You may have heard of what these people have done, even if you haven’t heard their names. That needs to change. If someone is figuratively pouring their heart and soul into our movement and getting results, that’s something worth celebrating and emulating. In that spirit (also figurative) I present more atheist leaders who are excellent and largely unknown.
If there is one thing that religion has over atheists, it’s an abundance of charitable organizations. Joe Zamecki is one of the people who has worked to shift that balance in our favor. Joe helped start Atheists Helping the Homeless in Austin, Texas in 2009. Since then, Joe has moved on to other projects and the group has branched out into the Dallas/Fort Worth area. AHH provides food and supplies for homeless people, and you can help them out. If you’re in the Austin area, you can volunteer. If you live somewhere else on the planet, you can donate here. And if you want to snail mail donations or supplies, shoot Joe an email at zameckij at gmail.
In his book Why I Reject the Faith of My Father, Josh takes you through the evidence and arguments that persuaded him that atheism was the reasonable position. No one person’s deconversion process is the same as that of another, but Josh’s process includes some familiar themes: scientific evidence contradicting mythology, nonsensical Biblical history and a secular understanding of morality. It’s also notable for what it doesn’t include, which is the “Hollywood atheist” story of being driven away from the faith by some tragic event or some undefined anger at a deity. Many atheists are quick to dismiss any attempts to reason with the faithful. But Josh serves as a fine example of how very flawed and easily refutable that position is.
From his book:
It is impossible to prove that a god – Yahweh, Thor, Zeus, etc. – does not exist, just as it is impossible to prove that fairies, and spaghetti monsters, and an invisible, intangible, and inaudible clan of unicorns, do not exist. These examples should strike the reader as obvious inventions of the human mind, yet each is hardly disprovable in its turn, at least to any degree of certainty, and especially when the defining attributes are kept vague or are frequently altered. It is, perhaps, the greatest con to ever have been perpetrated upon a thinking person, that he should be shamed into silence for calling the ludicrous into question, or shut up by social pressures from asking that detailed explanations be given, let alone tested.
Just like Patheos, Josh is all about the conversation. Both his blog and video series are about having a dialog that can help all the participants reach a mutual understanding. Stay tuned for his next book dealing with claims about afterlives.
Do you remember that time American Atheists was criticized for having crappy graphic design work on it’s billboards? Oh, do I have to be more specific? The fact is, American Atheists has those problems because they don’t have an army of Katie Hartmans working for them. Katie is the brilliant mind behind sites for events such as Reason Rally, Skepticon, and she made this amazeballs billboard that’s up in Springfield, Missouri:
She also was one of the lead organizers for Skepticon, managing volunteers to put on one of the best-loved and inspiring conferences in the country. In addition to her work as an organizer and a designer, she was a speaker at the 2011 Secular Student Alliance Conference.
She is also on the board of directors for the Secular Student Alliance and Squirrel Refuge–one of those is a source of tremendously cute pictures of fuzzy baby animals. I won’t say which.
4. Phil Ferguson
Phil is on the board of directors for the Secular Student Alliance and a former board member for Atheist Alliance International. Whenever I think about the kind of leader that this movement cannot do without, Phil comes to mind.
Our movement has a ton of conferences that are important. Phil agrees these are crucial to the movement–and he puts his money where his mouth is. His company, Polaris Financial Planning, donates 10% of its gross revenue to help put these events together. So it should go without saying that if you need a financial planner, go with Polaris to help keep stuff like Madison Freethought Festival going strong.
In addition to the work he does, Phil’s affability makes his blog a joy to read. Countless others have taken apart the immoral foundation of Christianity, but I particularly enjoy his version of it. Because it has ogres. And cake. He is able to take subjects that bring out vitriol in just about everyone and deal with them calmly and rationally. Like this time he used the attention some anti-choicers were garnering to raise money for Planned Parenthood.
Phil also founded the freethought group Champaign Urbana Freethinkers. And he gives talks, so you should contact him to speak for your group.
5. Troy Boyle
It’s difficult to ignore the effect religion has on American politics, particularly in an election year. From laws designed to control reproduction to attempts to dismantle science education, religious zealots have been exerting their influence in America for some time now. This isn’t news. However, few people are in the fray offering substantive solutions to this problem. One of those people is Troy Boyle, the founder and President of theNational Atheist Party.
As the National Atheist Party gains membership and donations it will start running candidates in local elections. Until then, it is promoting the interests of atheists with candidates in the major parties.
Fixing any problem in politics is a daunting task, so it’s easy to get discouraged when dealing with the giant bible-thumping elephant in the room. Troy deserves enormous props for taking on this task.
In addition to helping improve the status of atheists in our political system, Troy is also an accomplished comic book artist.
I have no shortage of people worth mentioning for this column, but if you can think of someone who is doing amazing work and needs some kudos, send an email telling me who they are, what they do, and how to contact them to geekysteven at gmail.
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.