out of Dominica.

I personally brought Sarah back to Canada in January of 2012 and delivered her to the CAMH in Toronto where she voluntarily committed herself for treatment.  The fine folk at CAMH did everything in their power under the law to treat Sarah. She eventually was declared well enough to make her own medical decisions and was released into the community. I do not know if she continues to receive treatment of any sort and to the best of my knowledge she has not restrictions or public record of any sort relating to the murder. I ask you, is this compassionate, just or in the public interest? I think not.

While I do not regret my role in helping to save my sister’s life by getting her repatriated for treatment and would like nothing more than to see her returned to health and living a happy prosperous life, I do deeply regret the fact that she has not been made to stand trial for my niece’s murders.  While it’s clear to me that my sister was not well at the time she brutally stabbed these precious children to death, I nonetheless believe that it is a disgrace to their memory not to have this matter settled in a court of law and therefore I call on you to act.

I want to make it clear that I do not necessarily speak for my family. I have consulted no one but my conscience. I speak as a citizen of Canada and of Dominica who is ashamed that his governments would abdicate their responsibility to safeguard life and justice. I speak as a brother who knows a few months in care is not enough to return my sister to health. I speak as the uncle of two lovely children who were born into my hands, whom I helped name and raise, children cannot speak for themselves, whose blood cries out from a hillside grave in Dominica. In their names I demand a response. What do you intend to do?


Dennis Augustine

Friday, May 30, 2014

Dear Yahweh, You're Fired: An open termination letter for God.

TO: Yahweh
God, Life of @SonOSamuel Inc
1 Celestial Palace, Unit 1
Pearly Gates, Kingdom of Heaven

FROM: Dennis Augustine
Acting CEO, Life of @SonOSamuel Inc.
Earth, Milky Way
Observable Universe

Dear Yahweh,

Our working relationship is not what it used to be. My parents absolutely worshiped and adored you so, out of respect  for them, I feel that it’s only right to explain to you my thought process re what I’m about to tell you. I’m sure you can see what’s coming next and have anticipated it for a while. If not, why not?

We used to communicate often at the start, then less and less. Some years ago I noticed that certain duties which are part of your job description where being neglected or mismanaged, I've called you several times, leaving you messages asking you to address the issues but you have repeatedly refused to answer my calls.

When my parents first handed this life over to me you had already been in charge for a long, long time. They told me that you were the family’s closest friend and knew more about the life business than anyone else.  They told me to trust you so I let your apparent negligence slide, remembering how they told me to trust you no matter what. In deference to them I decided overlook your unexplained behavior considering all of the fine work that I thought you were doing in other areas. The universe, after all, is pretty incredible, my life could have been worse and beer was definitely a nice touch. I am afraid however, that my patience with you has come to an end due to relatively recent (to you) developments which have been brought to my attention. I know you’re kind of old-school so let me break it down for you.

I have followed with great interest the interim findings of the ongoing Public Inquiry into the Workings of the Universe (a.k.a. “The Sciences”) for some time now. As I became more familiar with the findings of The Inquiry I began to see that much of the work that you have taken responsibility for—the work that really was the only thing that prevented me from firing you long ago—was not your doing at all. In fact, I learned that it’s been known for centuries that pretty much everything that I credited you for had actually been fully outsourced to the universe since the very beginning but that you and your cronies suppressed that information, hiding it from my family and countless others who employed you, with tireless zeal. If only you all had applied that same level of devotion to your actual jobs I wouldn't be writing this letter now.

You lead us to believe that you had lovingly and purposefully created our amazing bodies. That, I learned, was actually Evolution. You said that you created the universe. I should have suspected that you were full of it when you had the audacity to say you did it by the sheer force of your own will out of nothing at all in just six days. I’ll give you this, you sure did show some balls in demanding a day off on account of the good job you did! By the way, QA results on the universe are in and it’s not all that well “designed” after all. Yeah, the universe was the big-bang.  The “acts of God”? Natural disasters. (I never understood, why did you want to take credit for those anyway?) Love, compassion, justice, community? That was all us, it had nothing to do with you. I wish you had told me yourself and I didn't have to find this out from other people. Boy, I was so gullible! Oh well, you've tricked better men than me so I’ll forgive myself for falling for it. Well, enough is enough. Something has to be done about the situation.

I don’t know how many years you've held your position, my parents said that you had been in office for as long as they could remember and that one of their great, great, great… grandfathers had put you in charge. Wow! Just how old are you? I wish you had retired, before now so I wouldn't have had tell you what I’m about to.

There’s no point in continuing this working relationship.  You do nothing useful (or anything at all it seems) and your contractual demands are utterly outrageous! I mean, it’s all fine and good if you don’t like bacon or aren't into boys (I hear you knocked up some lady and had a son a while back so I’m assuming you’re straight but with all that homophobia and misogyny you keep spouting it’s hard to tell) but it’s not part of your job to enforce your personal preferences on others or to threaten the kinds of punishments you've been known to hurl around if they don’t share them. Come on, death followed by ETERNAL FIRE!!?? Wow, If that isn't the very definition of “overkill” I don’t know what is!

Well, this is the end of the road for you as far as I’m concerned.  You offer me no value, take credit for work you don’t do and cost too much. I am therefore terminating your position effective immediately and cancelling all contractual obligations between us.

Don’t bother returning to clean out the mess you left in my life, all of your stuff should be in the parcel which accompanies this letter (though it’s doubtful that you’ll receive this as most communications to you are returned to me marked "Return to Sender"). If you’re thinking of using me as a reference in the future, don’t bother, I wouldn't give you a good one.  In fact, I’ll be sure to tell everyone who asks not to waste their time, love, energy and resources on you. They can do a better job managing life themselves at a fraction of the cost with better results.  I’m sure that won’t bother you as there are many who continue to let you manage their lives. I’ll be sure to warn as many of them as I can to stay far away from you.

Good riddance. You’re fired.

Dennis Augustine
Acting CEO, Life of @SonOSamuel Inc.
**Under New Management**

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

"But What About the Holy Ghost?" Response to @YoBringItOn

No and yes.  No, because strictly speaking I don't believe in that sort of thing; yes, because I know what you mean: yes, when I was a believer I did "speak in tongues". How do I resolve this with my atheism? Well answering that question requires some background.


I was raised Pentecostal and grew-up hearing my parents and other community members practice glossolalia (commonly referred to as "speaking in tongues"). I was taught that this was the result of being filled with the Spirit (a.k.a. Holy Ghost) and that if I was fervent in my dedication God would baptize me in the Spirit with tongues following as evidence. My parents were ministers (my father is dead, my mother still serves), bright and I respected them, so naturally I believed them.

One summer I was shipped off to Braeside Pentecostal Camp in lovely Cobourg Ontario to spend a couple weeks with other teens. The focus of this camp was to get us "filled with the Holy Ghost". Evening after evening we listened to energetic sermons, were reminded of our sins, wept in repentance, sang and prayed for God to fill us with the Spirit. I prayed fervently but nothing happened until one of the last few nights of camp.

On that fateful evening all those who STILL hadn't received the Spirit and wanted to were invited to come forward so others could beseech God to fill us.  I went forward and was surrounded by friends, councillors, ministers and youth leaders who laid their hands upon me encouraging me to "Just let it out". All the while they were also speaking in tongues.  I was encouraged to just go with whatever sounds I felt the Spirit was prompting me to utter and not to resist.  As they prayed I listened, prayed and eventually (after a few HOURS) started to feel an urge to say things I didn't understand.  At first I thought it was merely gibberish but after a while..."Maybe that's it?", I thought, "This must be what I'm supposed to let out!" I started to whisper those sounds under my breath very sheepishly at first and then just a little louder. When the others heard me they would prompt me on, "Yes, that's it. Let it out! Glory to God, he's been filled with the Spirit!" I felt fantastic.

"Keep That to Yourself"

Fast-forward a few years and I was a young minister in seminary.  I was taking a course called Pentecostal Distinctives which focused on the the Charismata (gifts of the Spirit) and other tenants of Pentecostal doctrine.  For my final paper I wrote an essay suggesting that what we experienced in modern times re glossolalia was not the same thing that happened in Acts 2 where it was evident that the languages being spoken were real languages. That part wasn't too problematic and fell in the normal range of Pentecostal doctrine.

(formerly EPBC)

It would have been all fine if I had stopped there but I also suggested that the tendency of Charismatic expression to vary depending on where and when believers were and who they were with was indication that there was a strong sociological and psychological component to the phenomenon that warranted further study.  At different times and places people exhibited very different behaviours when filled with the Spirit: Quakers quaked, some people sang, some folks rolled around (Does "Holly Rollers" ring a bell?). Heck, some even used to crawl along on all fours and bark like dogs as the Spirit would prompt them to "Tree the Devil." (Yes, I'm serious!)

When we got our assignments back, my professor held onto mine and said he wanted to talk to me after class. I waited. When he handed the paper back I saw that I had received an A+ and that he had inscribed a little note saying that my father would have been proud. I nearly wept with pride.  What he said next though was just one more straw on the breaking back of a faith already weakened by a course on the history of the Biblical canon (for another discussion). He said that it was a brilliant paper and that he thought I was completely correct in my observations and conclusions but that I should probably keep my opinions to myself at least until after my credentials examination with the denomination.

The Resolution

So how do I resolve my Charismatic experience with my atheism?  I think the answer should be obvious from the above but I'll be a little more explicit.  I realize the truth about it: I was a young and impressionable kid who, like so many people at different points in history, succumed a brilliant demonstration of psychological and social conditioning. I think that any competent psychologist who studied the environments where people get "Filled" would come to the same conclusion.

Thanks for the question @YoBringItOn ! 


BTW, the professor who told me to "keep it to myself" he left the Pentecostal church just a few years after I graduated. He's now a Presbyterian, opting to trade in the wackiness and conservative ideologies for a kinder gentler god.  Hmmm... go figure. I think he's moving in the right direction.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Emotion, Rationality and Creativity

When we are first presented with a situation our initial reaction will be subconscious, communicated to our conscious mind a black box; this we call a "visceral reaction" or "emotion".  Emotions are the communication mechanism of the unconscious mind. Our minds, while we are otherwise consciously occupied, processes inputs and makes associations based upon pathways that have already been established.

The establishment of conceptual pathways is what we call “learning.” Learning is a process by which we seek to establish categorical and causal associations between things so that we can act to achieve specific outcomes.  (i.e. “What type of thing is this with respect to other things, what are its causes, what will result from it, and what should I do about it?”).

Rational associations (i.e. those which accurately model those found in reality) provide our minds with the best possible chance of arriving at efficacious courses of action.  But, of course, not all learning results in rational associations.  Irrational associations are what we call “superstitions”; rational associations we call “reasons”.

Emotions are unavoidable; they are hardwired into our brains for some very good reasons. Emptions are necessary in order for us to make quick decisions where conscious rational analysis would be impractical. In nature the ability to make quick unaudited decisions (i.e. to have emotional reactions) is a distinct competitive advantage.  We see this principle at play in every animal equipped with the faculty of hearing when they perceive a loud sound. The immediate and unavoidable reaction will be some degree of fear ranging from a mild shift in awareness to a full-fledged flight or fight response. If a gazelles were not immediately startled (cause to feel afraid) by the sight of predators but rather had to analyses the situation rationally before deciding to run, there would be no gazelles to speak of today.

Our minds simultaneously process a lot of information using various subsystems (This is why we can walk and chew gum at the same time, though apparently some people lack this ability) but it is difficult to be consciously aware of our mental processes without setting up some sort of signaling mechanisms and attention sharing. We can pay attention to only one thing at a time, especially if the same specialized systems of our mind are required for processing. (This is why most people will find it hard to read and understand a book while listening to and understanding someone who is speaking to them.)

The intensity and type of emotion one experiences varies from person to person and situation to situation but one’s first reaction to every situation is always an emotional one; this much is unavoidable. Since emotional responses are rich with information we shouldn't seek to avoid them; if we do we'll be ignoring a very important signaling mechanism which could potentially be alerting us to otherwise unforeseen and often complex relationships.  In the workplace emotional responses are most commonly presented in the form “I don't LIKE this” or “I don't think that people will LIKE that”; reasons are not offered and often not explored; the reaction is an emotional one. In such cases the word “LIKE” is a dead giveaway.

The trick is remembering that emotions are the result of both rational and superstitious learning and that learning can be directed by our conscious minds. An emotional response, when time allows it, should be a cue for us to ask the question, “why?” and to open up the black-box in order to discover how we arrived at our conclusions. By engaging in this sort of rational deliberation we train our minds to make produce more rational responses and emotional signals while opening the door for unexpected associations to arise. This we call “creativity” and in its purest form “genius”.  The creative man is one who has trained his mind to consistently and efficiently make quick, unsupervised, rational, and complex associations by a deliberate process of introspection.

The lesson: the path to rationality and creativity are the same: paying attention to our emotions and demanding explanations of them—preferably good ones.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Truth is the Perfect Lie

Another way to answer the "If you say you stopped believing in God you never really knew God" Catch-22 crap:

The fallacy in this argument is easily discovered once we realize that we say that we "know" things when the stories we tell ourselves about them are so convincing that we simply must act as if they are true (i.e. believe). The fact that one discovers an inconsistency in one's own beliefs that changes them does not make one's previous belief any less "real" or one's current belief necessarily so.

Our "realities" are in fact lies about the real world that are so perfect as to be indistinguishable from the truth.

Wisdom starts when we recognize this fact and see that the search for truth is really a process of interrogation where we try to discover the lie in what we tell ourselves about the world. If we love the truth we will be ruthless in our interrogation and will pursue difficult questions no matter how uncomfortable they may be.

Drawing Hands, M. C. Escher, 1948

Look at Escher's Drawing Hands; a hand, drawing a hand, drawing a hand. Faith provides us with an easy way out of an uncomfortable or inconvenient interrogation. It says, "The hand is real! Now, stop asking me questions!"


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Dance Your Way to Ecstasy

Have you ever experienced real ecstasy? No, not the drug (though I've heard that's a neat trip too) but the feeling that it offers—that state where you seem to transcend your normal mode of consciousness? I have.

Ecstasy is a sort of transcendent state and the pinnacle of what we understand as happiness. I experience genuine ecstatic happiness as a regular part of my life thanks to dancing and perhaps you do or can too. I don't say this as a simple matter of personal taste and it doesn't have to be dancing that does it for you but there are some important, objective components of happiness that dancing can bring to your life.  We'll talk about how dancing does this but first I'd like to talk happiness and the three components that dancing specifically addresses: Flow, community and sensuality.


In a TED talk entitled “The new era of positive psychology”, Dr. Martin Seligman speaks about happiness and one of its most important components:  something that he calls “flow” or “engagement.”  (His talk is well worth the time and to be found here: .) Flow is that state in which we are engaged in an activity that makes time seem to stand still. It's that thing people experience when they are “in the zone.”  It can happen playing a sport, at work, doing art, during “spiritual” experiences, making love and yes, while dancing. The amount of flow someone experiences in their day-to-day lives is a good predictor of just how happy they will perceive themselves to be.
Having too much fun!  Photo Credit:


There is another kind of engagement that is essential to happiness: social engagement—that sense of belonging and community.  Not surprisingly, people who have stronger social networks are more likely to feel satisfied with their lives.

My Peeps: Photo By a friend.
No, having thousands of Facebook friends doesn't count; we're talking about real social networks here, not virtual ones!  Surprisingly however, we're also not talking about close personal friends.  Most people will only be lucky enough to have one or two truly intimate friends, the kind that you can tell absolutely anything and trust implicitly, and many happy people are actually not very intimately attached at all. We're talking about having a healthy network of people whom you can interact with on a more or less casual level and on a regular basis: friends in the broader but not the broadest sense of the word—a community to which one can belong.


Photo Credit: Brandon Yuan-Sheng Chu
A third, and often overlooked, component of a happy life is physical integration and sensuality.  I don't mean sensuality in the sexual sense (though that counts) but rather feeling connected to one's own body in an intimate way and receiving positive sensual (i.e. from the senses) input from others.  In another TED talk (If you're not a regular patron of, what are you waiting for? Get on that!) Sir Ken Robinson points out that in our culture we are increasingly educating people as if their bodies were simply vehicles for carrying their heads around; that we're educating from the neck up and slightly more towards the right-hand side of the brain.  What this means is that we experience a sort of disconnection with our sensuality.

Have you ever been in a crowded subway car at rush hour and heard the cacophony as people apologize for having brushed up against someone else? “Oh, sorry” they say, as if it was a violation to even inadvertently touch another human being.  If you think about it, it's a little unnatural.

Why I Needed Dancing

It was autumn 1999, the turn of the century (Okay, not really. I know that the century really started in 2001. Don't be such a nerd!) , and I tagged along with one of the few friends that I had to Babaluu, a Latin nightclub in the heart of Toronto's uppity Yorkville fashion district (I like uppity).  In my previous life I was an Evangelical Christian minister. I left the ministry after a change of convictions—but I digress...  When I left I also left behind every social connection that I had; all my friends were clergy or laity and leaving the church meant severing those ties for the sake of my sanity. I was very lonely.  I was nearly 30 and had no secular social skills at all. I didn't know how to behave in a club, and in particular I didn't really know how to talk to women (Being the handsome single minister, up till this time, was all the “game” that I needed). I probably still don't know how to talk to women... but again, I digress.

When I arrived at Babaluu I saw people moving in a way that I had never really felt before. Sure, I had seen it in videos but I   had never really experienced the beauty of a room full of animals that had the ability to move with such grace and with such passion. The music was electrifying, the energy was great and people seemed to be so friendly.  It quickly dawned on me that if I learned to dance that I would be part of this. I would have a community and I even though I didn't have any game I could just walk up to a lady and ask, “Would you like to dance?”  It was a couple years before asking that question and being turned down once in awhile ceased to be a painful ordeal but I persisted, torturing and straining the patience of the best female dancers I could find along the way. (Sorry ladies, I hope it was worth it in the long run. It was for me!)

Dancing gave me something I really needed at that time of my life: moments of pure happiness.  When I started dancing I had no idea that it was a gift that would save my life several times over the next few years. During that time I was cheated on by a lady I loved deeply and was engaged to, was financially bankrupt and homeless  following the failure of a small business that I ran and stayed in a shelter for a few months to in an failed attempt to help my partner keep her house,  had to make sense of the senseless murder of my two nieces (which I helped raise) by my own sister during a postpartum psychotic episode, met another fine woman, got married and watched it crumble after a few months. I had a rough ride but somehow never sank into the quicksand of the depression that stalked me from the shadows every day.  How did I survive? By dancing my feet off!

Would You Like to Dance?

Doing my thing. Photo by Salsa Circuit
You're a bright bunch so you probably already plainly see the conclusion of this piece but I trust you'll bear with me while I state the obvious (I need an ending after all): Dancing makes us happy by making flow, community and sensuality accessible to even the most miserable of us.

Flow: In recent months I've learned to experience flow while dancing by focusing only on the music, the lady I'm dancing with, the space that I'm in and the unique and special thing that we create together at that moment. Nothing else matters when I'm in that state, the rest of the people dissolve into the music, into the experience, and the entire universe exists only for that moment, for that feeling. At those times there's no you and me, only us.   If you're a dancer I highly recommend that you try treating dance as a sort of exercise in meditation.

Community: Through dancing we gain membership in a community. For me, I could feel like I belonged at times when I didn't belong anywhere else. I'd show up at a club and was greeted by familiar faces. Dudes shook my hand, ladies kissed my cheeks, I saw folks I knew in the subway on the way to work and we'd nod in acknowledgement of each other. In a city of millions I wasn't alone anymore. You don't have to be rich, smart, good-looking, funny, or cool in order to belong (though all those things help). Just show up smile and become minimally competent on the dance floor and you're in. “Hey, welcome to our not-so-secret dance society. We're glad to have ya!”

Sensuality: Dancing connected me to my body in a sensual and intimate way. It meant that I began to understand my own body better and feel more at home in it. I could go somewhere and have women smile at me and enjoy my company. It meant that I could be touched by another human being and feel that life-affirming physical contact, like a hug, without fear of awkwardness.

Want to be happy in life? Try dancing. I tell you without an iota of hyperbole, that it was dancing that saved my life time and time again over these last few years of my life. I'll be posting this article in some dance forums on social networks. Some of you reading this will know me but most of you will never have guessed what those few good dances with you meant for me. I thank you for it!

Monday, April 29, 2013

An open letter to Sean Faircloth (and message to Dawkins, Dennett, Krauss and the Atheist community)

Hi Sean,

It’s been a few months since you put me in contact with a screener from The Clergy Project and my official coming out as an atheist. I want to thank you for the role that TCP and you and your colleagues play in helping to create a community of folks like me. It’s so very comforting to understand that there are people who go through the same deep personal, emotional, psychological, practical and social issues that I did and continue to face. I suspect that what follows in this letter this is more of a therapeutic exercise for me rather than anything revelatory for you and thank you for your time in advance.

I've spent the last few months in a concerted effort to rebuild my life and psyche from the ground up; teaching myself that I am not a degenerate, worthless sinner whose only salvation comes from believing the unbelievable. I have a sister who blamed the Church for the anguish that contributed to her bipolar disorder which, in turn, contributed to a postpartum psychotic episode she suffered a few years ago. During that episode she killed both of her children--one was five years old, the other just two months. I helped raise those children and the pain of their loss was a big factor in my decision to come out and be genuine about my disbelief. My journey hasn't been easy; I was indoctrinated from childhood by parents who were also ministers; the shame of sin runs deep and learning to truly love oneself without prior experience is something that’s not easy for a 44 year old man.

I've been trying to figure out how I can not only make amends for promulgating the falsehoods that I did as a minister, but also how to best use my natural love for people, and the love for the truth that drove me away from the faith, to help prevent the kind of psychological abuse that I endured. To that end I've started making inquiries with regards to starting up a Recovering from Religion group here in Toronto (I was surprised not to find one listed on the organizations website) and I've started designing memes, which I hope to eventually run as ad, and I've begun writing anti-apologetic material targeted towards believers.

All this has been very much inspired by the types of conversations that I've had with religions folk (conservative evangelical Christians in particular), over the last few months. Those conversations have been very enlightening and very frustrating. I’m sure that I don't have to remind you that it’s pretty pointless trying to reason with a believer. It is futile to try to reason a man out of a belief that he wasn't reasoned into. It’s also very difficult to get a believer to listen to anything that threatens their faith and as a result most efforts end up being simply ‘preaching to the choir.’ I’m sure you're painfully aware of that challenge already.

In an effort to understand how to help those I left behind I began asking myself “How did I manage to break free? What really was the catalyst?” The answers to that question came to me very lucidly recently and I’d like to share it with you and make a humble suggestion as to how skeptics may be more effective when reaching people like my former self.

After watching two poignant videos this past month—a documentary entitled Kumare ( and a serious of deconversion videos posted on You Tube by a former minister ( —I’m convinced that reason, while having great prophylactic value for the unindoctrinated, is pretty ineffective against the armour-plated defenses that shield believers from reason: the shame of sin, the terror of isolation and a fear of death (the ultimate isolation). If you haven’t seen the videos I mentioned then you'd do the cause a favour by watching them. What’s really been driven home to me was that it was my inability to overcome the shame of sin despite my best efforts that drove me to a tipping point. Once I realized that I admitted the impotence of faith to cleanse me of these feelings and accepted defeat I began a slow painful journey towards rebelling against the idea that I was a worthless degenerate and started to embrace my own self-worth. What a revelation for me!

I'm writing this to you now in part because I recently became aware that Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss would be in town for a fundraising brunch for CFI Toronto and felt the urge to go there and hope for a moment to tell them that they're doing it all wrong when it comes to believers. I think that it’s easy for people who are so steeped in a scientific environment dominated by the intellect to think that evidence and reason will make the difference; they can but only after one breaks through the walls around someone’s heart.

Yeah, it’s mostly my naiveté and zeal as a freshly out atheist that’s got me so riled up but I do hope that perhaps my voice will underscore what you already know and feel: that the way to reach believers is to make them value themselves, to let them know that they need not be ashamed of being human and to let them know that they'll not be alone if they make one of the scariest decisions I can imagine any human being would have to make.

Since I’ll probably not have the opportunity to do it personally I’d very much appreciate it if you would please pass along my sentiments re the above, my warmest regards, and my sincerest gratitude for the fortification that their work provides me to Richard, Lawrence and Dan Dennett. I do hope that this message will, at least, inspire you all, in some small measure, to continue your valuable work and remind you that the way to a believer’s mind is through his heart. I’d say “God bless you for your work”, but that’d just be the leftover god-talk speaking.

With gratitude,
Dennis Augustine