When I started this series I came in with the belief that this movement was filled with unsung heroes. I was right about that. The depth and diversity of the movement though, is just mindboggling. I can’t express how much of a privilege it is to be a part of this community. The following four people are wonderful examples of why I am proud to call myself an atheist.
1. Desiree Schell
Desiree is the host of Skeptically Speaking, one of the better skeptical podcasts out there. On her show she advocates applying skepticism to social issues such as racism, sexism and politics as well at science and paranormal truth claims. This is notable as a lot of skeptics shy away from these areas for fear of alienating the audience. It’s important for us to apply skepticism to more than just religion, because the more things we neglect to apply skepticism to, the more blind spots we’ll have.
Outside of her podcast, her work as a secular activist is crucial. Desiree teaches secular activists ways to be more effective, drawing on the experience of other social movements. Part of the problem with having a movement filled with intelligent and independent thinkers is that we end up reinventing the wheel unnecessarily. Sometimes that can be a good thing, and we can learn a new trick or two, but often we are just making more work for ourselves.
The reason Desiree works to help secular groups is one that I wholeheartedly approve of: American theocracy is terrifying and needs to be put down before it can infect other countries.
If you’re able to make it to Washington, D.C. May 17-19 check her out at the Women in Secularism conference.
2. Greydon Square
Atheist rap has been around for a while. Sadly, most of the time the end result is extremely wack, trying to make it more of a shtick than an artistic expression. Not so with Greydon. From dismantling creationism to obliterating claims of religious moral superiority, Greydon puts atheistic intellectualism to beats with the passion and skill that I hope to be able to someday convey in my writing.
“…why is it when we want to move forward we face backwards,
our community’s sick, religion the main factor,
you have such a problem with gays and transsexuals,
what if I told you that we are trans-intellectuals,
you’d probably flip, deny that you’re a member,
call for those who think like me, to be dismembered,
….something you picked up from a former era,
spreading religious love in the form of terror…”
Greydon studied physics before moving to computer science and rap, and this is evident throughout his music. From naming his albums after the pontifications of astronomers and mathematicians, to the the use of science to make excellent rhymes and destroy apologetics. Even if it wasn’t atheist themed I’d still be a fan because the music is damn good.
Right now he is working with musicians such as Shelley Segal, Symphony of Science’s John Boswell, and Tombstone da Deadman to build a community of creative people who can use their skill to educate as well as entertain. Greydon makes sure you can listen to the bulk of his stuff online for free, so after you do that you should buy his album that came out last week, Type II: The Mandelbrot Set.
3. Brendan Powell Smith
One thing atheists and religious people alike can agree on is that more people should be familiar with the Bible. Christian leaders would have people read it based on the belief that doing so would make people convert to their faith or that it would lead to more moral behavior from their flocks. Atheists however have noticed that when believers read the Bible and don’t have someone doing mental gymnastics for them to explain away all the foolishness and evil espoused, they tend to shed their faith and move on to something more rational.
That said, the Bible is a damn boring book. It’s plodding, repetitive, full of plot holes and hardly relevant to a modern person. This is why Brendan is so awesome. He used Legos to tell the stories in the Bible and make the book readable and enjoyable. Supervillain deities lend themselves to the format very easily. The Brick Bible has a number of advantages to non-Danish-toy-filled versions of the Bible. For instance, if you don’t like the story you can still admire the level of detail used to illustrate it. Unlike other illustrated Bibles, The Brick Bible shows the parts that pastors try to gloss over in their sermons, such as Jephtha murdering his daughter for his buddy Yahweh.
Being religiously literate helps you understand where believers are coming from and often times where the faithful are clueless about their own religion. Back when I worked in a bookstore, one of the things that always made me chuckle was the fact that The Brick Testament was shelved in the “Christian Inspiration” section. There is something precious about a Christian parent buying the book for their kids only to angrily return it because the content is not appropriate for young children. Which reminds me, there is a recently released kids version.
On one of the previous posts in this series someone asked if there were any good satirical preachers. I immediately thought of Brother Sam Singleton. The character of Brother Sam is the creation of Roger Scott Jackson. The character is larger than life and expresses atheist sentiment with the fiery cadence of a Pentecostal revivalist. His creator on the other hand is quite soft-spoken and sweet.
As someone who deals primarily in humor, I have to express a great deal of admiration for Brother Sam. The meticulous effort placed into the construction of the jokes, the timing, the costume, and the placement of the emotional hooks in the story are all of the highest caliber. I can write jokes very easily, but performing them requires much more skill than I think most people appreciate.
The only person that I can truly compare Brother Sam to without diminishing him in the process is fellow nom de plume-tastic humorist, Mark Twain. The powerful criticisms and witticisms in Patriarchs and Penises stand toe-to-toe with the most blasphemous passages in Twain’s Letters from the Earth.
That’s all for this week. Got anyone you think belongs in this series? Send me an email at geekysteven at gmail with information about the person, what they do and how to contact them.
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.