Below are the results of the investigation into the origins of Atheist Nexus. I have also attempted to recreate its history as well.

When I assumed Kym's leadership (and his account) all of his posts and comments were merged with mine making the concerns even more confusing. I first added a disclaimer above each discussion Kym created. However, I was not able to place the disclaimer above each of his comments. As most of you know, we left the posts up for more than a week and then deleted them once the investigation was completed.

Before the investigation was completed, Kym (founder and creator) resigned and stepped down completely from the company. Even though they had nothing to hide, Kym and his wife Ashley understood that due to their new atheism, some in the community were not comfortable with them at the helm. The concerns were suddenly moot, but Kym and I both agreed to complete the investigation so that all the concerns and rumors could be put to rest.

 

I would like to thank the following people who examined the gathered sensitive information:

 

1.  Hemant Mehta (The Friendly Atheist)
2.  Rebecca Watson (Skepchick)
3.  Vjack (The Atheist Revolution)
4.  Mike (Tangled Up In Blue Guy)
5.  PZ Myers (Pharyngula)

 

On Sunday (7/12/08), Kym wrote this letter to the members of Atheist Nexus:

 

Hi, Everyone!

Ashley and I have decided to immediately pass on full control of Atheist Nexus to Richard of lifewithoutfaith.com. Richard will take Atheist Nexus to the next level, bringing on others to form a board of directors and establish a solid leadership structure. Ashley and I will remain active members so that we can continue to forge relationships in the community.

Thank you very much for the positive response and support we have received from you all! Thanks also to all those who have volunteered to work on the various aspects of this project. It feels very good to have started a community like this and see it grow so rapidly.

Thank you!

Thor (Kim’s Screen Name)

 

Reluctantly, I accepted and wrote this letter to the members of Atheist Nexus:

 

Atheist Nexus Members,

I must say that I was shocked (and disappointed) that Kym decided to step down from all leadership in Atheist Nexus. I tried greatly to convince him to stay. However, Kym and his wife felt that it was best for the community. At Kym’s request, he and his wife have been removed from any access to all administrative functions for this site. Also, all passwords and master keys have been changed.

I sincerely wish Kym and his family the best. With my many discussions with him, he has become a close friend, and there is no way I will let him get very far from his baby!

Please note that we are committed to finishing our investigation and making it available to all of you. It should be available within a few days.

I must admit that I did not want (or need) this responsibility. I only accept it because I am committed to the atheist community and dedicated to build unity within it.

We desperately need volunteers in the following categories:

1. Web Developers to design and improve site.
2. Lawyers (for incorporation, bylaws, trademarks, etc.)
3. Graphic Designers for Logos and promotional items.
4. Bloggers to promote and represent the site.
5. Podcasters to promote the site and talk about the changes. (Also, we may need help with our own weekly show).
6. Moderators who can be online at various hours of the day to monitor activity.
7. Representatives from each of the 50 US states.
8. Representatives from other countries.
9. Donations. I am committed to keeping this membership free on this site.
However, it is going to have to pay for itself and for its promotion.

Thanks so much for all your support and please help me get the word out.

Richard

 

Here are a list of all the concerns and the resulting investigation:

.

I. Issue: Kym Membe Himself

A.          Concern One: Who is Kym?

1.      He is the founder of Atheist Nexus and his user moderator name was Thor.

2.      By occupation he is a Freelance Web Designer.

3.      He is married to Ashley and they have two children.

B.          Concern Two: Is he a Christian or an atheist?

1.      For most of his life he was a Christian. Over the past few years he has been quite confused and doubted his faith. By reading Dawkins, Harris, etc., he became an atheist. He wrote his story and you can read it here: Kym’s Story

2.       His wife has also commented on their past in the forums: Ashley

C.          Concern Three: What is his association with Divine Christian Center?

1.      It was discovered that Kym is the recorded registrant of xenonvisual.com, atheistnexus.org and divinechristiancenter.org. This was due to the fact that Kym is a web designer and does not discriminate against clients.

2.      It was discovered that the same fax number appeared on the Atheist Nexus, The Xeno Visual (Kym’s company), and the Divine Christian Center websites. This was because his design software uses his information by default and this site was a sample for the church. It is clear when you look at the lack of information on the site. Also, Kym changed the numbers once it was revealed. As evidence, it should be noted that the same number can be found on other template sites (i.e. Google cache for this www.alibaba.com/member/us100764026/contactinfo.html" style="color: blue; text-decoration: underline; text-underline: single""> warehouse).

D.          Concern Four: What is his association with http://onlinebiblecollege.com?

1.      A prayer written by Kym was found on this site. He dealt with this in his earlier mentioned explanation (See I.B.1.) His de-conversion, even though it was a slow process, was not finalized within him until a few months ago.

2.      It should also be noted that Kym is not the registrant of this site. Kym also talked about this in the Atheist Nexus forums. He clarified that his de-conversion was within the last few months.

3.      Kym’s wife Ashley also spoke of their recent atheism in the forums.

E.           Richard’s Notes: With the above information and my many conversations with Kym, I have no reason to doubt his sincerity. He did many things to prove this.

1.      Even though it was not necessary, Kym almost immediately asked for my involvement and gave me administrative control of Atheist Nexus.

2.      Kym invited Phil Ferguson (Founder of Champaign Urbana Freethinkers), to his home for a face to face meeting. Upon returning, Phil said he had no reason to doubt Kym’s sincerity.

3.      For those who think it matters (I for one do not), Kym also took the “Blasphemy Challenge” several times in the forums.

II.                  Issue: Security for Members

A.          Concern Five: Was pertinent information being collected on Atheist Nexus members to be turned over to Christian zealots?

1.      The site is built upon the Ning.com platform. Members sign up to Ning and the individual Administrator’s (like Kym) do not have access to personal information like passwords. The only information accessible is the information provided by the members. This includes email and User Name. The other info City, State, Age range, etc., is collected for networking within the site.

2.      It is against the Terms of Service and Privacy Policies to use info in dishonest ways. The following links explain more:

a.       http://about.ning.com/

b.      http://about.ning.com/tos.php

c.       http://about.ning.com/privacy.php

d.      http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/125/nings-infinite-ambition.html

B.          Richard’s Notes: With the first issue solved, this is resolved as well. Individuals are no more at risk in the Ning Network as they are on MySpace, Facebook, or MeetUp. I recommend anyone concerned set up a separate email account from their primary account (gmail, yahoo, msn, etc). Also, don’t use the same passwords.

 

III.              Issue: IRS and Non-profit Concerns

A.          Concern Five: How is Atheist Nexus organized as a company?

1.      Kym and his wife applied for and received an EIN number from the IRS.

2.      Since the site was about a week old, they were in the process of forming a leadership team for their non-profit.

3.      Absolutely no money was collected from any members, and Kym has paid for the entire site as of this moment.

B.          Richard’s Notes: In my opinion, this is where the mistake was made. In setting up the site, Kym said on the about me page that, “We are organized as a non-profit.” This was not the case. He should have said, “We will be organized as a non-profit.” I don’t however feel that this was intentional deception. The site was a little more than a week old and Kym did not expect the site to grow so quickly. Also, as noted, no money was collected from anyone.

 

IV.            Other Issues

A.          Concern Six: Why do you have to register before you can see information on Atheist Nexus?

1.      This is standard on many networking sites. You cannot automatically view everyone’s information on Facebook unless you register. There were many in the comment sections of Pharyngula that said pre-registration was reason enough not to trust Atheist Network. Ironically, the Pharyngula chat room requires registration before you can see even its front page.

2.      Also, there are many members on Atheist Nexus who are “in the closet” with their atheism. We feel this is none of our business and we will not be a part of “outing” anyone. I have even read the concerns of a non-American Muslim who was very afraid for his security if his non-belief was found out.

B.          Concern Seven: Who has access to member’s information?

1.      At this point, I (Richard) am the only one who has “Network Creator” status. This is limited as mentioned above (See II.A.1).

2.      As standard for this type of site, Moderators are chosen to police the site for problem members and inappropriate posts. They are highly monitored and have to sign written agreements before they are allowed to moderate the site.

C.          Concern Eight: Who has been banned from the site?

1.      As is common for this type of site, we reserve the right to ban anyone for any reason.

2.      As of July 14, 2008, only four people have been banned. This was due to duplicate accounts, inappropriate behavior, and trying to impersonate other people.

D.          Concern Nine: With the absence of Kym, what is the future of the site?

1.      First, I need to obtain legal advice and make sure matters are handled correctly.

2.      Second, a team of designers need to be in place to improve the site.

3.      Third, the site has to pay for itself. I will not come out of pocket for this site. If the community wants it, they need to help out if possible.

4.      Etc.

Views: 48

Replies are closed for this discussion.

Replies to This Discussion

Nice.
I got a little disturbed by how crazy everyone got over this and so I didn't follow it to its conclusion. I am glad it worked itself out. It's a shame about Kym; I hope he knows how much we all appreciate what he did for us.
O man Jim, you missed it! The guy on YouTube is variable, he made for big conversation here on A|N. You can go here to see a lot of what happened. It was very interesting to watch go down.
Everything you've written sounds great, except for one thing: I'm a bit leery of the use of the term "Brother" Richard. Sounds kind of cultish to me. I understand you used to be a minister; does it make you uncomfortable to not be called this? Thanks for your indulgence (you should excuse the expression
Believe me, you are not the first person to point this out.

First off, let me be clear that the moniker "brother," is just a joke nickname that has stuck with me. A couple years back I was seeking secular ordination so I could preform weddings for non-believers and "unions" for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. During the process, I had to pick some type of title from a predetermined list. There was no way in "hell" I was going to chose Rev., Pastor, Father, etc. The only one I could somewhat stomach was the word Brother. It was the only name that reflected a horizontal relationship instead of a vertical one.

Second, when i started my website, I was specifically looking to draw upon my religious past and kind of take a churchy (another word I don't really like) approach to atheism. On the site, I have written secular eulogies for people like Arthur C. Clarke, and have referred to atheist bloggers as Brothers or Sisters. I even refer to the big-dogs with the names, irRev. Dawkins, irRev. Hitchens, etc. I was all a joke, but incidentally, the site, has quite a large theist readership and has actually helped several realize and become comfortable in their non-belief.

Thirdly, when I joined Atheist Nexus, I used my internet "nickname" as I usually do. When Kym approached me to help out, the only way people knew me was as Brother Richard. Right or wrong, the situation needed someone with some type of name recognition, and as small as mine was, it served a purpose.

Fast forward to today, and I guess I'm stuck with it. I definitely don't expect anyone to call me that. Many choose to, but to me, it is no different than referring to someone online as "tigerlady34" whose real name is Janice.

Someday, I might drop it. But right now, I kind of enjoy the controversy, and I think, good or bad, it has actually helped solidify Atheist Nexus in people's minds. It has become clear to me that the old saying is true, "There is no such thing as bad press." It seems the more the mud gets stirred the bigger we grow.

I'm sure this is more of an explanation then you were looking to get, but I have known it was a question that I needed to answer. I will probably make a more public statement somewhere soon.

By the way, we won't force people to drink the atheist "Kool-Aid" until the third month.

Just Richard
Well, I think if he's going to call himself "Brother Richard" he should at least have a tonsure.

There is no reason to allow christians to own the name Brother. It is a very egalitarian word, and I think you should keep it.
"Fast forward to today, and I guess I'm stuck with it. I definitely don't expect anyone to call me that. Many choose to, but to me, it is no different than referring to someone online as "tigerlady34" whose real name is Janice."

Tigerlady34 isn't her real name? I'm shocked! Call me a skeptic, but I'm beginning to think maybe people on the internet aren't always who they say they are.

"By the way, we won't force people to drink the atheist "Kool-Aid" until the third month."

As long as the atheist Kool-Aid is cold and tastes of alcohol, I don't think there'll be much forcing required. ;-)
Dear Just,

That was a great and very thorough answer, and I thank you for taking the time to respond. I've suddenly remembered something from my long-gone 20s: I once applied for--and received!--a ministry in the Mother Earth Church. I had a real membership card, too, which, sadly, I've lost. I even took the time to go through a box of old memorabilia but couldn't find it. Did a quick search online but can't even find that church now, so I'm not sure if that mean I'm no longer a minister [or, as a female, ministress? Kinda like that, divides into "mini-stress";)] or am still a ministress without a church. But you can call me paralaxvu. or Kat. Or Sister Kat. Or Ministress Kat. Or mini. Or whatever you like...as long as you call me to the Kool-Aid. [Tell me, is that an electric acid test for membership in the atheist nexus? And did I just reveal my age?] Now let's see, where was I? Oh yes...I loved your reply. Thank you so much for letting me and the others see you better.
I really appreciate being able to read a history of the site. I also really appreciate how civil everyone is... this is such a delightful change from other atheist discussion boards I've frequented.

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