Day of Email: Change the Little Things

Getting packed and ready to fly to St. Louis, so I’m just going to answer some emails today.

Via facebook:

Do you ever ask yourself… How can I make a difference in a world that is so resistant to change? A world that is so blissfully aware of their elected ignorance to and intolerance of so many things. How can my actions be more effective than the thoughts of others who have tried and failed? Every second I sit pondering this is another second wasted.

Interested to know what motivated you and how your activism started.

I once asked this same question of Dr. David Burger (who is the king of efficient activism). His response was simple: don’t try and change the world overnight – just change the little things.

Your actions don’t need to be more effective than anyone else’s – they just need to be yours. You clearly worry and you clearly want to help. That’s the start.

First, come out of the closet if you haven’t already. Just being unabashedly who you are changes people’s minds. It’s easy to think wickedly of atheists when you don’t know one, but when people associate a face they love with atheism, they must either admit that the person they’ve loved up until that precise moment is wicked or they must change their mind. Contrary to popular opinion, almost all of them will change their mind.

Look how well it’s worked for the LGBT community.

Change the people around you. Just change the little things.

The other advice I have is to freaking have fun! For a lot of sects of Christianity to work, we need to be empty people wallowing in self-hate on account of our atheism. So have a blast while you’re orchestrating the demise of religion! It’ll aggravate them because 1) it’s atheists having a better time and 2) you’re not taking their oh-so-serious claims/faith seriously. It’ll also keep you from burning out.

Got evangelists coming to your campus? Build a pirate fort.

Not everybody will respond to a bland old protest or will respond immediately to logic, but everybody likes a curiosity and everybody likes to have fun! We knew where these evangelists would park to unload their gear and we went to that spot and, with our piratey chalk, drew a big Jolly Roger and wrote “Ye Be Warned”.

Or throw a carnival around the evangelist to raise money for charity.

You’re saving the world for crying out loud! This isn’t a chore! It’s a frakkin’ party! :)

As far as what motivated me goes…I was a live-and-let live atheist until Christmas of 2004, at which point I was two years removed from my conversion from Christianity to atheism following my first read-through of the bible. That year my mother got me copies of Sam Harris’ The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation as gifts. Not sure which book it was in at this point, but one of them contained a sentence that changed my entire life in an instant. I’m paraphrasing, but it was something along the lines of…

We live in an age where somebody can have the intellect and the resources to construct a nuclear bomb and still think they’ll receive paradise for detonating it.

At that point I realized that treating religion as though it were the personal property of believers, as a matter irrelevant beyond an individual to myself and to the rest of the world, was a fool’s errand, and that failing to live in opposition to religion was immoral. And so my behavior changed.

Architect of the pirate fort was Jeffrey Markus. Jedfest planned largely by Carly Ann, who also took the video.

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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