More Atheist Leaders Who Aren’t Dawkins or Harris: Jenn Ramirez

In June, I wrote a piece for AlterNet, titled 8 Awesome Atheist Leaders Who Aren’t Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris. The gist: When a media outlet decides that atheism is important, they all too often turn to Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris. Then, when Dawkins or Harris puts their foot in their mouth about race or gender — again — the reporter cries out, “Atheism needs better leadership! Why doesn’t atheism have better leaders?” Atheism does have better leaders — so I profiled eight of them, to bring just a small fragment of the range and variety of atheist leadership to more people’s attention.

At the end of that piece, I wrote, “And these eight are the tip of the iceberg… I could write a new profile of a different atheist leader every week, and still be at it ten years from now.”

So I decided: Why not do that?

I don’t know if I’ll do it for ten years. But for at least a while, once a week I’ll be profiling and interviewing a different leader in organized atheism.

This week’s profile: Jenn Ramirez.

GC: Tell me briefly what your organization does and what you do for them. (If you’re in a leadership position with more than one atheist organization, feel free to tell me about more than one.)

Jenn Ramirez with watermark 200
JR: I am an organizer for the Riverside Atheists and Free Thinkers, also known as RAFT. We are a grassroots organization dedicated to building community for non-believers in the Inland Empire of Southern California. We hold various events such as dinners, pub nights, chess nights, family picnics, charity events, as well as our very popular monthly speaker series. Additionally, we are staunch advocates for the separation of church and state, and you will often find us engaging in various outreach activities and demonstrating when necessary.

Tell me about a specific project or projects your organization is working on.

RAFT is currently working on our Charity Beyond Belief 2015: Winter Survival Packs for the Homeless campaign. From October to December, members of RAFT (or anyone) can come to any meetup and either provide a monetary donation or a specific item from a list provided. We will then come together in November and build these special packs containing blankets, sweaters, lotion, chapstick and other necessities to survive the winter. In December, we will go out as a group to one of our local parks and distribute them. As of right now, we already have one member who is committed to donating over a dozen blankets and sweaters for this cause and have already received some amazing donations. This event was very successful last year and I anticipate that RAFT will be able to contribute more this year.

Where would you like to see organized atheism go in the next 10 to 20 years?

I hope we continue to build more organizations and communities that advocate for non-believers and the separation of church and state. I also hope we can continue to work together to break down the misconceptions about non-believers. But one of the biggest things I’d like to see is more diversity in the movement. It’s important to see more women, the LGBTQIA community, and people of color stepping up in leadership roles. I think that is going to have a big impact in our movement overall.

What do you think are the main challenges facing organized atheism now?

I think like any group that gets organized, one of our biggest problems is infighting. We see it a lot in the atheist community and we have to remember that we have goals in mind. And we can’t reach these goals if we can’t work together. For smaller groups like mine, money is definitely an issue. So many organizers pay for the groups out of pocket to make the events successful. It would be nice to see that change one day.

Do you consider yourself a “new atheist”? Why or why not?

I consider myself many things and I imagine I fall along the line of a “new atheist” because I am so outspoken. I am a feminist atheist focused on building community for non-believers while addressing social justice issues.

Any questions you wish I’d asked, or anything else you’d like to add?

RAFT group at restaurant
I’d like to reach out to anyone who is thinking of joining a local atheist group and say, DO IT. Get out there, meet other like minded individuals, be prepared to be challenged, but most of all know how important community really is. So many of us have lost so much due to our non-belief and we need a safe place to be ourselves. Get active, be supportive, and know that it can be absolutely worth it. Here are a few links to our group:

Our meetup: http://www.meetup.com/Riverside-Atheists-and-FreeThinkers/
FB: https://www.facebook.com/groups/RiversideAtheistsAndFreeThinkers/
Website: http://riversideatheists.com/#/

I also want to give a big shout out to my RAFT crew! I am so grateful to each and every one of you for all of your hard work, dedication and support. Thank you!

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Coming Out Atheist
Bending
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Greta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

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More Atheist Leaders Who Aren’t Dawkins or Harris: Jenn Ramirez