Over the last couple months, I have spent a lot of time working on Atheist Analysis. I spend hours and hours working to help provide better content to the viewers, to help solicit more charity work within the community, and to help contribute a positive influence within the atheist community. When I first started with Atheist Analysis, I wanted to help others, to challenge the theistic belief structure, and to help atheists feel welcome and comfortable amongst the rest of society. I have not been ostracized or isolated the way others have been, but felt a desire to do more for the community of people struggling to gain acceptance within a world that is overtly pushing a theistic belief structure.
The longer I spent working here, and the more I have worked to help accomplish, I started to feel defeated. I felt that the world was crashing in, and my personal life started to suffer. The more I worked in the community, the more it bled over into my personal life. The more I talked about belief and nonbelief, the more those in my life had to hear about it. My passion not only for Atheist Analysis but also for the atheism community budded and burst. I wanted to spend every waking moment helping to create a better community where people can feel more comfortable in their skin.
The more I thought about it, the more I felt like no matter what I did, it was not helping. I felt constrained by the constant desire to help people, coupled with the need to continue to keep my personal life afloat. Over the past two weeks, I have spent more time with my family, and thinking about what not only Atheist Analysis meant to me, but what my role and involvement in the atheist community needed to be. I will admit that I desired to work full time helping people, and that my goal is to provide people with enough benefit that maybe I could one day help people full time. My desire was not to get paid to argue with Christians, or to get paid to dissuade Christians from believing in god, but to help provide positive interaction for those joining the community, and provide a larger involvement in working to provide humanitarian benefit to those that need it.
But my passions got in the way of real life, and I lost my job, the income I had, because I spoke out for someone at my job and because the owners, devout Christians, discovered my atheist activism. At work, I was not overtly open about my atheism, but I did not hide it either. I did not pray at lunch potlucks or bow my head for prayer at management meetings, and, if asked, I told people I was an atheist. But I mostly fought for employee rights, and to gain the employees a better working environment. Long story short is that after I lost my job, I became depressed. Depressed that I was not helping enough people, that I was not making a positive difference in people’s lives. I started to withdraw and did not know where to turn. My passion did not die but it wilted, and my desire to help people faded.
So some of you are probably asking, after a whole page of dialog, why would I bring this up? I cannot be that unique a case, and really, my life and what I have done is not any more important than what others have accomplished. So why listen to me? Why read the rest of my blog? While I strive to make contributions to society to help make humanity better, there are millions of others who dedicate their whole lives to helping humanity and make a larger impact than I have made. But we all influence those we interact with. We all touch everyone’s lives we come in contact with on a daily basis, either with positive or negative effects.
Recently, I had a few comments that helped me realign my focus and helped me realize that not only have I impacted people, but that I should continue to do so-even if it is on a smaller scale. I have had a few people come to me privately and express gratitude for standing up for atheism when they could not. Someone in the grocery parking lot thanked me for the shirt I was wearing and for challenging the young pastor who tracked me down in the parking lot to express his distaste for my shirt. Another reached out and thanked us for not trying to make a show where you need a degree to watch and for tackling problems from a human perspective, with faults and biases that we correct when it is pointed out that Jonny and I are wrong. The list does not go on a mile long, nor do I feel so conceited as to claim my importance within the atheist and humanist communities is something that has even affected that many people.
What I can learn, and what I hope to convey to the reader, is that throughout your life you will come into contact with many people. Sometimes your day will be hard and you will lash out. Some days will be easy and you will gloss over what someone is saying to you. Other times you will have the right words for the situation and someone will feel better or be able to have the strength to continue on. My words, my thoughts, are not unique, but I speak up because I have a goal and a desire to help the greatest number of people I can. I want to change humanity, even if it is only one person. You can do this too, as your life touches so many other lives. I encourage everyone to speak up, in compassion, to help correct the wrong tides of the world, and to usher in reason and skepticism so that we can make the best of the short time we exist on this tiny, pale-blue dot we call home.