This morning (afternoon over there!) I watched Kate Donovan’s presentation “Recruitment and Retention on Hard Mode” at Effective Altruism Global in Oxford. Her thesis was that diverse movements work better, and she shared many practical techniques to attract and keep people while avoiding common pitfalls that could do the opposite. It was great!
One anecdote she shared that really grabbed me was her reference to “Elevatorgate”. She doesn’t go into needless detail, and I won’t either, but this was an incident within the atheism, skepticism, and secular movements that became an ongoing albatross around their necks.
Before I talked to more women, especially feminists, I used to have a more limited subset of online behaviors I’d call “creepy”. (This is setting aside obvious cases or stalking or harassing or worse.)
I disliked the casual way a friend used the verb “creeping” to mean “looking through a photo album someone posted of their trip”, even when she was doing it. I disliked how what I felt should be a normal, accepted, even invited activity was being termed that way.
I was confused by how liking photos or comments too much, or too far in the past, was creepy. I felt that these things are made to stay online, connected to a person’s profile, so why is any viewing of it at any time, and incidentally notifying someone that they were viewed, surprising or disturbing?
The problem is that it was an idyllic view that I had. I saw Likes and comments and posts are existing only in this online space, and not having physical consequences. As a guy, I don’t really have to be concerned with whether a person liking a lot of my stuff is just excited and friendly, or potentially a problem. Ask women about their experience online (or worse: at dating sites), and you’ll see the other side of this coin.
About a year ago, some folks from CNN were interviewing and asking around atheist groups for stories and perspectives on life as nonbelievers and our experience. With the airing of “Atheists: Inside the World of Non-Believers”, which looks to be the end product of this work, and my response to the special after it aired last night, I thought I’d finally post my lengthy email response to their questions.
I had never written this part of my life down to its completion before, so it was really long for a relatively short series of questions. I kept going, though, for my own sake, so I could process through it all and have a recording of that. Now I’m thankful I’m able to share it with others. There are a lot of conversion and deconversion stories out there, some filled with much more pain, suffering, triumph, loss, and acceptance, but mine is quiet, without great strife, and this type of experience should be known, as well. If any part of this story provides someone comfort on their journey to self-discovery, it was worth taking up this space on the internet.
There’ll be some edits to make it fit better in public blog post form.
CNN aired a special all about atheism this evening, titled “Atheists: Inside the World of Non-Believers“.(1)Teaser linked for now This is surely the end product of activity last year when some reporters were asking around the atheist circles. They recorded a Georgia Tech Campus Freethinkers meeting and one of Atlanta’s Sunday Assemblies, both of which I was present for, and I sent them a long email about my journey to nonbelief. None of that is featured in the special, but it’s nice to see the project I saw in the works finally completed.
This airing seems to coincide with another feature of nonbelief for CNN. Just the other day they published a lengthy article called “The Friendly Atheists Next Door” highlighting a delightful, happy family that manages to also be nonreligious. To people in the atheism community for a while, this may seem mundane, but for the millions who believe we apostates to be evil, Harry Shaughnessy stands in stark, cheery contrast.
The special tonight moved between many different members of the larger atheism movement: Dawkins, Silverman, Dewitt, and some younger faces. There’s a lot within the community, and there are some differing opinions on the show’s quality. I’ll offer my opinions on the good and bad points.
Here in Georgia, Senate bill 129, or the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act”, has been a big topic of conversation. Religious leaders have been showing up at the capitol repeatedly to express their support of a bill they believe will allow them to discriminate based on LGBT* status. Georgia Unites demonstrated today to share the opposite opinion and fight for anti-discrimination.
The bill’s original sponsor, Josh McKoon, says it does no such thing as religious leaders champion and progressives fear, instead pointing to the controversial firing of Atlanta’s fire chief based on a book he wrote, without permission, containing homophobic material. Here’s a half-hour long video explaining McKoon’s side, which I skimmed through.
I have a lot of thoughts on “religious freedom” and its need for “restoration”. I think the priority religion has in overriding other laws is already often too high. I feel that nuance in different situations is lost when everything is subsumed by “public square” chatter. Overall, I feel this bill serves to further elevate the privileged and conveniently ignore the marginalized.