I often hear from atheists who look up to the leaders in this movement and perhaps put those leaders on a pedestal. There are amazing people in this movement, but they are every one of them regular humans. Certainly they weren’t good at this starting out. One of my goals with this series is to inspire the vast army of Internet atheists to step up to the plate and do their part. Whether it’s starting a blog, running a podcast or putting together an Ask An Atheist event, we need you out there doing it. Here are a few people who put themselves out there to make the world a better place for reason.
1. John Corvino
Wayne State University professor John Corvino is my role model. He is the co-author of Debating Same-Sex Marriage and and authored the column The Gay Moralist on 365gay.com I first saw John at Missouri State University doing a debate about whether or not God exists. I am a tough sell with debates because usually neither participant addresses the actual argument being made by their opponent and I often want to yell out suggestions for the person arguing in favor of my position. So when I heard about this debate, I went in with trepidation that I’d be watching another frustrating display. My fears were unfounded. John destroyed his opponent thoroughly, but managed to do so congenially as well. Recently I had the pleasure of seeing John debate in favor of same-sex marriage at the Kansas City Regional Atheist Meeting.
Considering how vilified gay people and atheists are in America, John’s approach is brilliant. He’s just so damn nice. Maybe that’s not so much an approach as it’s the way his personality is. Either way, everyone I’ve seen him debate has been genuinely pleased to meet him. In addition to well-reasoned arguments, John is an ironclad example of the truth of his positions: That there is nothing morally wrong with gay people or atheists. And once you’ve established that, you’ve already won half the battle.
Recently John has started putting out a video series dealing with the arguments against same-sex marriage. I highly recommend checking these out.
2. Victor Harris Jr.
Our movement has some amazing talent. Philosophers, writers, and musicians abound. But what about poets? Victor Harris Jr. from Mad Art Lab helps bring some sweet verse to the table. Much like debates, I can be a hard sell for poetry, but Victor nails it. His words are exactly the kind of inspiration skeptics need, from his take on untestable claims with “Falkor is my homeboy” to his harsh criticism of religion in “Flight of the Navigator,” which he performed at the Reason Rally.
And I hear he makes a mean cheesecake.
3. Bobby Henderson
In 2005 religious fundamentalists were attempting to get creationism into the science classrooms by rebranding it “Intelligent Design.” While a school board in Kansas was debating putting this garbage into public schools, a man named Bobby Henderson decided to mess with these theocrats. He wrote an open letter to the Kansas school board demanding that the school board only teach that the world and all it’s creatures were created by the benevolent noodle of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
The Flying Spaghetti Monster has become a huge hit. Bobby was approached by six different publishers to write The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Later the followers of this joke religion, the Pastafarians, put together a second testament, started actual community groups and even put the FSM on Futurama.
Humor has a tendency to be dismissed by the passionate members of a movement. As much as it can seem like just a bit of fun with no point, satire is actually one of our most powerful tools. It has the ability to sneak in under people’s radar and make them think about things in ways they would normally be resistant to. If you have a silly idea for helping the atheist movement, go for it. You never know how much of an impact it could have until you actually do it.
4. Sarah Hargreaves
Sarah is the President of the Kansas City Atheist Coalition. KCAC aims to combine the might of the multitude of atheist in the Kansas City area into a juggernaut for good. And they’ve been doing a great job. Under Sarah’s leadership they’ve gone out into the city to do charitable work and activism. We talk a lot about being good without God, and this is a perfect example. God didn’t coerce or inspire these heathens to go out and participate in the AIDS walk. Jesus didn’t wag his finger at them to make them give blood. It’s important for us atheists to go out and do good instead of just talking about how important it is.
Sarah doesn’t do all this on her own, she has an incredible team consisting of Sarah Nessel, Joshua Hyde, Kimberly Dobbs, Veronica Brown and WWJTD’s own Dr. David Burger. A good leader is someone who can acquire and direct talent toward a specific goal, and Sarah is exactly that.
Most of the WWJTD contributors were recently at the aforementioned Kansas City Regional Atheist meeting that KCAC put together. It was a great show with fantastic speakers. A lot of things went right. But where Sarah deserves real credit is in her handling of the things that went wrong. Three speakers had to cancel at the last minute. Rather than let the convention fall apart, she used the resources she had at her disposal and got speakers to fill in and put together an impromptu game of Atheist Bingo for the attendees. When I spoke to her about group organization Sarah told me, “Our movement has too many strong leaders and not enough strong groups.” And if we have more leaders follow her lead, I think we will achieve that goal.
See? Flesh and blood people are out there making a difference, and so can you. Now get out there and raise some Hell.
I write a lot of jokes. Some of them are in this book.
I also host the podcast of the Skepchick events team, Some Assembly Required, and cohost the WWJTD Podcast.
You can also follow me on Facebook or that bird thing.