Over the years I have self-identified as an atheist and as a skeptic. But lately, I look around these communities and I don’t see much that reflects who I am or how I feel about the world. I see no need to go into details about that. If you read this blog, you know that over the years many of us who have dedicated our time and money to advancing skepticism in particular, have been let down by the majority of people in leadership positions. Those leaders are not my leaders anymore. They do not stand for my ethical principles. And the good news about that, is those leaders are not needed for the majority of us to make a positive impact in this world.
I have been thinking a lot about the value of ones life in a godless community. As an atheist, I do not get to find solace in the idea that I have an afterlife to plan for. I have to make peace with the idea that this one life is all that I have and that every single solitary moment counts right now. It counts in moments, that are slowly ticking away. And while I also have to realize that while there is no God keeping track of those moments and my actions within them, that none-the-less they matter. They matter because each of us has in their power in every single moment, an opportunity to lead by positive example to make the world a better place each and everyday. A place where we can peacefully co-exist and grow without religion and without superstition as a driving force.
The skeptic and atheist communities have been riddled with negativity lately. But it is in our power to change that, starting today. If even half of the people who self-identify as skeptics or atheists made a promise to actively do better, we would, as a whole, become the leaders that the world needs. Not one person, not a tiny group of horseman, but all of us collectively as a movement could show that humanity (and the animals) will benefit from humankind discarding the shackles of superstition and pseudoscience and instead embracing the ideals that come with compassion, caring and empirical knowledge.
I issue you all a challenge.
Starting today, right now, make a promise to combat the negativity we face as atheists or skeptics and do a good deed.
There are a lot of ways you can do that. It can be as simple as tweeting some words of encouragement to the women or oppressed groups online that you know get regular harassment. You could dedicate your time to a local charity. You could rescue a shelter pet or vow to eat at least one vegan meal a week. You could help a local senior group by delivering meals or giving rides to the store or to the doctor. You could donate art supplies or money to a local school. You could help build a house. The list goes on and on. But whatever you do, be vocal about it.
The only way we are going to rise above the rampant sexism, and the harassment and the overall shitty reputation that this community has, is by actively changing and doing better. The good people need to rise up over the bad. If you are a lurker or a fence sitter, this is your call to stand up, speak up and be counted. If you never comment, now is the time. It doesn’t have to be here on this blog, but it needs to be somewhere. Because I know there are more good people than bad people out there. It’s just that the good people often don’t want to get involved, so they stay silent. But the voices of the good need to rise above the hate and negativity so we can move onward!
Periodically, I am going to write a post here on Skepchick that highlights good deeds that are being done or can be done as part of my “Do Better Challenge.” If you know of a person or group that is not a religious org, that is doing something to make the world better, then please get in touch with me through our contact form so I may feature their work.
And for this installment of the “Do Better” challenge, I challenge YOU to go out into the world either in real life or online and just say something positive to someone else. Baby steps, people. Baby steps. Just get on twitter or FB or tell your co-worker in the next cubicle, or that person at the coffee bar, or the bus driver, that you appreciate them or the work that they do. Tell someone you support them. Tell that person you know, that has been attacked online or in real life or has simply been given an unfair disadvantage in life, that you are there if they need you. That’s it. It’s literally that easy to start to change how the world is and change how the godless are perceived.
Next week I will come back with a much more specific Do Better Challenge. But I think this is a good place to start.
And to you dear commenters and to those who have been supporters of my art over the years, I want to thank you for giving me this platform to speak out and the courage and desire to make more secular inspired art. Thank you for listening and looking and thinking.
Now, it’s your turn. Lead by example. Change the world. Start today by encouraging some general kindness.
*One note, I am a firm believer that there is a place for anger and uprising in social change and I support that when it is necessary. There is also a time for rebuilding and starting something new. These tactics work together. This challenge is about the latter.
Art images © Amy Davis Roth