This Is Not Okay, JT

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.

JT Eberhard is becoming a Christian musician.

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!

This Is Not Okay, JT
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46 thoughts on “This Is Not Okay, JT

  1. 1

    Totally awesome, Greta. I can see the long future mapped out ahead of JT, when he can no longer stand the same five chord songs and then announces he’s an ex-ex-atheist; and then he renounces Christian rock by signing with a Celtic Thunder men’s troupe and becomes known as the ex-ex-ex-atheist Christian rock operatic baritone, and then goes back to opera as an ex-ex-ex-ex-…

    Nice one. 😉

  2. DLC

    {decorously hands Greta Christina a file and some sandpaper for her nose, which has increased in overall length by a considerable measure }

  3. rob

    I’ve watched and perused these articles for some time and now I need to speak…
    To utilize a taoist proverb “those who say don’t know, and those who know don’t say”. In other words; this is eerily reminiscent of what my dad once said: “the hollowest drums make the most noise”. His vociferous tirades or proclamations were an indicator. In other words: Be careful about choosing to hate something…for you may become it!
    Don’t allow those whom are as weak in mind as values disappoint you. Remain friends so long as he’s not either reducing you to a utilitarian convenience or a threat to you. Friends wouldn’t do either, just remember that.
    There’s one ironic ACTUAL truth that the religious hate (oddly enough): The truth needs no mouth piece.
    Yeah, if it’s actually “truth”, it does NOT need them.
    Your “friend” is doing what he thinks is necessary for his financial and/ or psychological survival. And religion plays on one’s fears of those “great unknowns”. One day he’ll see that whether for business or a niggling conscience; he was lying to himself (and others) when he was “athiest” or “religious”. And ironically he (like most religious) will watch life happen as it always does and yet religion won’t offer sensible answers; only quick ones.
    What irks the faithfully religious most is the one thing they fight within themselves: the insatiable human ability to question. They denounce, remonstrate and label us for being “angry” or “hateful” when really it’s our irrepressible desire to not be reduced to another block in the wall or member of the hive. How peculiar that they so quickly preach about individuality (even jesus and mohammed taught acceptance) until it threatens their deluded and warped sense of “spiritual utopia”.
    Instead of seeing this as a failure or betrayal on his part, but as an experiential choice. I suspect this has been stirring in him for some time and once he’s resolved whatever his “need” he’ll be confronted with the reality of his nature. He won’t be able to hide the need to question yet again.
    Greta, remember where you true sources or support are and that irrespective of a few people, you are your own greatest advocate. People will come and go…isn’t it odd the allies who appear in your darkest times?
    Count me in as another ally and your most ardent supporter.

  4. AJ

    How very sad. I would doubt that it was such a snap decision as it might have seemed to be. I do not know your friend but it seems like the kind of thing that builds up. Maybe he is doubting his own atheism? I do not know why that would occur short of being overly and intimately exposed to religious pressure. Also, I can not imagine how successful his career as a christian singer is going to be if he is ok with saying that it is for business and that he is still an atheist, assuming that is truly what is going on. Sorry for my doubting tone. I myself watch so many good minds struggle against their backgrounds to be free in thought, who agree with me on almost all points but fall apart when I bring up atheism specifically. I guess I have seen many give up their values for more acceptance in the bit of society they are exposed to. Good luck with your friend. I hope he drops this foolish scheme and embraces his real values, that he makes a return to truth.

  5. 21

    Why does this bring to mind the unbelievable ham radio stories that always appeared in the April QST magazine under the name “N. G. Attaway, VO1DER”?

  6. 22

    This is a fine idea, especially if JT remains an atheist.

    Ages ago (it seems) I was a member of a now-defunct atheist/pagan message board where we all made a regular practice of ordering as many free offers from Christian websites as we could, only to throw away the things we received. I still do this. Why? Because it costs *them* money to send those materials to me, thereby taking that money out of their pocket, taking it away from their ministries, and away from their ability to disseminate their message; it weakens them. And the more people who take money from ministry pockets without any possibility of a return for the investment, the weaker they become. And if enough people are sucking them dry a drop at a time, like so many tiny atheist mosquitos, these ministries will either stop providing giveaways or start charging for them: but both situations will necessarily mean a reduction in the volume of dissemination of the message they want to spread. I encourage everyone who reads this to do the same. It’ll take only a few minutes out of your day once or twice a week, and a steady stream of dollars out of the pockets of the online evenagelicals.

    To amp up this effort even more, I am currently plotting a series of novels along the lines of the vomit-inducing “Left Behind” series, for the direct purpose of taking money from the pockets of evangelical Christian fools; money which I will then use to improve my own personal lifestyle and to underwrite atheist and freethought causes. The irony is undeniably delicious.

    So let JT do the same thing: let him take money from the pockets of fools and then use it for personal enrichment and to fund whatever causes he sees fit.

  7. 24

    I can’t believe that some people are taking this seriously! Though to be fair, it is very well written (no surprise there) and as Mara says, the picture is a brilliant touch.

  8. 28

    I am typing this from heaven. I converted to extra-super fundigelical god-approved everything just in time so that I was one of the fortunate few who was raptured.

    JT and hid band mated are warming up and doing a sound check just over there.

  9. 29

    I honestly admit it, you fooled me. When I read the story in RSSBandit, I didn’t see the comments. When I saw a story like this on Butterflies & Wheels all was revealed.

    Great story.

    * scribbled the word BEWARE on April 1st on his calender.

  10. 33

    This was one of my favorite FTB pranks. Nicely played! Really depressing to see how many gullible people commented though. Skeptics, be skeptical!

  11. 35

    It was bad enough when I clicked on the FTB homepage and saw that everyone was bidding everyone else farewell, but this is the worst. I thought JT had principles!


  12. 41

    Oh, you might want to specify in next blog entry or so that this was indeed a joke. A lot of rumours have started this way and I am sure you do not want to inadvertently slander JT.


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