Frank Bellamy is a 2011 summer intern with the American Humanist Association. Frank graduated from the University of Delaware in 2009 with a B.S. in physics. In the fall, he will be starting law school at the University of Virginia. He’s been actively involved with the Secular Student Alliance for several years, having lead two of its affiliate groups and recently joining its board of directors.
HNN: What is your educational background? Why did you choose to major in physics, then start law school?
Frank: I majored in physics because it was interesting and challenging. It taught me about science and critical thinking. As a result I came to view science and rationality—not philosophy and intuition—as the basis of a secular worldview. After two disastrous years of graduate school I knew that graduate school was not for me. Becoming a lawyer will allow me to advocate for the causes I care about.
HNN: Did you grow up in a religious tradition?
Frank: I was raised Protestant.
HNN: How did you first learn about humanism?
Frank: My first real exposure to humanism was when I attended the 2007 Secular Student Alliance conference, which was held in conjunction with The New Humanism conference sponsored by the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard University. My early exposure to the nontheistic movement came in the form of books by Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, and blogs such as Pharyngula and Friendly Atheist.
HNN: Is there a single moment in your memory that helped you decide, “I’m an atheist”?
Frank: It was definitely a gradual process, without any major turning point or philosophical influence that I can remember. I was identifying as an atheist by the time I entered high school, but I never saw it as a choice. I looked at the existence of a god the way I would look at any other fact claim, and came to a reasoned conclusion based on the evidence. There was no extra step of choice beyond that.
HNN: What interested you most about interning for the AHA?
Frank: The AHA has done a lot of great work in terms of advocacy for secular and progressive values in both the legal and political arenas, in addition to supporting its local chapters, which provide communities for nontheists. It was also geographically convenient.
HNN: Tell us about your campus freethought groups and how you got involved.
Frank: I joined the Secular Student Alliance at the University of Delaware during my fourth semester of college, and led the group during my fourth and fifth years. The SSA at UD had weekly meetings and social events that provided an important community for nonreligious students and organized community service events. It also organized dialogues and discussions with various religious groups from the Unitarian Universalists to the Campus Crusade for Christ, each of which was crazy in its own unique and interesting way. In graduate school I founded a similar group at an institution that was much more hostile to nontheist organizing, which presented unique challenges. None of this would have been possible without the support of the national Secular Student Alliance.
HNN: What are your favorite books?
Frank: On the fiction side my favorite books would have to include Harry Potter and the play Inherit the Wind. On the nonfiction side I really like The Unlikely Disciple, though there are so many good books out there, it’s difficult to say for sure which are my favorites.
HNN: If you could have dinner with any three people (living or dead), who would they be?
Frank: This is another question with so many good answers to choose from. I’ll have to go with Charles Darwin, Richard Feynman, and Clarence Darrow.