Last night, another atheist leader stepped down from her position.
She was a name I recognized, perhaps not as prominent as others who have taken breaks, who have found themselves preferring an indefinite hiatus to a former passion. Right here and now, her name and the Why don’t matter. She’s one of many who have decided that perhaps they’d just feel a little happier, a little less stressed if their Twitter and their email weren’t filled with anger, hate, and insults. Maybe she decided it would be nicer if her Facebook wasn’t a battleground.
There’s a good number of passionate people who’ve made that decision. Sometimes you have to pick between those causes that light you on fire and wake you up with ideas at midnight and dealing with pushback for that one time you said just…less harassment, please.
Then there’s this vague, nebulous number of people who’ve lurked and read and followed the controversies, and then decided their time could be better spent on some other cause, that conferences just were too much risk or trouble or worry. There’s those who just…stopped. Stopped lurking, stopped reading, stopped considering a role in atheist activism.
If you’ve left, quietly, anonymously, or just never felt you’d be welcome in the first place, I’m sorry. I’m sorry it was easier for me to figure out that I was an atheist than a feminist, sorry that ‘ableism’ and ‘transphobia’ didn’t enter my vocabulary until this year. I wish I’d spent a little less time cheering on Team Atheism in the Oppression Olympics, and a little more time educating myself.
I’m sorry we didn’t make this movement a place for you. I’m sorry that I count myself part of the ‘we’ in this movement, and you don’t, or don’t want to, or have been made feel that somehow you can’t be in that pronoun. I’m sorry I missed out on checking my websites for screen-reader compatibility, on transcribing those videos I was posting. I regret how long it took me to realize the only authors I recommended were cis white men. I’m trying to do better now. I’m learning–floundering around a little bit–but I’d like to stop missing out on your voices. I don’t even know what they sound like yet, but they probably do not sound like mine. And that can only be a good thing.
And separately–perhaps more importantly–thank you.
Thank you for knowing that your ability to be okay day-to-day is more important. Thank you for deciding that being in an environment where you could feel safer, happier, and more mentally healthy was the right decision for you. Thanks for taking care of yourself.
Because, you know, someday we’d like you to feel okay enough to give us a try. Give us some time, but we’d like to see you dip your toes in, maybe, or tell us what we can do to improve. One day, you might feel like lurking again, might dust the dis-use off that commenter’s identity, register for your first conference. Until then, we’ll try to listen to the things we can learn from your absence.