NTSC: Reminded that what we do makes a difference, even if it’s not always obvious at the time.

Many years ago, back when I still blogged on xanga, there was a particularly dedicated commenter who kept coming to my blog to debate me.  Her name was Courtney and, unlike her smug, insufferable aspiring pastor fiance, she was assertive but very enjoyable.  She was kind.  For a few years this went on until finally it kind of faded into silence.

A few years later, a commenter came to my blog under a pseudonym and always posted pretty good comments.  They were one of my favorites.  Later, I would find out, that it was Courtney.

She’s happily atheist now, and has now gotten to the point where she wants to be an activist.  Being a volunteer helping to organize this shindig is her first foray into trying to aid the atheist movement.  I’ve spoken with the lead organizer, Kevin Butler, who has become a fairly tight friend of mine, and he sings her praises unlike any church choir.  Apparently, Courtney is making a huge difference.  I’m very proud of her.

Today I picked up a program and read her bio…

Not only did she wrestle a bear once, but Courtney Caldwell was actually converted to atheism by none other than JT Eberhard (after years of attempting to debate him online). to this day, she is unsure which was more difficult – attempting to match JT’s wit, or the bear’s strength. Her very first atheist convention was last year’s NTSSC.

That meant a lot to me, even if I think she was being far too kind.

I keep all the emails I receive from people who have told me that I’ve either de-converted them or who wanted to let me know that I changed their minds.  That number is presently at 153.  I don’t know how many others never emailed or said anything.

Debating religious people, just in our ordinary lives, changes minds.  It never happens immediately, which is why I think atheist sometimes ask, with immense frustration, why we even bother to argue with religious people since it never makes a difference.  Well, it does.  It may take a lot of time, but it does.

And we should not be so quick to put all the blame on religious people.  Perhaps we could improve our debate style or fill gaps in our knowledge to make ourselves more effective.  Don’t just blame the believer for being close-minded, make sure you’re improving.

This has been a good day.

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.

  • Mark

    Maybe it was baby bear?

    • Mark

      “A” baby bear – dang! This is me trying to be witty all over…

  • Glodson

    Wow. We are legion.

    I guess it must be really cool to see people grow and change through your efforts. It might actually make up for all the hate mail.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      You talk about hate mail as though it’s something to endure rather than something to enjoy. :P

      • Glodson

        I forgot that you bathed in the tears of weeping theists.

        • Stogoe

          Did someone hold him by the ankle? Or other body part? I wonder what piece of JT is vulnerable to the wails and protestations of believers.

      • Andrew Kohler

        I certainly do enjoy hearing Richard Dawkins read his hate mail aloud :-) The Atheist Experience’s “punch your fat face in for Jesus” was pretty good, too, but in general the hostile callers on that show make me want to defenestrate myself.

        • Glodson

          My personal favorite is this reaction to solipsism.

          • Andrew Kohler

            I’m not seeing a link, Glodson, but I assume it’s the one where Matt and Jeff Dee shout “YOU’RE A SOLIPSIST!?!?!?” in perfectly unison incredulity and then hang up. It is marvelous delivery :-D

          • Glodson



            Yes. Not sure why my html got ate. I must have screwed something up. No chances this time.

  • Ashton

    So is she married to the pastor or did she end up not getting married? Or did he change his mind, too?

    • Courtney

      The pastor is married, but not to me. I have a wonderful atheist husband who has been a huge help to me this weekend. :)

      • H.H.

        I wondered about that too, so thanks for answering Courtney. It’s always heartwarming to hear about people who find happiness through reason.

  • baal

    “That number is presently at 153″

    Holy numbers batman! I’m just happy to have deconverted my now wife and that we’re raising our son atheist.

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.fitzgerald.33633 David Fitzgerald

    JT, you know I know you rock, but just had to say it again – 153 people deconverted? That is f’ing brilliant! Though I have to say, if your entire deconversion record was no one but Courtney Caldwell alone, I would still think you had done an awesome service to humanity…