Leonard Jessup of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, an outspoken non-believer in God, organized religion, astrology, and lots of other things, admitted to feeling painfully lonely in his skepticism.
"I sometimes meet people who call themselves atheists," said Jessup, "but I usually get the feeling they're only agnostic. And without seeing the actual evidence, how can I give them the benefit of the doubt?"
"Maybe that makes me a horrible person," he added. "But it comes from real experience."
Jessup went on to explain that, after graduating from college, he seriously dated a woman who described herself only as "non-religious".
"It was true she didn't go to church," said Jessup. "But then I overheard her telling a girlfriend that she doesn't believe in some old man in the sky, but she does think there's 'something.' I almost lost it."
And when his former girlfriend further stated that she felt "taken care" of - and not by Jessup - Jessup did lose it.
"It cut me to the core," he said. "The sense of betrayal really can't be overstated."
Realizing that their spiritual disbeliefs simply did not align, Jessup said goodbye to that relationship - and to trusting others' alleged skepticism.
"I want to believe they don't believe," he said, "but it's hard. Obviously, I'm not willing to take it on faith."
Jessup hasn't given up hope of connecting with other genuine non-believers, however, even if only via cyberspace. He has discovered several podcasts he enjoys, including one hosted by (purported) atheist Sam Harris. But while Jessup finds Harris's talks entertaining, he remains skeptical that Harris is truly as atheistic as he claims to be.
"He's into meditation, which to me is kind of a red flag," said Harris.."But I'm keeping an open mind. What else can I do?"