Many people have suggested we start an introductions section to our forum. Here it is, and I will start things off.

My name is Richard Haynes (AKA: Brother Richard). I am a writer and public speaker who happens to lives in the buckle of the Bible belt: Atlanta, Georgia.

I was raised in a nonreligious home, but as a teenage runaway, I had a very real "born again" experience. Almost immediately I became an evangelist and personally led hundreds of individuals to Christ.

I went on to receive a Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies, and became an associate minister in a 12,000 member mega-church.

In 1993, a couple of months after the birth of our eldest daughter, my wife (Angela) and I made the agonizing decision to leave our church which was engulfed in scandal. Terrified and unemployed, we began our long and arduous journey to rationality and nontheism.

I am now secularly ordained and have dedicated myself to encouraging and inspiring others to "come out" of the religious closet. I am also devoted to building the atheist community.
I maintain a blog called: Life Without Faith, and I am the executive director of this wonderful site. (Which by the way is one of the world's largest atheist social networking sites).

If you would like to invite me to speak to your local group or at your convention, please feel free to contact me.

If you have any questions you would like to ask me, post them here. I will answer them all.

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Bridgette, there has never been any doubt on this site that Richard is 100% genuine. Concerns were raised in the very first weeks of the site about the authenticity of the originator of the site, Kym (Thor) - they were soon dispelled. However, because of the need to have someone in charge who had the complete confidence of the community, Kym put the future of the site first, and stepped aside in favour of Richard. Richard was already established, and well known, as an atheist from his Life without Faith website.

Richard took on a huge job of establishing Nexus at enormous personal and financial cost to himself and with no promise of recompense. He has the approval, friendship and trust of major atheists such as Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, Margaret Downey, Dan Barker, Pen Jilette and Stuart Bechman. Further, he has steered this site through some often troubled waters to the roaring success it is today - the largest atheist social networking site in the world with over 10,000 members added in just one year, and membership increasing at approximately 250 members a week.

Richard's personal story of deconversion is entirely credible. He was involved in a major televangelical ministry and did leave after a scandal (in which he, himself, played no part other than in exposing aspects of it). It was after being ostracized by members of the ministry and congregation that he and his wife determined to re-examine their faith. This occurred, as I understand it, over a relatively long period, with the ultimate result that both rejected Christianity and began to realize they had been 'duped'. Richard then decided to use his considerable talents at evangelism to speak out against the lies spread by theists.

A part of the 'service' he could offer to the secular community was to become secularly ordained so that he could legally perform weddings, funerals, etc. He chose the title 'Brother' because it was the only one on offer that suggested a horizontal, equal relationship with his clients.

I am writing this to you because I consider myself a personal friend of Brother Richard, we have worked side by side (along with many others) from the inception of this site, and because Richard has recently had a health crisis in his family which has demanded his attention. I expect he will answer you when he can, but he may not have the time to write at this length.

It is unfortunate, Bridgette, that you have come onto this site and, without sufficient information, have decided to put 2 and 2 together and make 5.

Let me repeat. There is absolutely no doubt about Richard's authenticity as an international ambassador for atheism. He works hand in hand with atheist leaders around the world and is accepted by all of them for his hard work, dedication and talents.

There is not one 'whiff' of scandal anywhere about Richard. Not one. He is exactly what he says he is.

Cynicism and skepticism are valuable tools in an atheist's arsenal, but you have based your reasoning on too little knowledge - this is always a mistake.

Had you simply asked politely as many others have here, "Who is Brother Richard, and why does he use that title?" you would have been given all the information on which to make an informed assessment. Instead, you have gone off half-cocked and cast aspersions on one of the hardest working and most effective atheists in the world.
Sorry didn't see this until I answered your previous questions. I don't believe I have ever said that my wife, kids, and me all deconverted at the same time. Nor, have I ever said that it was at the same time as the scandal. There is a gap of about 14 years between me leaving the church and becoming an atheist. I only had one daughter when I left the church and she was 2 months old.

Also, atheism does not stand for anything. It is simply the absence of belief. Not all atheists are rationalists, humanists, naturalists, etc.
As Atheist Nexus has become the world's largest non-theist social networking site in just 12 short months and is increasing its membership at approximately 10% per month, it doesn't seem that too many people are being scared away.

Richard has a team of people who work closely with him and try to take some of the stress off of him. He obviously can't answer every single inquiry on the site - although he does try to answer personal questions if he can. As mentioned above, there has been a health crisis in Richard's family which necessitated him cancelling an engagement at an important convention, so none of us were sure he would be around to answer your question. It is a measure of his dedication that he did.

Nobody said you shouldn't ask questions - it was the tone of your comments which got everyone's backs up. We get rather sick of people who come onto this site and, instead of trying to get to know us and trying to make a contribution, they begin by going off half-cocked and hurling around criticisms based on very little knowledge and a great deal of hubris.

Honestly, we have more trouble with these types than we've ever had with 'fake' atheists.
No problem Bridgette. I understand your cautiousness. The good thing is skeptics like you ask questions. It is obvious that I need to make these explanations more clear.

I should also point out that my views and activities have very little to do with Atheist Nexus. And if anything, they have helped more than hurt. Because of my past, I am in a unique position to help the many "new atheists" out there.

I also understand and appreciate why people came to my defense. The tone of questions (mainly in your second post) had more judgment than questioning. Don't sweat it. Welcome to Nexus.
I have an unusual manifestation of obsessive/compulsive disorder. I am a pathological truth teller. It sounds like a good thing, but it's really not. It's very difficult not to say anything I am thinking and very bluntly, even online. Please understand, this is'nt a judgement. Please read it all the way through before you get angry.
My first thought on reading all of this was, christians can be easily swayed. If that tree dries up, why not apply it to atheism ? Atheists are group in desperate need of leaders if we are to have any pull in society. A group that could easily be taken advantage of. What would it hurt ? It helps them and there might be something in it for me if I play it right.
There are people on here vouching for your character saying you are not profiting from this ( as there always are with evangelical christian preachers)..yet I am pretty sure you will make money on the book and pretty sure as the book gains in popularity so will the membership of this site. Just like in the christain religion.
A good scam artist knows that in the beginning he will have to work hard, put up his own money or nobody will trust him, get to know people who can vouche for him and make him seem completely credible. If a con artist does not do these things..his con won't work. I don't know these people vouching for you. I don't know you. Your story really makes this all fishy as hell. You really sound like one of those guys who prays on whatever needy group of folk he finds and becomes thier hero to line his pockets.
I AM NOT in any way saying that is the truth or that is who you are. Atheists are a logical bunch of people and we see these things and make connections, that's all. We got to the point of atheism by questioning and asking the right questions. Unless I personally met and got to know you, I will always be skeptical. that's just a fact.
If you are for real, then you need to understand that many will be skeptical, and that people vouching for you won't help. You are going to face challenges that might make your christian career pale in comparison. If you are for real, I don't envy you at all this task you've set about. You might believe in hell again after awhile LOL ;) If you are real, and I am giving you the benefit of the doubt even though I am skeptical, I am grateful for everything you are doing. Everything. Thank you !

Ironically, if you are not real...being an atheist group...we probably don't care for the most part LOL it's not like you are defying some sacred book we worship or anything. Motives pure or not, we need your help. In this case I guess I would view it as a career choice. If your motives are not pure, sure it would be nice not to be lied to. It would be cool if you admitted it and said I chose your group because I needed a career and you needed the help. We'd all be ok with that I'm sure.

I don't allow snap judgments to rule me. I am a newbie here and I just wanted to give you a detailed view of how it could look to people and perhaps what to expect. Either way, I don't care if you are real or not. You seem to be doing a great job so it's all cool with me. Either way, you are a very smart man, that's obvious. Just promise me that if things get going really well you won't run off to timbuktu with the groups money and a new 16 year old wife and I can live with that LOL

( great. now I've ostracized myself on the first day. Ban me gently.)
Why is Richard's story 'fishy'? Like many, many of our members he used to be a Christian. Over a period of many, many years, and study he came to realize he had been deceived.

He did not found Atheist Nexus. He had his own website and had been well-known as an atheist there for years. When there were doubts raised about the authenticity of the founder of Nexus, Richard was considered by those who knew him as a committed atheist as the ideal person to go and visit Kym to see what could be done to resolve the situation.

Kym, as it turned out, was a real (but new) atheist. Kym decided to hand over the site to Richard - it wasn't Richard's choice - and those who were involved 'on the ground' at the time will attest to that.

Richard isn't just some guy on the internet. He's involved in numerous atheist groups and many, many people on this site know him personally. Plus, there's a group of people who have been working with him behind the scenes since the start. He has been accepted as genuine by the world's leading atheists, most of whom have actually met him - why do you think you would know more about Richard than they do?

Do you know anything about how much it costs and how much time it takes to keep a website of this size going? You may not, but the technical experts who work with Richard do. If there were buckets of money coming in, and only tiny bits dribbling out to pay the costs of the site don't you think they'd notice?

Those who actually know Richard know the financial and physical strain running this site has put on him and his family. He could easily walk away from this site tomorrow and he would be a lot better off financially by doing so. He persists because he believes he is making a contribution and yes, because he believes that, one day, he might get a living income from it - and who can blame him?

It is people like you and Bridgette, arriving new on the site, and hurling around ridiculous conspiracy theories that have no basis in fact, that are likely to make Richard throw in the towel and say, "Stuff this, it's just not worth the aggravation."

He's tired, he's stressed, the site doesn't run at a profit, he's working for nothing and people like you sit on the sidelines and cheerfully fling mud at him.

I hope when the day comes that Richard decides he's taken enough shit from people who can't be bothered to actually determine the facts before they start throwing around innuendo about his credibility, that you're prepared to step up and run this site - because I don't know anyone else who would.

Who else is going to work 14-16 hour days for no thanks and no money? You?

It is a level of Richard's class that you won't be banned from this site, nor will he attack you as I have. He will take your nonsense 'on the chin' and gently explain (for the five hundredth time) why you are wrong.

Your 'suspicions' also suggest that unlike you (you incredibly perceptive intelligent person you), the other 11,000 of us are too stupid to realize we're being fleeced by a fake. Funny, a much smaller number of us realized in the very early days of this site that there were questions to be answered about the founder, managed to track him down, get someone reputable (Richard) to check it out, go through his personal history and paperwork with a fine tooth comb and show to a committee of others, and to the satisfaction of people like PZ Myers, that the site was legitimate.

Do you think that all of the people who work closely with Richard (not only on the internet, but in person - not only on Atheist Nexus but on radio podcasts, local atheist meetups, at conventions and conferences involving atheist leaders from across the USA) are so much less intelligent and perceptive than you that they wouldn't have worked it out that he was a fake, raking in big dollars?

Just how big is your ego?

Do you realize how ridiculous your post sounds, now? You owe Richard (and the rest of us) a huge apology - but I don't expect any of us will get it.
I think it is wrong for a critical thinker to jump to conclusions in any direction when there is very little evidence to support their assumptions. I think in this case Bridgette (is Krystal the same person?) has jumped to conclusions based on her own emotional conjectures rather than on evidence. This leap of faith with regards to Bridgette's very harsh accusations is alot more religious in tone than the name 'Brother Richard'. The name is clearly ironic and there is nothing wrong with atheists having a sense of humour. It worked for George Carlin after all.

Please don't use your OCD as an excuse for bad behaviour because as an OCD sufferer myself I find that very distasteful. You could have found out more about Brother Richard but by being polite and not using an accusatory tone. Ill manners were not called for.

Richard I don't know you very well but in the short time I have known you I have found you to be a very genuine person and I am not easily duped. Atheist Nexus is a wonderful site and it is anything but unethical in the way it is run. Myself and The AIM will continue to support this site for many years to come.
I have an unusual manifestation of obsessive/compulsive disorder. I am a pathological truth teller. It sounds like a good thing, but it's really not. It's very difficult not to say anything I am thinking and very bluntly, even online.

Admitting that you have a problem is the first step to recovery. You're on your way. Welcome to A|N, Krystal.
Maybe I am just stupid, but I have no idea how I could benefit from scamming people on this site. What could I get? emails? Wow, I can spam people about Jesus. This would be awesome until people start putting me in their Spam folders. Or, until people complain to Ning that I am violating their terms of service.

Be skeptical all you want, this is a good thing. But why be paranoid? Sagan said, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." If I was asking something extraordinary from members then they should be skeptical. What does Nexus ask for? Nothing. Membership is free.

Are you as paranoid when you join Facebook or MySpace? What about when you sign up for free email from Gmail or Yahoo? What about when you buy something from eBay? Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay, is an outspoken Republican who could do lots of harm with all the info you give PayPal.

I hope someday, Nexus brings in so much money that we have to hire outside accounting firms to show where the money is going. As of now, if it wasn't for the $150 bucks we get from Google ads, we would only get about $35 bucks from monthly donations. All of this from a site that gets over 200,000 unique monthly visitors, almost 1,000,000 monthly page views, and is in the top 75,000 most visited sites on the Internet.

Okay, there's the negative. All of that being said, we are continuing to grow, and daily I get emails from people who are leaving the religious world who are comforted by the fact that I can relate to them. As long as that continues, I will be happy, and all of this will be worth it.
Krystal admitted that she's not well in her opening statements. I wouldn't bother with it, Richard.
I'm sorry that's just a lame excuse. She is perceptive enough about her 'condition' to be able to explain it very eloquently up front, she claims to have read all the preceeding comments explaining Richard's situation, and yet it never occurs to her (while she's telling us that she tends to run off at the mouth) that it might be a good idea to step away from the keyboard when she's about to fling mud at someone she doesn't even know?

I just don't buy, "Don't blame me for being an ass - I'm mentally ill," thing. We have many people on this site with various forms of mental illness who haven't felt an uncontrollable urge to malign an innocent person and then say, "Don't blame me! I'm mentally ill!"

It's a crock.
I guess I suck at the sarcasm thing.

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