Aron Ra, also known as the Texan Tank, is an atheist vlogger and activist.
He is also the Texas State Director of American Atheists. His videos focus
mainly on evidence for evolution, a topic he's been interested in since his
early years. He just couldn't believe the stories in the Bible were real,
and even got yelled at for suggesting it's impossible to turn water into
wine. He spoke with Johnny Monsarrat for this interview.
RDF: When people come to your blog/video podcast, what do they expect to
Aron Ra: I address a particular topic that's been repeated a thousand times,
something that I've heard so much and get tired of, like "there's never been
any transitional species", for example, [ which is one way that people try
to counter evolution, ] and the video I make will explain exactly what a
transitional species is and list hundreds of them.
Aron Ra: I did a similar video for people who say that there's never been a
beneficial mutation or that there's no evidence to the tree of life,
"evolution is a fraud", all these arguments… So I bring the Nebraska man,
[ a mistakenly categorized tooth that briefly was thought to indicate a new
primate species in North America, ] and then I show what the real fraud is
and other arguments that the creationists bring forth.
RDF: So you're debunking myths with facts…
Aron Ra: Right. The only way to understand evolution is if you dedicate a
huge amount of time of your life to very specific studies that you have to
pay for. To learn creationism all you have to do is be a victim of the
proselytizers. It is literally a matter of make believe. So I created this
series of videos for free for people with short attention spans who can
understand what the science really is.
RDF: How did it all start?
Aron Ra: I got into this job where I was sitting on a computer all day, had
unlimited browsing and unlimited overtime (and this went on for years) and I
was doing the job but it didn't require that I'd get off screen so I found
myself on discussion groups, and this is going back to the late 1990s, where
I met (virtually) PZ Myers and Richard Carrier, among others.
Aron Ra: And I got into the whole creationism discussion, unable to believe
that people could be that damn crazy. I had encountered a number of people
who were bragging that their church group had elected such and such judge or
senator or whatever. And they said how all of this was "coming together the
way they had planned it" and it turns out they were talking about "the wedge
RDF: What's "the wedge strategy"?
Aron Ra: It's a political and social action plan to undermine science, among
other things, towards theocracy. They wanted an American government that
would inforce levitical law, in a nutshell. These people were serious;
they're not just a gangful of weirdos in an encampment or in a bunker,
they'd been working on putting political activists on all government levels
and they were actually trying to "take over the country". This is where the
idea of the culture war came from.
Aron Ra: We the atheist, the secularist, were never on the offensive in the
culture war. The culture war was already on and underway a while before we
even knew about it.
RDF: So you're saying that it's more than that religious people don't
understand science. Religious activists have a strategy to actively trying
to destroy the scientific viewpoint?
Aron Ra: Yeah, it is a complete strategy. In the 1990s nobody knew that; now
everybody knows it. It's not even a secret anymore. The governor of Texas is
a fundamentalist conservative and he is open about it. The next Republican
candidate for governor is also a fundamentalist conservative, as are a good
number of other governors across the States, and a whole lot of the
senators, and practically everyone who ran for President in the last
RDF: Could you tell us about how you came to atheism? Have you always been
Aron Ra: Without knowing it. I didn't know what faith meant. My mother was a
Mormon and I was raised in an exclusively creationist environment, and I was
the only non-creationist, and never knew until middle school. I had to be 14
years old at least before I met another person who understood what evolution
was, much less accepted it. I was alone otherwise.
Aron Ra: My family had a tradition where they didn't indoctrinate children
until after 8 years old, apparently the Mormons have this thing about an
"age of reason". So I didn't receive a lot of religious instruction until
then; I turned 8 and I was immediately baptised and they started throwing
Bible verses at me but by then a science teacher had given me a book on
dinosaurs and the book had a sort of "tree of life" section and it all made
sense to me.
Aron Ra: So when they started preaching how the Bible was the absolute truth
my immediate gut response was, "No, it isn't, look here," and then I would
start pointing out all the things in the Bible that were wrong.
RDF: So you were a rebel even when you were young!
Aron Ra: (laughs) Yeah, I guess, and I didn't even realize it. I remember my
babysitters were the worst influence. They tried to teach me things like
"might makes right"; they were right-wing Christian conservatives. I once
asked my babysitter about water, because that's one of the first molecules
that you learn about, and how you could change that to wine and she ended up
yelling at me. "How dare you question God!" Not kidding.
Written By: RDFRS