This is not okay, JT.
I’ve known JT Eberhard for close to two years. We met at the Secular Student Alliance conference in 2010, and he immediately impressed me with his passion, his joy, his bulldog determination, his fearlessness about other people’s opinions of him, his willingness to throw himself headfirst into the projects he cared about — and most of all, his ferocious defense of the truth. (His talk at that conference about how Skepticon got started should be required watching for anyone who thinks they don’t have the know-how to do organizing and activism.) He’s become one of my most trusted colleagues and allies in the atheist movement — and he’s become one of my closest friends.
I want to support my friends in doing what they most want to do with their lives. So when JT began talking about the possibility of quitting atheist blogging — of quitting professional atheism altogether — and going back to pursuing a professional singing career, I tried to swallow my disappointment. I knew it would be a huge loss to atheism to lose such a hard-working and extraordinarily skillful voice, and his absence at conferences and events would be a great personal loss to me… but I know we have to follow our dreams, and I tried to support him as whole-heartedly as I could.
But this is not okay.
When JT first started talking about getting back into music, his idea was to pursue a career as an atheist musician. He loves atheism more than almost anyone I know, and he wanted to stay in the movement and support it with this new direction. But he quickly began to get discouraged about whether he could ever earn a living as an atheist musician. I tried to be encouraging — Tim Minchin! Roy Zimmerman! Thousands at the Reason Rally! Hundreds of new atheists every day! — but he floated a few test baloons on Twitter, and he just didn’t think it would fly.
So he dropped the bombshell.
He is departing Freethought Blogs, and is forming his new Christian Rock Band, Heart of Glory, beginning tomorrow, April 2.
I am baffled, and appalled. Especially since JT has acknowledged to me that he hasn’t, in fact, converted to Christianity. He’s as much of an atheist as he ever was. In a moment of honesty — something I always used to be able to count on from JT — he acknowledged that this was entirely a business decision. “Christian rock bands clean our clocks,” he said. “And they’ll eat up the ex-atheist angle.”
So overnight, the ferocious defender of the truth has changed his tune. And not just singing five-chord power ballads. “Does it really matter what people believe?” he asked me. “As long as people are happy, isn’t that the important thing?
“I just want to sing, Greta,” he said, tears in his eyes. “Is that okay?”
I feel like a bad friend saying this. I want to support my friends in pursuing their dreams. But no, JT. That is not okay.
UPDATE: If you want to talk to JT and try to persuade him out of this disastrous move, please go comment on his blog.
SECOND UPDATE: Happy April Fool’s Day!