Don't forget to actually do shit too

At the training for Lobby Day, then SCA lobbyist Amanda Knief (now with American Atheists) said, “Atheists spend a lot of time pontificating instead of doing.”  Immediately I tweeted the quote with an emphatic agreement.

A tweeter by the handle of SpaceGhoti then asked what we aren’t doing.  I promised him a response, since twitter is a bit restrictive.

Well, “we” as a community are pretty much doing everything we need to be doing.  The problem is exactly what Amanda said: lots of atheists ignore the community to sit around and talk about all the complex ways we can know god doesn’t exist.  That’s fine, but not to the exclusion of actually working toward community building or activism of some kind.  We need ideas, but without tangible work ideas couldn’t move a pebble on their own.

But we also often have our priorities out of line.  For example, I get way more emails asking me how to drive hits to someone’s blog than I get emails asking me how to be a good activist.  So many atheists, it seems, are in this gig more for personal attention than to change the world, and that bugs me.  If you’re in a group who prioritizes getting your pictures on your web site before you’ve gone out and volunteered, or protested, or done something, I think you’re going about it wrong.

Most people are just starting to learn about me now, but I’ve spent the last decade on the ground being an activist.  That’s what has gotten people’s attention.  If you want hits to your blog without doing any of that then you’re essentially dumping all your money into advertising without a product to sell.

Also, if you’re blogging to get hits, you’re blogging for the wrong reason.  Those who try to get public for merely the pursuit of fame/popularity almost always burn out.  Write for you.  Write in your voice because you feel compelled to write.  You know the phrase, “Sing like nobody’s listening?”  Well, write like nobody is reading.  If you’re writing because you enjoy it and because it helps sort things out in your head, you’ll be happy to have written something rather than dejected because nobody read it, and you’ll write again.

So discuss ideas.  Keep your wits sharp.  But don’t forget to actually do shit too.

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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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