A few weeks ago, I talked about burnout over at Teen Skepchick, where I also contribute. It got reposted a few times, I saw some discussion on Facebook and Twitter about the toll activism can take on people.
But, you know? I don’t think I’ve been having it so hard. Natalie Reed, a contributor to Freethought Blogs, uses a pseudonym but is in danger of losing her anonymity, with potentially life-and-livelihood-threatening consequences.
Around midnight last night, she published this (and elaborated on it):
This is the last post I will ever write about conflicts internal to the Atheist Movement.
I quit. Consider this my act of serving the movement my divorce papers.
There is a lot I’ve been thinking about lately, and I’ve been doing a great deal of reappraisal of how I relate to Atheism, to Skepticism, how I see myself fitting into it. The truth is that I’ve sort of found myself having lost faith in the faithless, as silly as that sounds, and no longer believing whether this is what I want my fight to be and the people with whom I wish to fight.
One of the first things that ever drew me into the secular movement as a group for social change was Being an Atheist in the Queer Community by Greta Christina. She talked about the home she found in the secular movement, a place where equality and social justice mattered just as much as, and sometimes more than, apologetics.
I’m finding that I feel more at home — more welcomed, more valued, more truly understood — as a queer in the atheist community than I do as an atheist in the queer community.
Like, a lot more.
A year later — one Elevatorgate, and approximately four hundred and thirty six arguments about sexual harassment policies later — the discussion has changed. Atheists who also identify as social justice activists, as feminists, are burnt out, worn down, and separating themselves. They’re still atheists, but they’re increasingly wondering about what it offers them in return.
A former president and founder of Northwestern’s Secular Student Alliance told me:
Lately, I’ve felt so much more comfortable in the feminist movement than in the atheist movement. I’ve been not so much distancing myself from it, but giving it a lot less of my attention. I won’t give up on it, though, because I know personally so many atheists who embody everything that Natalie wishes the atheist movement was, and I do believe in the potential that it has, and I think reform is possible and could be just on the horizon.
And finally, once more from Natalie,
If you believe in this movement, if you believe it’s worth fighting for, if you believe it can be fixed, if you believe I’m wrong… good. You really do have all my support. If this is what you care about and you think it can be done and is worth the fight, by all means, don’t let a single thing I’ve said get in the way of that. I hope you win. And I hope you make things better for people along the way.
Is there a way we can fix this problem before we lose some strong activists from our fold?