SNS Council & Volunteers

The Society is lead by the SNS Council in terms of major strategic direction. Members are those who have shown a history of commitment and contribution of their time and energies to the mission of the Society. The Council attends a planning meeting once per month over video conference, and works in between in many leadership roles. All volunteers are welcome to attend these planning meetings as well. Contact us if you are interested.

 

Leigh AndersonLeigh Anderson (Council Member, Administration Director) is recently retired after working 30 years in the aerospace industry, with degrees in computer programming and Cultural Anthropology. A well traveled native Texan, she lives there now near much of her extended family. Her interests include comparative religion, though she prefers not to label her beliefs specifically. She instead blends parts of different traditions and religions to craft her own individual spiritual outlook. Leigh volunteers at a local State Park and enjoys family outings, kayaking, hiking, photography and numerous outdoor activities. The Administration Director is responsible for communications, logistics, volunteer management, scheduling, and other administrative functions. Leigh is also a former Council member.

 

Alex Cheruk (Executive Director, Council member, Social Media and Communications Director) is a spiritual atheist, activist, science advocate, and content creator. Having deconstructed his spiritual beliefs twice (once from Christian Fundamentalism and a second time from New Age spirituality), Alex became inspired to start making videos promoting science, reason, sentientism, and public awareness of naturalistic approaches to spirituality. He does this under the name “The Spiritual Skeptic,” where he engages with his audience of over 60,000 followers through videos centered around SN topics. Alex additionally manages social media for SNS, where he hopes to play a role in spreading awareness of SN as a rational, ethical, and healthy approach to spirituality within the growing SBNR (Spiritual But Not Religious) demographic.

 

Edwin Everly (Communications Moderator) is a School Bus Driver, Mental Health Coach, Yoga, Meditation and
Ayurvedic Medicine Teacher/Practitioner. He is very active, walking 6-8 miles daily and loves nature. Ed is married to his beloved wife Leslie. They dote on Zoe, their beautiful 20-pound pocket beagle. “She is rotten, but we love her and she loves her papa.”

 

Lindsey Halpern-Givens (Administration Assistant) has a professional and personal interest in understanding and caring for the human spirit. For over two decades she has worked as a hospital chaplain, a licensed counselor, and a parish minister. A graduate of Northeastern Illinois University with an M.A in Counseling Arts, as well as an M.Div. from Meadville/Lombard Theological School (Unitarian Universalist) and a D.Min. from Chicago Theological Seminary (United Church of Christ). Lindsey is a lifelong animal lover. She and her husband Bob currently live with 2 dogs and 2 cats and have four grown children.

 

Rick Heller (Meditation Group Instructor, Council Member) is author of Secular Meditation: 32 Practices for Cultivating Inner Peace, Compassion, and Joy – A Guide from the Humanist Community at Harvard. Rick has led meditations at the Humanist Hub since 2009. His writing has appeared in Buddhadharma, Free Inquiry, UUWorld, Tikkun, the Boston Globe, and more. He received a master’s degree in journalism from Boston University. He also holds a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from MIT.

 

James Jarrett (Council Member) is a Native Texan and still lives in the DFW area with his partner, Katie. They have 6 children. A licensed attorney and former church planter, James is endorsed by The Humanist Society as a Chaplain and Celebrant supporting people full-time in Hospice care. From backyard bird watching to many canoe trips through the wild and scenic wilderness of the lower canyons of the Rio Grande, James loves the outdoors, most especially the Big Bend country of far West Texas. He finds inspiration from observing the natural processes of life, love, and death as well as inhabiting the wisdom of desert space. James’ account of his spiritual journey was his first article as a guest contributor to SNS (article link here). He also occasionally posts poetry, articles, and random thoughts on his blog Becoming Human. James has found Spiritual Naturalism to be an integrative space for practicing adaptive subjectivity in relationship with reality.

 

Kyle Kampa (Newsletter Editor, former Council member) is a meditator and spiritual-seeker living in Houston, Texas. His first exposure to Buddhist thought was through Tsai Chih Chung’s cartoon adaptations of Zen sutras, which his father would bring home from his visits to Taiwan. Kyle has found meditation and the philosophy of Spiritual Naturalism to be a profound help in navigating life’s ups and downs.

 

 

Steve Karafit (Partner Site Liaison) grew up in rural Ohio where he fell in love with the wild places on the family farm. He received an A.S. in Recreation and Wildlife from Hocking College, a B.S. in Field Biology from Ohio University, and an M.S. in Systematics and Evolution from the University of Alberta.  His graduate work focused on Cretaceous age fossils, and he has co-authored several scientific papers on new species of  fossil plants.  He enjoys hiking with his wife and son, cooking, and playing guitar.  For the last several years he has been studying and practicing Stoic philosophy. Steve hosts the Sunday Stoic Podcast, where he discusses modern applications of this ancient philosophy. In his free time, Steve is a Biology Lecturer at the University of Central Arkansas.

 

Thomas Schenk Thomas Schenk (Council member, Editing Director) is on the Board of Directors, serves as Editing Director, and has contributed more than 80 articles. As a teenager more than 50 years ago, he began a quest to realize a deep spirituality free of supernaturalism. Towards that end, he explored world religions and in particular Zen Buddhism and at university received a B.A. in Anthropology, with a focus on the religions of earlier cultures. (He also has a M.B.A.) In SNS he finds an organization with people who share a goal similar to the one that inspired him as a youth. He spent much of his career as a research administrator, most recently at the University of Minnesota, and is now retired.

 

Daniel Lev Shkolnik (writer) is a Humanist speaker and community organizer. He hosts Re-Enchantment, a podcast that explores various ways of finding wonder in a secular age and promotes Humanistic and naturalistic interpretations of spirituality. He holds a degree in sociology from Yale University and lives in New Orleans.

 

 

 

tony-schlisserTony Schlisser (I.T. Director) has roots in the Appalachian foothills of Tennessee. He has taken a winding path to live in Louisville Kentucky with his large and extended family as a philosopher and spiritual vagrant. A lifelong lover of learning, over the years Tony’s formal studies at various colleges have included majors in Bible, Christian education, English literature and philosophy, and human services. Having started as a fundamentalist Christian, Tony has followed a peripatetic path through paganism, studying enlightenment meditation, and atheism/agnosticism/ignosticism with peeks into Taoism, Buddhism, Queer/Gay Spirituality, Deep Ecology, and other spiritual paths. He is currently piecing together his own brand of spiritual naturalism that he has termed Sagaianism (a portmanteau word that derives from sage, saga, Sagan, and Gaia). Tony is a self-taught web developer who has helped several non-profit groups and businesses develop their web presence. The IT Director oversees all matters relating to the SNS website, databases, and online functions.

 

Eric Steinhart (Writer) grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania. He received his BS in Computer Science from the Pennsylvania State University, after which he worked as a software designer. Many of his algorithms have been patented. He earned an MA in Philosophy from Boston College and was awarded a PhD in Philosophy from SUNY at Stony Brook. He has taught at Dartmouth College and William Paterson University. His books have concerned Nietzsche, the logic of metaphor, mathematics, and life after death. He has published several dozen academic articles. He has been interested in using new computational concepts to solve old philosophical problems. He is especially interested in new and emerging religions. He loves New England and the American West, and enjoys all types of hiking and biking, chess, and photography.

 

daniel2DT Strain (Founder, former Executive Director, Council Member) is a Humanist minister, speaker, and writer on the topics of ethics, spirituality, and ancient philosophy. Rev. Strain is founder of the Spiritual Naturalist Society and serves on the SNS Council. He leads meditations and speaks on occasion at Jade Buddha Temple and for the V.A. Hospital meditation program. He also serves on the Board of Directors of The Stoic Registry. His Humanist Contemplative group and blog inspired a similar mindfulness group at Harvard University. He is former president of the Humanists of Houston and has served in the Chapter Assembly of the American Humanist Association. He has written for the Houston Chronicle Belief page online and his work has appeared nationally in other magazines, on Houston PBS television, and the journal “Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism“. DT Strain has studied the intersection of Eastern and Western ancient philosophy for over ten years, with a specialty on the overlap of concepts between some varieties of Buddhism and Stoicism.

 

Tony Wolf (Council Member) is New Zealand citizen and US resident.  Tony is an author, producer, teacher, antiquarian and creator. A born and raised atheist, he developed a strong intellectual interest in the phenomenon of belief as a young teenager and began creating experimental, artistic “poetic faiths” during the late 1980s. Tony served as the Cultural Fighting Styles Designer for the Lord of the Rings feature film trilogy (2001-2003) and has taught performance masterclasses throughout Europe, North America and Australasia. His novels include the popular Suffrajitsu trilogy (2015) and The Life and Fantastical “Crimes” of Spring Heeled Jack (2020) and he co-produced and directed the independent documentaries Bartitsu: the Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes (2011) and No Man Shall Protect Us: The Hidden History of the Suffragette Bodyguards (2018).  In recent years, Tony’s essays, lectures and online courses on the themes of poetic faith, secular ritual and “hidden history” have been featured via Morbid Anatomy, Atlas Obscura, OnlySky Media and Reimagine.

 

Emeritus Council Members & Staff

aron-gammanAron Gamman (former Membership Director and Council Member) is a deeply curious nature lover, husband and parent to two wonderful boys. He is also a sometimes writer, drummer, guitar player and poet (when the muse strikes him) with deep cultural roots in Judaism. He has explored the philosophies of many traditions including Buddhism, neopaganism, etc. to spiritual naturalism he embraces, today. He graduated from Ohio Dominican University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science focusing on environmental issues and recently received a Paralegal Certificate from Columbus State Community College. The Membership Director is responsible for cultivating a healthy, thriving, community within the membership. This includes promoting member inter-communications, activities and events, welcoming new members, the newsletter, and other ideas for encouraging a satisfying social, intellectual, and spiritual experience for members.

 

Gregory Gronbacher (former Executive Director, Council member, and writer) earned his B.A. in philosophy and theology at Franciscan University, his masters in philosophy (M.Phil.) at the International Academy of Philosophy, and did his doctoral work in philosophy (Ph.D.) at the Loyola Institute, Trinity College, Dublin. Gregory’s academic and spiritual interests focus on developing spiritual naturalism into it’s own system of theory and practice. Gregory is also curator of the Christian Naturalism and Humanistic Judaism traditions pages on the SNS website.

 

michelle-leblancMichelle L. LeBlanc (former Community Facilitator) has been happily married to her husband/best friend (Roger) since 1999. She is a stay-at-home mom of 3 young boys. Her main hobby is gardening (flowers). Her background involves being a spirit-filled, born-again Christian for 33+ years (up until January 2011). She was a worship leader, soloist, and church leader for many of those years. Today Michelle considers herself a Spiritual Agnostic Humanist. Michelle has always had a great desire to inspire people towards finding truth, meaning, and purpose in this life, and says she is very proud to be a part of the Spiritual Naturalist Society.

 

B.T. Newberg (Former Education Director and Council Member) is an author, editor, teacher, and husband. Since 2000, he has been practicing meditation and ritual from a naturalistic perspective. Upon leaving the Lutheranism of his raising, he experimented with Agnosticism, Buddhism, Contemporary Paganism, and Humanism. He now blends all these experiences into his life as a Spiritual Naturalist. After founding the community blog HumanisticPaganism, he currently writes the column Naturalistic Traditions at Patheos and contributes writing and course design to the Spiritual Naturalist Society. Professionally, he holds a master’s degree in education and teaches English as a Second Language. Having lived in England, Malaysia, Japan, and Korea, B. T. Newberg currently resides in the place of his birth, Minnesota, with his wife and cat. As Education Director of the SNS, he is responsible for the Society’s educational programs, such as course design and collection of supporting materials in both the archives and courses. This also includes helping to select and manage mentors.

Dr_Jay_Forrest150x150Jay N. Forrest (Former Education Director and Council Member) has been a seeker after truth his whole life. He became a Christian in 1983, and soon after pursued the ministry. He did his undergraduate work at Central Bible College and Berean University, and holds a Doctorate of Ministry from Trinity Evangelical Christian University. Jay is a Certified Meditation Teacher with Aura Wellness Center and has been trained in both Zen and Insight Meditation practices. In 2011, after struggling with the problem of evil and scriptures, Jay became a Buddhist and a naturalist. For the next decade he explored philosophy, religion, and psychology. Since writing these articles, Jay Forrest has returned to Christianity, having answered many of the objections he had. He is currently an ordained Christian minister and hospice chaplain. Jay’s blog can be read at www.JayForrest.org.

Many other volunteers serve in various important capacities within the Society at times, for which we are grateful. If you would like to become a volunteer, please see this page and contact us!

In addition to our writing staff and our Advisory Board, our present and past volunteers include:

Murtadha Ahmed
Aminata Mansaray
Julie Strain
Darren Bell
Jeremy Mattocks
John Klemesrud
Jean Schlisser
Nicholas Johnson
Jacob Pewitt