Editor’s Note: Last month, I wrote an essay encouraging atheists to join the Foundation Beyond Belief, a new charitable group doing good for human beings and the world in the name of freethought. I also offered to write a front-page post interviewing anyone who agreed to join the Foundation as a result of hearing about it on my site. This is the next in that series of interviews, which will be posted each weekend. Please welcome Alex Weaver!
Tell us a little about yourself. Who are you, where do you live, what do you do?
I live in Sacramento, and I’m a de facto single father in the process of “making it official.” I work for the family engineering firm as a technician and am majoring in Physics at Cosumnes River College and Mechanical Engineering at Sacramento State.
If you’re an atheist, when did you first become an atheist, and how long have you been one? If you’re not an atheist, how would you define your beliefs?
I was raised in a household that was strongly politically liberal and was more or less secular but with a substantial residue of “believing in belief.” I was more or less agnostic for the majority of my childhood, though I was not particularly hostile to religion and would occasionally sort of “play along” with rituals like prayers, etc., either on my own or with others. This reached a peak in middle school when I semi-attached myself to a small circle of friends which included the son of a local pastor and was persuaded to attend a Christian youth group his church offered, which I did for a while, off and on. I identified myself as “Christian” at that point and was fairly attentive to going-through-the-motions but in retrospect my mental state was inconsistent with either a sincere sense of conviction or a clear idea of what it was I was supposed to be believing – it was all sort of surreal to me. I wound up disengaging from that group when I wound up going to a different high school. I ran across some information on Secular Humanism as a teenager, though I don’t remember where, and felt a strong sense of resonance. Some years later I ran across the Ebonmusings site while searching for supporting references for a paper on evolution for a “we can’t believe you learned this the first time in high school” college English class, and was subsequently inspired to rethink my unconscious deference to religion and to adopt the identity of “atheist.” I am 24 now and have called myself an “atheist” consistently since I was 18.
I technically “have” a blog and one or two comparable sites but have never had time or inclination to follow through with keeping them updated.
Have you given to other charities before joining the Foundation Beyond Belief? If so, which ones are your favorites?
I have previously given to Goodwill, to various local food bank style organizations, I believe to Planned Parenthood, to St. Jude’s children’s hospital, and one or two others that I don’t remember well, as well as political advocacy groups which don’t meet the “charitable donations” qualifications but whose mission I see as a way of giving back to and improving society (Equality California, for instance). I wouldn’t particularly say I have a “favorite.”
What membership level did you join the Foundation at? How do you plan to divide your initial donation?
I’d already written $25 of charitable donations into my “when the dust settles” long-term budgeting plan, so this seemed like a good place to start. I intended to increase my participation level later once I had a better understanding of what my expenses as a single parent would be like, though oddly there doesn’t seem to be an easy, straightforward way to do that via the “my account” pages.
How do you plan to divide your initial donation?
I allocated 9% of my donation to each of the other nine categories, and the remaining 19% to the “Big Bang” charity, Smart Recovery. Their mission is a fairly personal one for me, given that my wife’s alcoholism is a major driving factor in our divorce and particularly in my having custody of our daughter, and given my discomfort with many aspects of the 12-Step approach, which I’ve learned far too much about secondhand.
Is there anything else you’d like to say to atheists who are considering supporting the Foundation or other charitable groups?
I’m happy to be doing something practical to help, and would suggest others forward the link to the foundation web site to any local atheist/freethinker/freethinker groups.