Author: Pittsburgh Atheist

#NormalizeAtheism

I’ve had this blog and related twitter account running for about a year now. For the prior 15 years I’ve been an atheist, but only recently have I embraced the “atheist community”.

In that time, I’ve grown a lot. I feel I’m more compassionate. I like hearing people’s stories now. My podcasts feed is now well over 85% atheist related. Hell, I know who Ken Ham, Ray Comfort, and Lee Strobel are even if I now wished I didn’t, haha. But in this year, I’ve done an incredible amount of self-reflection.

In the past, I’ve done things to help others. My passion was for being a kind person. Oft times that was to my own detriment. My passion wasn’t truly for me. I did theater and took part in the local BDSM scene. While this was fun and had its upsides, it wasn’t FULLY who I was. It’s not where my heart lied. This year, I found it.

My organizations in our movement are incredibly broad in scope. For instance, our local group is a branch of the Center for Inquiry. The mission of the Center for Inquiry is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Admirable? Of course. Do I agree with everything here? Absolutely. But I don’t feel a rage of intensity when I think about crushing “homeopathy”. I want it gone. It’s horrible. But it’s not where my focus lies. It’s not me. What I am…is an atheist.

It’s how I identify myself. It’s how I look at me. It’s how I look at everything in the world. I think it’s who I’ve been all my life even before I even knew the word. So much is culturally wrapped up in that word. I mean, it’s just the answer to a simple question, “Do you believe in god?” But to me, it’s so much more. It’s who I am. Jeff…is an atheist.

Like I said previously, I fully support and encourage ALL of the goals of our movement. But my passion lies in atheism. Normalizing atheism. I mentioned in my activism speech the story of a man contacting me and thanking me for my license plate fight because he couldn’t be an out atheist like I was. And that truly broke my heart. But it also steeled my resolve. THIS is what I want to end. THIS is what I fight for every day. THIS IS MY PASSION! I’VE FOUND IT!

I’m so excited about the #NormalizeAtheism project. THIS is what I want to help with. End the stigma. End the fear. Be out and proud about what we are…because what we are, first and foremost, is RIGHT! The LGBT movement was pushed forward by those who had the ability to be out and loud and proud. They were the wacky people in the odd clothing making it okay for the average LGBT person to come out. They threw open the closet door and said “Motherfuckers you WILL accept me for me” and that’s what I want to do. The FFRF has a “Make your own billboard” campaign and this was mine:

I have an atheist tattoo on my forearm (I wear my atheism on my sleeve *snert*). I wear my atheist t-shirts out in public. I made a baseball hat with the word atheist on it. My car is a moving billboard for the movement. 
THIS IS ME! I’m an atheist and I’m damn proud of it. I’m also a middle-class, single, straight, white dude. I’m filled to the rafters with privilege and damn it, I’m going to use it for good. I’m doing this so one day, hopefully, others will be able to be just as loud and as proud as I am. I’m not going anywhere. I’m sticking with this movement until I become star stuff once again.

I fully support the #NormalizeAtheism campaign and I hope each and every single one of you who read this do as well.

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Atheism and Death: A Case Study

Facts:

  • I am an atheist. I came to this on my own. My entire family is Roman Catholic. I was raised as such and while in high school came to the correct conclusion that all of those teachings is false. I’ve talked about this with my brother and I believe he is an atheist as well (just not as outspoken as I am). My immediate family knows this.
  • I am a comedian at heart I feel. I’ve never been offended by a joke and the more “shocking” or “blasphemous” the better.
  • I’m not close with my extended family. No ill will necessarily but they are not like me. They’re the typical small town “country folk” with usually all that entails (hunting, fishing, not reading)
  • Last fact: my grandfather (Pap) passed away. He was my last living grandparent. I can’t say one bad thing about the man. He was in the Korean War and he was in an incident there. For a class project in high school, I attempted to get him his deserved Purple Heart but the hospital he was in got destroyed along with his records.

Pre-Services:

  • I knew things were getting progressively dim with my grandfather over the past month. I was at work and my mom called me and said “Pap is gone”. And that’s the beginning and end of it, to me. We’re born, we live, and then we’re gone. No magic involved. I’m positive in that instant there was no thoughts to heaven or judgement or any other of that Christian nonsense. Thoughts of heaven are for when you need a pick me up a few days later. In the moment, You. Are. Gone.
  • I told my parents I’d come over and be with them but after my secular social night. I knew what was coming so I wanted to be with them one final time. It was a good night out. I was walking to my car with my friend whom I’m very close with. She hugged me and said, “my thoughts and prayers are with you.” She gave me a joke about my dead grandfather and it was the most perfect timing. And that’s one reason of many that I really treasure her friendship.
  • My cousin came up to visit. Talk was made about how Pap isn’t suffering anymore. Cousin said it’s a shame the doctors couldn’t fix the problems and he had to suffer at all. My mosaid, “It was just his time….I know HE doesn’t believe that stuff”, which was directed at me. My mom is coming around to the fact that my beliefs are different and they aren’t like most people’s. The fact that she was able to recognize that in an instant are me happy. The fact that it felt like an accusation or a fault on my part, did not.

Day of viewing

  • It’s a half hour into the viewing and I’m outside writing this. It was really hot. I’m amazed at how many people are connected to my grandfather and how many I have no idea who they are. Funerals are a perfect for this activity because you’re not in a learning state of mind while standing next to a knowledgeable person rapid-firing info at you. Not many tears right now. Everyone is more catching up than reminiscing. I feel like Pap right now when I’m in a large environment. Everyone is talking back and forth and having a good time and I just stand in the back and observe. Just about no religious talk at all.
  • The second half started with a prayer

Day of funeral :

  • The religious service lasted maybe 15 minutes if that. It was the most uninspiring, morose speech I’ve ever heard. It was droning and monotone to us. There was zero life in it. This is not what I want. This is not what anyone wants for what they leave behind. And like, zero hope was given. There was talk of the afterlife but nothing to use today. My Pap was not newsworthy but he was just a good man, an example to live by. But that’s not what was said. Nothing about who he was or his character was talked about. Just Jesus and his paradise.
  • The one bright spot was when the priest (who’s a known drunk) misspoke and said “and the Lord put his son John (my pap’s name) uhh Jesus on the cross.” I nearly shit myself. I grabbed my mom’s leg because I didn’t wanna burst out laughing. It was phenomenal.
  • Kinda creepy to see the guy leaning against the backhoe at Pap’s gravesite as we drive into the graveyard 
  • Leaving the gravesite ceremony now. The priest said some normal stuff. Then the military portion. It was amazing. It stood in such amazing stark contrast to what the religious side was. Yes there was talk of God and God taking Pap but there was more. More about his service and love of country. About fighting, about answering his country’s call when it was sounded. It spoke more to who Pap was than any priest could. Neither the military people or the priest really knew Pap, but one clearly captured his essence and showed a love for him, for the idea of him, than the other. I was stable the entire time, but tears were shed for the military stuff. It was a good last memory.
  • At the wake, my oldest cousin was behind me in the food line. I turned around and chatted with him and after a bit he points to the atheist “A” pin I had one and said “The Avengers”. I let him have his moment.
  • Afterwards at home I brought up my issues with the priest’s words and kind of surprisingly my mom agreed with me. She too felt it was rather non-personal and not about Pap at all. I felt good about that.

All in all, I felt the religious aspect of the proceeding provides no comfort and I’ll be sure to be crystal clear with my wishes well before I pass away.

My Activism Speech

I was asked to discuss activism with our local group, CFI-Pittsburgh. Since my speech seemed to have been a success, I figured I’d share it in its entirety here. Please ask questions and add other ideas and I’ll share them with our group.

I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth; banks are going bust; shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter; punks are running wild in the street, and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it.
We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat. And we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be!
We know things are bad — worse than bad — they’re crazy.
It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out any more. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we’re living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, “Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials, and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.”
Well, I’m not going to leave you alone.

I want you to get mad!
I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot. I don’t want you to write to your Congressman, because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first, you’ve got to get mad.
You’ve gotta say, “I’m a human being, goddammit! My life has value!” [pause]
So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell,
“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!!”
I want you to get up right now. Get up. Go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell: “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Things have got to change, but first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis but first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
That speech comes from a 1976 film called “Network” directed by Sidney Lumet and performed by Peter Finch. It was a satire on the media, and damn does that speech hold up. I can’t recommend that movie enough. And why did I start my speech this way? Well I’ve loved that monologue ever since I’ve seen it and always wanted to perform it. But again, truth be told, that’s what I feel in my heart. To me, that’s the essence of activism. This is not a time for passivity. This is not a time for quiet mumblings about about bad things are. This is a time to stand up and yell, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
First, I’ll start with my story of atheist activism in regards to my brief bout with the state DMV. I’ll just use excerpts from my blog post to tell the story since I wrote that on the day I won and it was rather fresh in my head then. 
I applied for a vanity plate in the state of Pennsylvania. The new activism and firebrand atheism has really taken me over. I was excited that a national convention was coming to my city. I was excited that I was going to volunteer. And a little, I was excited to meet Andrew Seidel. He’s a lawyer with the FFRF and through many interactions on Twitter, I grew fond of him and his work. He seemed like the nicest person and just as smart as could be. My goal was to thank him in person for the hard and amazing work he’s being doing. Anyways, I applied for the plate a few days before the convention. I checked the online database and all three of my selections were available. My number one choice “ATHEIST” (I have a soft spot in my heart for Penn Jillette AND David Silverman, who both have this one) was listed as already taken and unavailable. Therefore I applied for ATHE1ST, NO GOD, and N0 G0D, which were listed as available.
Smash-cut to Wednesday this week. I get a letter saying that all three of my choices have been denied! They gave no reason for this. Now pre-convention, I probably would have just sadly said “ok…I’ll pick something else.” But now I was emblazoned with a sense of justice and, like a person living in Gotham City being attacked by a guy with question marks all over his suit, I knew just where to turn. Mr. Seidel responded to a tweet I sent him regarding this and he told me to fill out a form on the FFRF website. I did so.
“And the evening and the morning was the first day”

I received an email from Mr. Seidel that he was going to take up the case. He asked me for information, which I provided. Then he wrote a letter and sent it off to Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary, Leslie Richards. I nearly had tears in my eyes reading it. Someone was standing up for me. My rights (however big or small they are) were being trampled just because I didn’t believe a particular version of a particular god. (Minchin…fuck yeah) and while I, as the most ordinary of dudes, couldn’t do much, someone with a lot more oomph was going to bat for me. The letter itself was overwhelming. There was passion behind it…passion I felt when I fight the small, everyday injustices we face. There was anger, not directed towards anyone in particular, but that fire in your belly, “I’m right and here’s why” volleyball-spike of anger. I’m keeping a copy of that letter in my fireproof box so I have it forever. It truly meant the world to me.
Along with that came the media attention. As I mentioned the FFRF posted an article about this. David Silverman; who is my activist hero, showed support for me on Twitter. Hemant Mehta, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the Reason Rally, posted about it on his well-read blog. Again, this is little old me, who for once in his life, stood for something he believed in. I’m now not the middle school nerd who was bullied for having the audacity of reading books not assigned by the school. I’m now not the high school guy who was into drama & acting and not sports anymore. For once, I stood up for myself and what I believed in and fought. And damn it, there were others who supported me. I went to bed with a smile on my face. I may not win. I may not get my license plate. But I was part of something bigger and that made me the proudest person in the world.
“And the evening and the morning was the second day”
So I woke up today to more support on my social media platforms. Both Facebook and Twitter were filled with comments and retweets all about my story. And while my parents don’t even know about this (I might tell them at some point), my atheist family had my back and wished me luck. Around noon, I got an email from a local journalist. We met at the FFRF convention and she even included a quote from me in her piece on the event. She wanted to do a story on me. I agreed and we talked on the phone for about 15 minutes. She even asked me if I’d agree to meeting with a photographer. I got home from work early and met with the photographer. He was a nice fellow and while I’m unsure of his actual religious convictions, he supported freedom and wished me all the best in my fight.

A few hours later (and a few minutes before my writing of this post), the journalist contacted me and asked how my visit with the photographer went. She also notified me that she contacted PennDOT and asked about the situation. They told her that it was an “employee error” and that they’ve tried calling me and are sending me a letter to tell me they will issue ATHE1ST to me. And honestly, as I was writing this up I got another phone call from “NO CALLER ID” (Oh, which every atheist would answer right after the media proclaims him an out of the closet atheist *raspberries*). This time I answered and a Scott from PennDOT wished to inform me that they noticed I requested a vanity plate, and that after an “internal review” they deemed it was denied in error and that my plate would be issued. I thanked him, wished him a good day and hung up. 
And that was the end of it.
And through that I’ve noticed social media light up. It was covered and shared by “The Friendly Atheist” a rather popular blog and the comments there were astounding. The majority were positive well wishes and the like but I was stunned by how many people said that my car and the plate itself were in danger now. In danger? For just proclaiming you’re an atheist? Yes, that absolutely exists. Not long after I won my fight a friend sent me a story about someone with an atheist license plate in florida who had their plate bent in half. I tell you all this to bring up my first tip about activism. I’m a white, heterosexual, single male. I might as well just get the word privilege tattooed on my forehead. And while that can get me in a lot of trouble if I’m not cognisant of it, obviously it carries power. To me and several other activists I’ve heard from, the single-greatest act of atheist activism you can perform, is being an out and proud atheist. I use that privilege that I was born into as a loudspeaker for those who can’t. I am in your face with my atheism, precisely for those people who HAVE to remain hidden. 
And trust that they exist as well. As I mentioned my case was publicized and I got messages from people thanking me for taking up this fight. I’m reminded of one man, from our state, who could not be out about his atheism because of fears of losing his job, who told me he had tears in his eyes reading about my fight and telling his wife about how awesome that this was happening in our state. I felt honored, I felt sadness that he had to live in this way, and again, it made me mad as hell. That feeling is just one more heap of coal into this furnace ready to move onward and fight again.
And I completely disagree with those that say that my “in your facedness” harms the cause. If anyone is interested in that topic, I can address it in the discussion section after my talk, or you can search the term “Overton Window”.
As a side note to this, at the FFRF convention last year I met Justin Scott. If you don’t know his name, you might have seen his viral videos on YouTube. He lives in Iowa, the first state to hold a primary/caucus for the presidential race. Each and every candidate visits this state early and often as it makes or breaks a serious presidential run. Well, he recorded himself talking to every candidate. He first introduced himself as an atheist, and proceeded to ask about a secular value (ie. LGBT rights, Women’s rights, separation of church and state). He posted this to YouTube and they gained so much traction and notoriety in the atheist community and was even featured on CNN and Fox News. Anyways, he was awarded the “Nothing Fails Like Prayer” award in 2016 at the Pittsburgh convention and I got a chance to talk to him for about an hour. We shared ideas, became Facebook friends and I’ve been a fan ever since. Anyways, we got to talking a few weeks ago and he offered a challenge to me. He said it was now my turn to take on the mantle. It was my job to find local/state/national politicians who came to Pittsburgh and address the same questions, record them and post them on YouTube. He offered me all the help that he didn’t have and I’ve been having some enlightening conversations to say the least. That’s going to be one thing I will be tackling this year and if anyone would like to help out, let me know after the talk or get in touch with me online. 
Another instance of how being out is helpful. I have a friend who is known in the local Libertarian Party community. He’s my age and works with me and he’s really rare in that he’s someone I can talk to at work about serious issues and not just the local sports team’s doings. Anyways, he’s in the process of setting up an event discussing the First Amendment and primarily what that means to people of multiple faiths. He’s going to have a catholic and a muslim and he’s asked me to represent the atheist point of view. I agreed and it should be an interesting event. It’ll be free to the public so I’ll post the information when it’s closer to the event and hopefully get some community support. But that wouldn’t have happened if this one guy at work didn’t what my “beliefs” are. If I remained closeted I wouldn’t have this opportunity and potentially there would be no atheist viewpoint at the event. I can’t stress enough how important it is to be out if you are able to. It is the single greatest activist thing you can do.So when people say, “What can I do?”, I always answer with, do the easiest but most effective thing you can, be an out and proud atheist. But if you want to take that a step further here are some ideas the activist community at large has come up with.
First, this is a political movement. There’s no doubt that we can make small changes here in the community, but that’s alone will not solve the problem writ large. As a result of that, who are your legislators? Do you know all the men and women who are in a position of power locally, statewide and nationally? I have a link to find your local/state legislators and if you wish to have it, I’ll be passing around a piece of paper to get your email address. I plan to have all of the links I discuss in one big email and I’ll send it to anyone who is interested. As a member of this community, please trust that this works. Even if your legislator does not align with you politically, there’s no reason to not call or email them about issues. If you are more tech savvy, you can even set up google news alerts that will email you when news articles come out with select key words. For instance, I have one with “Bill Peduto” and “god”, so if any news comes out with those tags, I’ll get an email. I read the article and shoot off an email or a phone call if it requires it. I can’t stress this enough, folks. This. Is. Effective! I’ve heard a story from a Texan ( I could be wrong and if so, I apologize) about their legislator. They contacted them about because of an issue regarding abstinence only education. And now the legislator themself wanted to support this, however over one hundred contacted them in support of abstinence only, whereas only 10 called in opposition. As weird as it sounds in these times, there are legislators who go against their personal views in support of their constituents. In my experience, calling is more effective than emails, but I don’t mean that to completely devalue emails. They are read and at times they are responded to. My one suggestion is to create a separate email address to send these types of emails because you’ll certainly get added to mailing lists and perhaps you don’t want that clogging up your inbox. But here’s a thing to keep in mind. If you make a phone call, either the legislator or someone from his staff is required to listen to you and respond in some way. That requirement doesn’t exist for email. It happens often, but it’s usually a simple form letter that gets returned rather quickly, and truth be told, doesn’t terribly make you feel like your voice was heard. I was just informed of this yesterday, but I thought it’s worth incorporating into my speech: There’s an app called “Countable”. I haven’t done too much extensive study into it yet, but it seems you can select your legislators and it will keep you informed of legislation that’s upcoming and an easy way to contact. It’s certainly something I’ll be looking into and reporting on its efficacy.
Second, if you have the time or the ability, get out of the house! Go for a walk or a drive and observe your community. Take a trip to the post office, or the courthouse. If you have a child in public school, see if you can take a tour of the school. Think of the places where we SHOULDN’T have references to god, and go there and see if they are. These laws aren’t instantly enforced. Just like speeding, only when you get caught is when you get a ticket. People who break this law, need to get caught and taught the proper way our government is run.
Third, yes, I’m the social media manager for CFI Pittsburgh. I wasn’t handed this position and went and learned all about it. For many years, I’ve used it and recognized its value. When I was in college was the time Facebook was just starting. It was meant as a way to meet people at your school and help with classwork and the like. Now it’s exploded and it’s stock being valued at over 120 dollars a share kind of shows this. Last year it was worth more than Wal-Mart. There is an amazing utility at our fingertips and we desperately need to get on board and maximize that utility. I started an anonymous atheist twitter account when I first got involved with the community a little less than a year ago. For personal reasons, I got tired of using my personal account and needed a fresh start. In that time I have over 1700 followers from all over the world. I’ve made friends I’ve never met before there. I’ve made friends who I’ve eventually met at the Reason Rally and the FFRF convention. When I got my new license plate, I tweeted a picture and it reached over 8 thousand people. Those are rather large numbers for one lone person making one lone tweet. Imagine the reach we could achieve if everyone in here shared news of one of our big events with everyone they knew. The word viral is the perfect representation of what goes on on social media. Combine that with the trend of crowdsourcing and microdonations, we could be on the verge of explosive growth of our community. But again, it takes effort. It takes a well-intentioned and cohesive core group to start this. This one is close to my heart because I’ve seen it work so effectively many times before. I am sincerely asking for your help with this one. Learn social media, connect with your family and friends across the world, and help spread our important message. You literally have no idea who you will meet or have conversations with and that’s the beauty of it all. And in these political times, we need every voice counteracting the “alternative facts”. You can always walk away if it gets to be too much, but resistance is critical and as unfortunate as you think this is, Twitter and Facebook is where the conversation is happening. We need as many people on the side of rationality as we can possibly get.
Let’s talk about the Women’s March for a moment now. This was a global protest, global. This event did not happen from a top down organization. It did not happen because it was plastered all over the news. It was a grassroots, social media effort. I can’t imagine the number of hours and dollars spent involved in achieving what was actually one of the most profound, empowering experiences of my life. Funny anecdote time, I was on the fence of whether or not to go to the one in Pittsburgh. I wanted to, but I was a little behind schedule on writing this speech. My friend texted me asking if I was going. I told him, “No, I’m probably going to stay home and write my speech”. Then I thought about the profound irony in not engaging in activism, to write about activism. That made me get up, put on all my proud atheist gear, write up a lackluster sign (Quick tip: Always have yardsticks, duct tape, poster board and a sharpie on hand at home. You never know when the protest spirit will grab you). And now, this is the thing to think about. Now, I don’t know if this is inappropriate so I’m still wrapping my head around the morality of it, but I’m on the pro side right now. Think about how your pet cause, whatever that may be, and can be tacked on to another cause. It was the Women’s march, a day of unity and peace and darn it, I wore my atheist t-shirt and hat, and my sign said “This is an atheist ally”. Was my message directly connected to the march’s intent? Not terribly. But I did meet one husband and wife who gave me a thumbs up and said that they didn’t know any other atheists. I happily gave them a CFI business card. And that’s the key, you don’t know who you’re going to meet out in the world that might be on your side, so you have to be the voice when others aren’t speaking. Precisely what this amazing demonstration proved. Now, I also marched because I believed in the cause. I’m not gonna team up for a Klan rally and go there, but we’re having events all the time in this city and us secularists NEED to be represented, because as my favorite picture taken of me that day can tell you, our opponents aren’t stopping.
Now say, for example, you don’t feel like getting off the couch and doing something in the world. If monetary donations is your preferred method of activism, there’s a plethora of organizations that will gladly take your money. 
We all know about CFI as we’re members of this group and well, in my opinion, if you can you should be donating to this organization. They’ve helped us (to what extent can be another discussion for another time) and I feel we should give back. Our member Stephen Hirtle has already given a great talk about the FFRF and thus I won’t go into too much detail except to say, my fight that I spoke about earlier would not have existed without them and their Pittsburgh convention. They have a life member in me, even though I can’t afford the official “life member” designation, I’ll gladly give to them yearly (and at other times through the year), in fact they are currently my Amazon Smile charity. If you use Amazon.com at all, Amazon Smile is set up to take a portion of the purchase price goes to the charity of your choice automatically. So far this year I’ve donated 3 bucks to FFRF. It’s not a lot but it’s essentially a free donation to an organization I care about. I’ll include info on how to set this up in that email. The last organization I’ll discuss is the Secular Coalition of America. If you want to talk about activism, this is it. They are “a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to amplifying the diverse and growing voice of the nontheistic community.” And as always, the mission statement is a bunch of gobbledygook so here’s my breakdown. What the FFRF does on the legal side of things, the SCA is the more politically minded side. They are the ones that organize the lobby days, and the Secular Values Voter and the Congressional report cards and voter guides. They are activists of the highest order and it’s relatively simple to join their cause. You can sign up for their email action alerts and get a constant feed of activist things to do and threats to our viewpoint. And they have all the tools on their website to contact local elected officials and to get news about all the things that are going against secular values in government today. Secular.org is their website and please, if this interests you, go and sign up for their alerts.
Other good organizations to heap praise and more importantly money onto, include American Atheists, American Humanist Association, and of course, CFI-Pittsburgh. Even more political groups can use your money as everyone seems to be fighting nowadays: Planned Parenthood, The Trevor Project, the Pittsburgh GLCC. 
Now, speaking of Pittsburgh, perhaps your interest of crushing organized religion and fostering a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values are not as global as mine and you want to focus on our little slice of the earth here. Well, here’s some ideas we’ve all been kicking around now, so let’s at least put a couple into action this year.
First, the Pride Parade. Just like me marching in the Women’s March in Pittsburgh, this is a prime opportunity to get our voices heard. Any chance where we can put our message in front of the public at large we MUST take. I was there last year and first, let me say, what an emotional experience it was. Starting the march was fun, but when we turned off Grant Street to 5th Avenue and saw this amazing wall of love and support, it figuratively knocked me off my feet. Here were people cheering and singing and dancing and applauding. And as we passed, they did the same with us and for us. We were atheists (the most distrusted group in America at the time) and yet we were allies. They knew we weren’t indoctrinated in bigotry and hate. We were welcomed into their world and that’s something that stays with you for a very long time. I tell this story because I want all of us there and more this coming year. If you can do it, mark down Sunday, June 11th in your calendars right now. All the organizational stuff will be coming down the pike and if you are interested in helping, let either me or Liz Vaughn know, but first and foremost, let’s get out in huge numbers to show that we are allies for the LGBTQ cause.
Now this is something I’d like to present to the community at large. I first heard about this organization on an atheist podcast and just fell in love with the idea. They have several chapters all across the country and are growing. This organization is called Atheist Helping the Homeless. It’s beautiful in its simplicity. They take donations and once a month, set up a table a public space and hand out necessities to homeless people. That’s all. They set up an Amazon account and instead of accepting money, citizens buy an item on the list and it’s send to a person who is in charge of collecting everything. And the group can put whatever on the list. In colder climates there’s tossle caps and gloves. In warmer climates, they have suntan lotion and handheld fans. This helps us get out and be a part of our local community. Also, these other groups have had a good amount of press and help from a diverse collection of the public. 

So as you can see activism comes in all shapes and sizes, from something as big as a worldwide march for equality, to as little as eating pie and taking a few pictures. So, let’s engage in some activism today! I shall leave you in the good hands of fellow CFI member Ann Norman with the words of Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is that good men do nothing.” So let’s do something this year everyone. Let’s get mad as hell and say “We’re not gonna take this anymore”. Thank you.

Year in review 2016

Ok so. Start with last year. Last year I was dating (A little over a year) one of my good friends (Who I knew for around 10). It ended horribly and being the weirdo/hopeless romantic I am, it hit me real hard. Super depressed and in a miserable funk. 2015 was not my year. I’d go to work and not go out, wouldn’t talk to anyone, was just no fun to be around. And I’m typically not that person.

I’ve been an atheist since I was about 18. I was a senior in high school when 9/11 hit and that’s what finished my journey. I went to the first Reason Rally in 2012 because it sounded fun. There was going to be one in 2016 and I was going to go to that too. Living in Pittsburgh, it’s no big deal.

And for some reason I saw a news article about the head of the organization was writing a book called “Fighting God” and I bought it on Dec. 21, 2015. It was finished by Dec. 23, 2015. And on New Years Day, I became a paid member of the American Atheists.

That book lit a fire under my ass the likes of which I’d never known. Growing up I was always intelligent (And modest too, mraow) so work never was something I did, school work came easy to me. That trait hurt me through college, but now…I wanted to work. I craved work. I want to work for this cause. It spoke to me and for all intents and purposes, it was my calling. So I did what I always do, downloaded podcasts.

I’m now subscribed to over 20, and at least 5 I am a patreon of. That’s what led me to the idea of there being an atheist community. I had no idea it existed. I searched Meetup.com (Previously used for fun bar crawls) and found there was a local group. After a year, I’m now poised to be on the board next year and I run all their social media.

Through that group I’ve met a ton of interesting people and have made, what I believe, I genuine life-long very close friend. I was able to come out of my depressed shell and I can be the loud shouty person about atheism I always was inside. One of the best moments this year with my local group was marching in our LGBT pride parade. I got to lead and hold the banner and the feeling was overwhelming. Everyone out being happy for who they were, whatever that might be, just being themselves. I got to walk around with knee high fucking shitkicker boots, my kilt, and my atheist t-shirt and felt like I could take on the world.

Smash cut to Reason Rally (http://wp.me/p7jqTy-15)where I met a bunch of people I was a fan of. The first one I went to learn, this time I went to connect. I wanted to be out there tweeting like mad all the pictures I could take. I was exhausted and loved every moment of it.

Then came the FFRF convention which was in my home city and where I got to meet so many great people. One of which was a person who also inspired me to get off my butt and do something.We talked for over an hour and I came away with a renewed sense of purpose and vigor.  To go out and find those injustices that surely exist and fight for what’s right. I was empowered like I never before thought possible, little did I know that a fight was coming.

My license plate debacle (http://wp.me/p7jqTy-15) provided the fruits of my hard work. It showed me that fighting for what’s right can lead to change. And that change can, in fact, inspire others. In my heart, while I love my license plate, I’d give it back to the state to help one more person be as an out of the closet atheist as I am. It felt so unbelievable to hear people tell me how much what I was doing meant to them. I never want that feeling to go away. I want to keep fighting. Fuck that, I will keep fighting.

So to summarize, 2016 was one of the best years of my entire adult life

Hanlon’s Razor or How I Learned to Stop Being Meek and Love the Fight

Hanlon’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”

This has been an interesting/educational week. I’ll make this story short as it’s been written about on the website of FFRF and on Patheos.

I applied for a vanity plate in the state of Pennsylvania. The new activism and firebrand atheism has really taken me over. I was excited that a national convention was coming to my city. I was excited that I was going to volunteer. And a little, I was excited to meet Andrew Seidel. He’s a lawyer with the FFRF and through many interactions on Twitter, I grew fond of him. He seemed like the nicest person and just as smart as could be. My goal was to thank him in person for the hard and amazing work he’s being doing. So I applied for the plate a few days before the convention. I checked the online database and all three of my selections were available. My number one choice “ATHEIST” (I have a soft spot in my heart for Penn Jillette AND David Silverman, who both have this one) was listed as already taken and unavailable. Therefore I applied for ATHE1ST, NO GOD, and N0 G0D.

Smash-cut to Wednesday this week. I get a letter saying that all three of my choices have been denied! They gave no reason for this. Now pre-convention, I probably would have just sadly said “ok…I’ll pick something else.” But now I was emblazoned with a sense of justice and, like a person living in Gotham City being attacked by a guy with question marks all over his suit, I knew just where to turn. Mr. Seidel responded to my tweet and told me to fill out a form on the FFRF website. I did so.

“And the evening and the morning was the first day”

I received an email from Mr. Seidel that he was going to take up the case. He asked me for information which I provided. Then he wrote  a letter and sent it off to Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary, Leslie Richards. I nearly had tears in my eyes reading it. Someone was standing up for me. My rights (however big or small they are) were being trampled just because I didn’t believe a particular version of a particular god. (Minchin…fuck yeah) and while I, as the most ordinary of dudes, couldn’t do much, someone with a lot more oomph was going to bat for me.  The letter itself was overwhelming. There was passion behind it…passion I felt when I fight the small, everyday injustices we face. There was anger, not directed towards anyone in particular, but that fire in your belly, “I’m right and here’s why” volleyball-spike anger. I’m keeping a copy of that letter in my fireproof box so I have it forever. It truly meant the world to me.

Along with that came the media attention. As I mentioned the FFRF posted an article about this. David Silverman; again, read this or this to see my love for the guy, showed support for me on Twitter. Hemant Mehta, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the Reason Rally, posted about it on his blog. Again, this is little old me, who for once in his life, stood for something he believed in. I’m not the middle school nerd being bullied for having the audacity to reading books not assigned by the school. I’m not the high school guy who was into drama/acting and not football anymore. For once, I stood up for myself and what I believed in and fought. And damn it, there were others who supported me. I went to bed with a smile on my face. I may not win. I may not get my license plate. But I was part of something bigger and that made me the proudest person in the world.

“And the evening and the morning was the second day”

So I woke up today to more support on my social media platforms. Both Facebook and Twitter were filled with comments and retweets all about my story. And while my parents don’t even know about this (I might tell them at some point), my atheist family had my back and wished me luck. Around noon, I got an email from a local journalist. We met at the FFRF convention and she even included a quote from me in her piece on the event. She wanted to do a story on me. I agreed and we talked on the phone for about 15 minutes. She even asked me if I’d agree to meeting with a photographer. I got home from work early and met with the photographer. He was a nice fellow and while I’m unsure of his actual religious convictions, he supported freedom and wished me all the best in my fight.

A few hours later (and a few minutes before my writing of this post), the journalist contacted me and asked how my visit with the photographer went. She also notified me that she contacted PennDOT and asked about the situation. They told her that it was an employee error and that they’ve tried calling me and are sending me a letter to tell me they will issue ATHE1ST to me.  And honestly, as I was writing this up I got another phone call from “NO CALLER ID” (Which every atheist would answer right after the media proclaims him an out of the closet atheist *raspberries*). This time I answered and Scott from PennDOT wished to inform me that they noticed I requested a vanity plate, and that after an “internal review” they deemed it was denied in error and that my plate would be issued. I thanked him, wished him a good day and hung up.

I WON!

I fought the law and I WON! I stood up for myself and against that looming behemoth I didn’t back down (I refuse to make a David and Goliath reference here. Nope. Not gonna do it.).

Firstly, thank you to my support from my local secular community CFI-Pittsburgh and Steel City Skeptics.

Secondly, to all of my atheist Twitter followers and Facebook friends, thanks for the pick me up. Your support really did lift my spirits and showed what can be accomplished when working together. We will change the world, because we are fighting for good, not god.

Thirdly, two of the most amazing, kind, supportive atheist activists I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know better since the FFRF convention: Justin Scott and Marie Schaub. You two had my back this entire time and “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” You guys rock.

Fourthly to Natasha Lindstrom. Coming from a slightly conservative newspaper, you’ve treated the atheist community with kindness, fairness and empathy. I hope you go far and that I can bring more stories to you as I’m sure the atheist’s fight in Pittsburgh and America is not over.

Fifthly, a heartfelt debt of gratitude to the Freedom From Religion Foundation. This would not have been possible without you. If not for your convention in Pittsburgh, I might not have stood up. If not for your tireless work, this atheist would have been lost in the giant cog of religious persecution. While I do not have the money to make it official, trust that I will be a lifetime supporter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. My subscription shall die only when I do.

Lastly, to the man who made it all happen: Andrew Seidel. You were a joy to work with. The real test of a person is what they do for someone who cannot do a thing for them. You have clearly proven the sort of person you are. I cannot begin to thank you enough for the kindness and hard work you put in to my case. It was nothing, not even a blip on the radar in the course of history, but it truly means the world to me. Somehow, someway, I will find a way to properly thank you for what you’ve done for me and until that time, you have my full support in all your endeavors.

 

Your newest Pennsylvania ATHE1ST
Jeff Prebeg, Jr.

 

Reason Rally 2016

Hi everyone. I’m back from the Reason Rally so I thought I’d share my time and thoughts with you. The first Reason Rally was such a great experience. It was going to be a once in a lifetime event and I just had to be there. I was a fledgling atheist and being surrounded by so many like-minded individuals was great. The speakers themselves were amazing, not to mention their impactful words. I was inspired as I mentioned in an earlier post. I just knew, when I heard about the upcoming Reason Rally, that I just had to be there.

At the end of 2015, I heard an interview with David Silverman that he had a book coming out. I pre-ordered the ebook on Amazon and read it in one day. After that I was transformed. I was angry. I was ready to lay down my banner as atheist and adopt the apropos adjective “Firebrand”. I created the Twitter account (@PittAtheist) and this blog. I joined our local CFI chapter and got involved with the local community. I stopped listening to many of my mundane podcasts and devoured many of the atheist-driven ones (I plan to do a full write up on all the podcasts I listen to). My free time was now almost-wholly devoted to this cause. I just KNEW I had to go to the Reason Rally.

After listening to The Thinking Atheist podcast with Seth Anderson I also bought a ticket to the after party because I wanted to see Monster on Sunday live. I also bought a ticket to the pre-rally comedy show after hearing that David Smalley of Dogma Debate (I’m now a 4th Listener) was going to emcee it. I work as a delivery driver and so have many hours alone in my van to listen to podcasts. I swear there are weeks I hear these guys’ voices more than my family’s.

At the first Reason Rally I was there to be inspired. This Reason Rally, I wanted to break out of my shell and interact. I wanted to meet people. I wanted to, in person, thank the people who have changed my life tell them such and thank them for the tireless work that they do. And so I, with my hat as my badge, set off for DC.

The P and the A are my icon so I made the hat for people to recognize me.

The P and the A are my icon so I made the hat for people to recognize me.

I, being the crazy on-time person that I am, showed up at the comedy show’s hotel a few hours in advance. So I took a seat at the bar looked over the food menu, then saw this.2016-06-03 17.17.35

I had to order “The Hitch” as Johnnie Walker Black Label is my favorite drink as well. As I’ve said for years, “Good enough for Hitch, good enough for me”. So with a belly full of food and drink, I made my way to the comedy show. While in line I got a tweet from Jenica of Dogma Debate saying that she saw my hat in line (Sadly, I never got to meet her in person, but hey the FFRF convention is just around the corner!) and that was the first indication that this was going to be an awesome event. I’ll just get this out of the way now, but it will keep coming up. Every person I met was so kind, generous with their time, and dammit just good people. My heart overflows with the outpouring of support this community shows and I’m proud to be just a member of it.

The comedians were great and there was just such a positive vibe in the room. No one was negative, just a fun atmosphere living in the moment. During one of the breaks, I got my first encounter with celebrity (to me anyways). I learned about the Dogma Debate podcast from a friend in the community. On her recommendation I downloaded the most recent episode, which had to deal with the SJW movement. Now I had my own thoughts and feelings on the issue and wasn’t expecting much, truth be told. But upon listening to the episode I was blown away. There was an honesty in the host that you don’t hear in the mainstream media. He asked good, tough questions (similar to the ones I had) and got good honest responses back. Now, my mind didn’t change on the subject but I had such respect for the discourse that I listened to. This was a show I looked forward to listening to. I heard about Greydon Square (I’m a hardcore metal head and I was blown away by this rap artist, who incidentally I was put in contact with and chatted over Twitter to, because of Dogma Debate) and Monster on Sunday (More on them later). But it was their three hour episode about a protest over the trans-bathroom issue that made me financially support them. These people did something. They went and were apart of the protest. And they spoke so passionately and candidly about the subject, it blew me away. These were the type of atheist advocates I wanted to become. Me and David Smalley

After the comedy show I got back to my hotel and tried my best to get to sleep. It was Xmas Eve night all over again. I had a hard time falling asleep because of the growing excitement in me.

Shower, breakfast, pre-rally selfie and the tweeting began.

Pre-Reason Rally Selfie so my followers could find me.

Pre-Reason Rally Selfie so my followers could find me.

We got the shuttle and arrived about an hour early. Being at the other end of the National Mall made for some spectacular photos and just a great setting for the rally. I got to walk around a bit before and got some shots at the Lincoln Memorial. My friend and I then checked out the exhibitors tent, reupped my membership to American Atheists, collected some various propaganda, and found a nice, shady location to drop anchor for the festivities. 2016-06-04 11.49.40

It was overcast for most of the day, but the heat and humidity was still around making for a somewhat sweaty/uncomfortable day. But that didn’t hamper anything. The first few speakers were good. We even did the Pledge of Allegiance the “right” way, which is always fun. Then this tweet came across my timeline

Oh man, oh man. Am I going to get to meet him? What the hell do you say to the person you admire so much? Shit I bought his book as an ebook from Amazon. Bloody well can’t sign an ebook. So I work up the nerve to head over to at least shake his hand and thank him for all the work he does. I wait in a rather unkempt line and it was finally my turn. Damn he’s tall (not Penn Jillette tall, but then again, who is?). This was it, my chance. And he was the nicest guy. Shook my hand, posed for a picture, seemed genuinely honored at my heaping amount of praise for his work and he even acquiesced to my odd request.

David Fucking Silverman

David
Fucking
Silverman

DAVID SILVERMAN SIGNED MY KINDLE!!!!

DAVID SILVERMAN SIGNED MY KINDLE!!!!

Walking a few inches above the ground, I made my way back to my spot to hear Penn Jillette (My atheist sherpa) give his presentation. Technical difficulties abound, it was still an awesome experience. I’m just as emotional as he is, so when he introduced James Randi to the stage, well, it certainly got dusty all of a sudden.

It got nearing lunch time and there was a slight break in the acts I really wanted to see (Can’t wait to catch everything on YouTube in a few days) so my friend and I trotted off in search of food. We cruised through the protesters, ate, and with some time before Mr. Silverman took the stage headed to the Vietnam War Memorial. I was a history major in school and this was an awe-inspiring moment for me. It truly solidified my anti-hawk war status. There it was. A giant black scar in the middle of the capital of our great country. I am certain proud to be an American, but I’m even prouder of those who gave their lives so we could be such a great free country. Without those and so countless other men and women giving everything, we certainly couldn’t be holding the rally we all were attending. In all honesty, nothing but the utmost of respect to these individuals.

Panorama shot of the Vietnam War Memorial

Panorama shot of the Vietnam War Memorial

With precious minutes to spare before the speech I really wanted to see, I head into a portajohn for necessary business. I step out and kinda/sorta recognize a guy walking our way with a camera. Looking at tiny Twitter user icons on your phone and seeing a living, breathing human walking your way, certainly lends some skepticism. But with the luck I had been having meeting people, I took a shot. “Excuse me, but are you Seth?”

Seth Andrews of the Thinking Atheist podcast

It’s Seth Andrews of the Thinking Atheist podcast!

Indeed it was. There’s no way he could have lied, because once he spoke, I was slapped in the face with his amazing, perfect-for-radio, voice. This was another podcast I found in my blooming, fire-brand infancy. And honestly, even if you aren’t a fan of podcasts or don’t even know how they work, check out this episode because it, for me, is the pinnacle of atheist activism media. In this episode he tackles home-schooling cults and let me say, it was an eye-opener.

http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/podcast/homeschool-cults-part-1-of-2

http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/podcast/homeschool-cults-part-2-of-2

When it gets posted to YouTube, I’ll post the David Silverman speech here. It was something to behold. It was uplifting, funny and most importantly rallying. I am an atheist. Period. I matter. I vote. I have a voice and come nothing or high water, I will be heard. I can’t thank you enough, Mr. Silverman. Me being moved by your speech was an understatement.

My friend and I wandered around some more took in a few sights and set anchor again for more speeches. Cara Santa Maria (Who hosts another podcast I listen “Talk Nerdy”) gave a real fun speech. And she introduced Bill Nye, who c’mon, is everyone’s favorite science guy. I was standing on the footpath behind all the people sitting. Just then this guy with a  hat stands up directly in my line of sight.2016-06-04 16.30.20

He’s walking to the footpath and stops to take in the rest of Mr. Nye’s speech. I had to applaud this dude with his choice of footwear.

Sweet sciencey Chucks, mister.

Sweet sciencey Chucks, mister.

He turns around and HOLY SHIT!!!! IT’S LAWRENCE KRAUSS!!!!!

Lawrence Krauss in the house!!!!

Lawrence Krauss in the house!!!!

I shook his hand and thanked him for all the work he’s done. I loved “The Unbelievers” and his book “A Universe from Nothing” is about as good as any science book out there. Mr. Krauss is a genius and a treasure. And speaking with him, he was the kindest, gentlest, most gracious man I met. We all should look up to him and be like him.

After a few more talks (Seriously, to all the people who were there, Kelly Carlin’s speech was kinda weird, right? If I’m alone in the statement, so be it, but I just had to throw my $0.02 out there) my friend left and I wandered about on my own. Just hanging out behind all the tents was Mr. Hemant Mehta, who we’ve all read articles by. No picture but I did get to shake his hand and thank him for his work. Same goes for Dave Rubin (Fuck, that’s an attractive dude. I was a sweaty mess and he, with his perfectly gelled hair and mirrored Ray-bans, looked amazing ). No picture, but I did thank him for his podcast. He tackles some tough issues but with an air of integrity, honesty, and just comes to conclusions using facts, that I just admire. He’s a great figure for the atheist community and I hope he has a ton of success.

The Reason Rally ended and I, wearily, made my way to the Crystal City after-party. To add one thing until I get into the meat of this part of my story…In the after-party they had gender neutral bathrooms. Both the typical men’s and women’s rooms, had a sign up saying it was gender neutral. And I never encountered those before. And you know what happened? I went in, peed, washed my hands, and left. See how easy that is? Was there men in there with me? Was there women in there with me?  I don’t know because I peed, washed my hands, then left.

I only had one interest at the after party: Monster on Sunday. It has been a while since my last concert and I wanted to let loose. Guys, this is a seriously good band. Forget the message for a moment, there’s significant talent here. The lead singer has pipes and a stage presence that’s unbeatable and Lee is a fucking monster on the bass.

Monster on Sunday

Monster on Sunday

LEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

LEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Add into this talent their atheist message and well they’ve got me as a fan for life. I first heard about the band through my podcasts (Dogma Debate and The Thinking Atheist, if I recall correctly). I downloaded their album and immediately fell in love with their song “Pain”. The rest are good too, don’t get me wrong, but that song has some goddamn emotion behind it. Give it a listen if you have a chance and definitely show them some love. There really is something special about ending the Reason Rally, rocking out to an atheist rock band with Aron Ra on your left and David Silverman on your right.

Well, I thought that was the end of my Reason Rally experience. I was tired from a long day in the sun and long night rocking hard. I was so drunk on tired it was hard to see straight. I was coming up the escalator, as the party was on the lowest floor, and I heard someone yell something. Words weren’t important at the time, and in my confusion and stupor and mental atrophy, I said, without thought, “I recognize that voice”. The perpetrator stopped in his tracks and turned around. I didn’t recognize the face, but when he spoke again, it clicked. It was Eli Bosnick from my favorite collection of atheist/comedy podcasts, “God Awful Movies”, “The Skeptocrat”, and “Scathing Atheist”. Lo and behold, these two other guys come down and it was the other two hosts! I was so unprepared and completely taken aback. I’ve had these guys cracking me up in my head for a few months now with no idea what they looked like. And now I’m standing in front of them and not really believing it until they start talking. I take the escalator behind them and just start laughing to myself. These three are obviously great friends and here they are talking like normal friends do about mundane stuff and I’m flipping out because….I KNOW THOSE VOICES!

Noah Lugeons, Heath Enwright, Eli Bosnick, and me in the most perfect Reason Rally foursome possible.

Noah Lugeons, Heath Enwright, Eli Bosnick, and me in the most perfect Reason Rally foursome possible.

 

It truly was an awesome end to an awesome weekend.

And before I close out this blog post, I want to give a special shout-out to two of my twitter followers.

@Letha_Hughes and @ThomTrue

Because of the Reason Rally I was able to meet these two in person. You’re always leery of meeting people from the internet. Anyone can hide behind a username and type in one way and act in a completely different way. But it bears repeating, this community has some of the best people on earth. I’m beyond happy to have connected with you guys. In a crowd that big, it’s hard to meet up with people, but we found a way. With no overstatement, you two have pushed me to go on and do more online so that I can attempt to meet more awesome people, but make no mistake, I’ll always remember who was there first.

Me and @ThomTrue

Me and @ThomTrue

 

Me and @Letha_Hughes

Me and @Letha_Hughes

So again, thank you to all I met. It was a profoundly amazing experience. It’ll be hard to top it in 2020, but you can be damn sure I’ll be there, ready, willing, and able to try.

My New Tattoo

Permanence. Few things in life have this quality. People change. Locations change. Hell, even strongly held beliefs change. As I’ve said previously, I was a Catholic and became an atheist. I don’t see myself going back. Ever. 

I am proud of this change I have made. Proud of what it symbolizes. Proud of the wonderful community I’ve entered. Proud of the changes I hope I’ll soon be making in my local community. 

I’ve written previously that I became an atheist in high school. It wasn’t until one event that I became more outspoken in my atheism. I attended the Reason Rally in 2012. My hope was to go to a fun event and listen to some people who I had grown to have a fondness for. I got to hear my favorite musician, Tim Minchin perform. In fact, while there he did my favorite artistic endeavor “Storm”. After standing in the rain, saying those words I had memorized, I thought nothing would top that. I love “Storm” and all that it signifies. I think it’s brilliant written and even more brilliantly performed. I was awestruck at the sense of community as we all said those words, similar to the feelings of patriotism when a large group sings the national anthem. I thought, at that time, nothing would top it. I got a video from my personal hero, Penn Jillette. I got to see, who some claim is my doppelganger, and someone I really respect, Adam Savage speak. I got to see a beloved comedian, Eddie Izzard, say some really impassioned words. I got to learn who Greta Christina was and have come to enjoy her writing. I got to see the Amazing Randi truly live up to his name. Then I got to see a man who I truly, deeply respect speak. And I was stunned at the way his words resonated with me.

The phrase that hit home with me the most was “Let no one who knows you, think that they don’t know an atheist.” That shook me to my core. Yeah, I was an atheist. Yes, my family and some of my friends knew. But I’m part of something larger now. And it was part of my responsibilty and duty to live up to those ideals. To share my point of view, in fact, the correct world view that this is no god. A simple, yet powerful statement. Everything I do, is because there is no god. I am a good person, period. No fear of punishment, no expectation of reward, good for goodness’ sake. I wanted to be a knowledgeable person that others who had doubts or mere questions could come to for said knowledge or advice. It was at that time I wanted an atheist tattoo. I wanted to proudly display that I am a man of reason, logic, and science. That my actions and thoughts were only determined by pure, testable facts. But…what to get?

I didn’t want to be antagonistic. “Piss Christ” or a picture of someone defecating on a bible, would get the point across but not the message I wanted to send. Something simple, but still recognizable. Something overt and not hidden. Not something regrettable in a few years time. I wanted a symbol of who I was and just how much being an atheist meant to me. I stewed awhile and came across the Out Campaign.

The Out Campaign was designed to create awareness about atheism and freethought. It borrowed a theme from “The Scarlet Letter” and its symbol is a red letter “A”. A symbol meant at one time to denote shame and in turn create solidarity. No longer will we be shamed into silence by being an atheist. We are out and proud and those days of hiding were no more. What better thing to “brand” oneself with? The fact that The Out Campaign was endorsed by Richard Dawkins and his foundation was just icing on the cake for me. Mr. Dawkins has done so much for my path to being an open atheist, that I felt this was easily the right decision for me.

I took awhile to decide when to get it. I got a few more tattoos in the interim, but the thought was always in the back of my mind. When I got my Doctor Who tattoo all I could think was “This could be my atheist one instead”.

After reading David Silverman’s book “Fighting God” I knew when it had to be done. I had made plans to attend the Reason Rally in 2016. With how much the event meant to me and how transformative it was, I knew that I wanted it done for the upcoming rally. So without further ado:

Tattoo