In Which I Appreciate Atheist Community October 15, 2009

In Which I Appreciate Atheist Community

This post is by Jesse Galef, who used to work for the Secular Coalition for America

There’s a slightly different tagline today, as I’ve been laid off from the Secular Coalition.  They’re “restructuring” the staff toward a new vision for the future and it didn’t involve me.  The reaction when I tell people has generally been surprise and disappointment.  A line from Joss Whedon’s excellent Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog came to mind: “‘I can’t imagine anybody firing you.’  ‘Neither could I.  But now I can visualize it really well.'”

I’m still trying to get over the shock of it and figure out what to do next.  I would love to keep working for the cause in some capacity, but the economy isn’t great for nonprofit organizations.  Well, the economy isn’t great for anyone, but I get the sense nonprofits are hit especially hard.

I have to say that the atheist community has been incredibly supportive.  I’ve gotten comforting facebook messages, texts, and emails from people I’ve known for months, people I just met a week ago at the Atheist Alliance International convention, and even people I’ve only ever interacted with online.  I’ve had an incredibly good life so far with no major tragedies, so I tend to forget the power of community.  But it’s so helpful to have caring people around when bad things happen.

We atheists are a small – but growing! – minority, and we don’t meet weekly for services.  We’re not known for our communities.  But that’s changing.  I’m lucky to be in the Washington DC area, where there’s the Washington Ethical Society, Beltway Atheists, the Washington Area Secular Humanists, and a ton of local Center for Inquiry things happening.  But for people who aren’t in an area with flourishing nontheistic groups, there’s the internet.  Online forums such as this site provide a place for us to interact, support each other, and know that we’re not alone.

Thank you, Hemant, for creating such great place, allowing me to be a part of it, and also for giving me a call when you heard.

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  • David D.G.

    Aw, drat!

    >:^(

    You have my sympathies, Jesse. I’ve been through a few “downsizing” operations myself, and it can be a real blow. I hope that you find another position soon, and that it’s a good one that you will enjoy and that will put your obvious talents to good use. Take care.

    ~David D.G.

  • Nate

    I find it quite amusing you have dedicated a whole blog and probably a large portion of your life against God. It is like not believing in Big Bird and having an “anti-Big Bird” website. Apparently there is some conviction in you that God exists otherwise you wouldn’t spend so much of your life against him. Of course there are some crazy professing Christians but nothing is more crazy than spending so much time on something you think does not exist. I at least have respect for the atheist that lives a quiet peaceful life. Why would you waste so much time writing against something that you think does NOT exist?

  • David D.G.

    Gee, Nate, thanks for that outpouring of Christian love and sympathy for a guy who has just lost his job. Don’t go getting too gushy on us, now.

    ~David D.G.

  • Jesse Galef

    Nate, while I don’t believe in God, I know that other people DO believe. That existing belief is what I find wrong and harmful. I don’t write against a god; I write against belief in God.

    It’s a little ironic you chose this entry to raise your “objection”, considering that I’m highlighting the benefits of the atheist community, not criticizing religion.

    … And thanks, David.

  • (don’t feed the trolls. don’t feed the trolls. Don’t feed the trolls. Arrrh…but I must!)

    Nate, this isn’t a “whole blog and a large portion of a life against God.” No, it is a blog and a large portion of life against the beliefs in…the ideas associated and around…and the concept of gods.

    For example, Big Bird obviously doesn’t need to exist in fact for their to be great fictions about him…for example, Sesame Street. Fan clubs relating to Sesame Street. And so on.

    Big Bird doesn’t need to exist for people to be motivated to action by the idea of Big Bird and the ideas that people think Big Bird espouses. So, people could conceivably try to restrict rights and influence politics and daily life according to these concepts.

    Theists do precisely this. What theists believe in (various forms of gods) do NOT have to exist for the *concepts* themselves to exist and for them to ACT on these concepts. And what this blog, what these organizations, what people here try to do is write about the ill effects that these concepts have on society. The ill effects that religious practices and doctrines have on society and on people.

  • Siamang

    Why would you waste so much time writing against something that you think does NOT exist?

    I don’t know. Why did you waste your time posting here?

    Same reason. Internet is fun for typing stuff.

    I at least have respect for the atheist that lives a quiet peaceful life.

    Shorter Nate: ‘I don’t mind if you’re an atheist, but please shut up about it, and never mention it to anyone else. In fact, it’s just best if I can pretend to myself that you don’t exist.’

    Is your faith so weak that we’re a threat to you, Nate?

    Good.

  • Hannah

    Very sorry that you lost your position, Jesse. Best of luck with future endeavors.

    However, I was glad to hear that there are so many non-theistic groups in DC. I recently moved to the city and am looking for ways to get involved. Does anyone know if there is a particularly good atheist group for young people in the area?

    Nate, thanks for the pointless comment. Not only are you clueless (it’s obvious religion has huge effects on society regardless of the fact that there is no god) but you also are rude for posting that comment on an entry about someone losing their job.

  • Okay let’s not let this be about the one uncouth poop-face who wants to make everybody feel worse than they already do.

    I just met Jesse in Burbank, and he’s a hell of a guy, and we’re lucky to have him in the movement. I don’t know how things are going down inside the Coalition, but it’d be crazy to think that Jesse won’t have a secure place somewhere else inside this broader thing we’re all doing here. Everybody thank Jesse for his work, both past and to come.

  • Sorry to hear the news, Jesse! The Secular Coalition just lost a valuable asset, in my opinion. Best of luck finding another organization to appreciate your talents! I’m sure there’s at LEAST one out there. 🙂

  • Jesse,

    If it turns out that you can’t be a “professional atheist” then you can be an avocational atheist like the rest of us and be a professional “something else”. You are obviously very intelligent and articulate and would be a valuable person in many different organizations. I’m sure you will land on your feet soon and I hope to see you continue to post here.

    Jeff

  • Amyable Atheist

    Jesse,
    So sorry to hear the news. My interaction with the atheist community has so far been only online (when the grad thesis is done I’ll finally go to one of Hemant’s and other local events, on my honor!). Even though I only occasionally participate in discussions here and elsewhere, I too find incredible value in the community – just knowing that all you smart, thoughtful, critically-minded people are out there is a great comfort. People like you, Hemant and others are inspiring reminders that I need to get out there and take a more active role in fostering our growing community, so thank you.

    Being laid off sucks, especially if you weren’t expecting it. You seem to be handling it well and it’s good to hear that you intend to still contribute to the coalition in some way. I was rather surprised to be laid off due to lack of work on the 6-month horizon in July and am in an industry that’s suffering spectacularly in this economy and especially in Chicago. I too was surprised and delighted by the support I received from the unlikeliest people, who were quick to remind me that this was a reflection of circumstances beyond my control and not a reflection of my talent as a professional and my value a person – even the most rational among us can get stuck in a pattern of questioning ourselves after a rejection like a layoff, regardless of the surrounding circumstances.

    For what it’s worth, I’d like to pass on a little list that I came across on some career site and jotted down. It’s very simple stuff but I find it to be a helpful reminder to keep my head up: (1) Persistence, (2) Networking, (3) Self Confidence, (4) Stay Informed, and (5) Get out and have fun!

    One other tidbit I’d like to offer comes from the combined experience of my fiance (who was laid off in the same profession as me in August 2008) and that’s to take care of the immediate paperwork right away but take a break and allow yourself to process the event, which is up there with all the major life changes. You will probably feel compelled to hit the ground running at 7am tomorrow but there is grief that comes with the loss of a job and if you don’t allow yourself a few days of lolling around, feeling sad and watching daytime tv now, the grief will just come out later/in other ways. Everyone processes these things in their own unique way so this is just one woman’s advice. Hang in there and best of luck to you.

  • pete

    I think Nate came by to help remind all of us including Jesse Galef,of the many good reasons there is for getting behind movements that seek to enlighten folks of the wrong and harmful beliefs of gods.Nate did a wonderful job of exposing the old “if it dont effect you, why bother worrying about it maybe effecting anybody else” faithful thoughtless type thinking.Exposing the selfish self rightious aspect of god faiths wonderfully.

    Jesse dont feel disheartened to long,many clouds come with silver linings they say.You might just find one lined in gold.

  • Dave G

    Jesse,

    Really sorry to hear about your getting laid off. It’s never easy to lose a job unexpectedly, particularly when it is a job that you believe in.

    Good luck on getting a new job soon, hopefully a better paying one!

    Dave G

  • Sorry to hear the news. Good luck, Jesse.

  • Bleatmop

    Sorry for the bad luck. One minor correction

    We atheists are a small – but growing! – minority,

    I thought we were the largest minority.

  • Minneyar

    Not to make light of the situation, but man, I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard somebody say something along the lines of “Well, the economy isn’t great for anyone, but I get the sense (X) are hit especially hard.”

    Everybody’s getting hit hard, really. Non-profits have a bit of an advantage in that they really only need to bring in enough money to keep the lights on, as long as their employees are willing to work for whatever they can get. For-profits have to answer to the board of stockholders if they’re not making enough money…

  • Richard Wade

    Jesse,
    Your positive enthusiasm and articulate writing have been a welcome addition to this site. I’m sure that those talents will be valuable to another employer soon.

    Please keep in touch with us. Maybe you could post articles here about your experiences while looking for work. They don’t have to always be about atheism per se. As you have very well said, we are a fledgling community, and we need to learn to be more of a community. We need to care about each other as people, not just all these opinions. We need to be supportive of each other’s daily difficulties, not just issues about religion and politics. Let us share in your disappointment, your hope, your fatigue and your excitement.

    I’m glad that you have people in your area with whom you can talk directly. For most of us here, all we have is this flat screen. Far too many people come here, others become fond of them and then they disappear without a trace. There are several people whom I miss here, and I have no idea what happened. Please don’t disappear. Keep us in your community, too.

    How about at least a weekly entry here in “Jesse’s Journal”?

    (cue thunderous applause and hearty shouts of agreement)

  • TXatheist

    Very cool of you Hemant and good luck Jesse

  • mkb

    in line with Richard’s idea — “thunderous applause”

    Hannah — try Beltway Atheists

  • Colin

    Sorry for your job loss. You’re 1000 times more active in the atheist community than I am, and it just doesn’t feel fair. This economy has many victims.

    Best of luck going forward, wherever your career may take you.

  • Jesse: Your experience with SCA was valuable and relatively unique, and I’m sure there is a similar organization in the DC area, or elsewhere, that will soon come to appreciate that. Good luck with the job search.

  • Jesse, I’m so sorry. That blows. I have faith confidence that you’ll land on your feet; but it still blows to be laid off from a job you care about and are good at. Best of luck, and let us know if there’s anything we can do.

  • Joaquin

    Jesse,

    Really sorry to hear that – you’ll land on your feet, no doubt.

    Like Greta said, let us know if there’s anything we can do.

    Joaquin

  • muggle

    I’ll concur with this: ” Everybody thank Jesse for his work, both past and to come”.

    Thank you, Jesse. And I think you’ll land on your feet elsewhere. You’ve got too much going for you not to.

    Meanwhile, heavy applause and hearty shouts of agreement to Richard’s suggestion. You’ll have more time until you land somewhere new to do just that. And I’ll have an even harder time keeping up with this blog.

  • I’m really sad to hear that. I’ve really enjoyed your posts here so do please keep blogging!