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: Red Tani.
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.)
We organize online and offline activities for our members, such as meetups and online discussions. Beyond that, we are advocates and activists for various causes: sexual and reproductive health and rights, LGBT rights, freedom of speech, among others.
Tell me about a specific project or projects your organization is working on.
One RH-related project we’ve been working on and are launching soon is one that focuses on the issue of abortion, which is currently illegal in the Philippines. We want to start a discussion on this taboo topic to dispel the myths and misconceptions surrounding something that affects many: despite being illegal, there were over 500,000 abortions in 2008. We’re aiming for decriminalization first, but eventually, legalization in some cases (currently, there is no exception even to save the life of the mother).
Where would you like to see organized atheism go in the next 10 to 20 years?
I would like organized atheism to be more and more diverse, something that I’m already seeing. It started with most groups wanting to promote atheism itself. I’m now seeing atheist groups care about social justice issues, politics, poverty, and so on. I want there to be more of that in terms of scale: the number of groups, the size of these groups, and the effectiveness of their actions.
What do you think are the main challenges facing organized atheism now?
The main challenge still lies in the stigma our predominantly religious society has placed on atheism. There are many misconceptions that can easily be cleared with some discussion. Sadly, those discussions do not happen because of prejudice. The “militant” or argumentative style that many atheists use when talking to religious people does not help.
Do you consider yourself a “new atheist”? Why or why not?
I don’t consider myself a new atheist because I was reading Robert Ingersoll and Bertrand Russell before Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins became popular. I don’t find anything particularly new about what these new atheist writers had to say or even how they said it.
Any questions you wish I’d asked, or anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you very much for this interview, and sorry I took a while to send this back to you 🙂