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Belated Thanks

Yesterday didn’t go quite as planned. Circumstances conspired to push Thanksgiving prep later and into a smaller amount of time this year. That meant I spent this week pretty much constantly on the go, usually multitasking. The end result was a delicious meal that everyone insists we repeat next year, but getting there was touch and go.

I can do that if I have to, but I pay for it. Yesterday was the day to pay. Joints that merely tolerate me in the best of times went out of their way to make sure I will never, ever, ever do that again. Imagine shifting constantly because every position that takes the strain off of most joints causes one set of them to pretend it’s on fire, and pain killers don’t make a difference. I spent my time rotating through painful positions.

So that was yesterday. Needless to say, my intent to give some thanks took a back seat. But today is a new day with somewhat less pain, so I thought I’d come back to that. After all, while mostly a harvest festival, that is what Thanksgiving is supposed to be about.

Being an atheist and all, this isn’t going to be a post about the vague circumstances of my life for which I’m grateful to no one in particular. It won’t be about gratitude for things that may not have a causal agent. Instead, I’d like to thank a bunch of atheists who have kept me proud to be one of them through a year that many people have found discouraging.

Let me start with the national organizations, because they are so often the targets of our ire when something goes wrong. This year, I’ve been privileged to meet a ridiculously large number of the employees and advisory board members of these organizations at various conferences. I’ve talked to them about how they want to change the world and the challenges they face, both the obvious challenges from a non-secular world and the more delicate cat-herding sort.

I’ve seen them take hostility and turn it into opportunity, over and over and over again, sometimes even in the space of a television interview. I’ve seen them educate and scold and craft effective emotional and legal appeals against injustice. I’ve seen them demand more of themselves and of everyone who works with them, continually opening the movement and making it more professional in the best ways. I’ve seen them working hard to train up a new generation of leaders, teaching them and giving them opportunities to grow now instead of in the glare of an unfriendly spotlight.

And I’ve seen them do all these things for the kind of pay and scrutiny one gets working for a nonprofit. This is love and dedication at work, and it’s taught and inspired me particularly this year. To those of you who work for one of these groups: Thank you.

Thank you also to my local community of atheist activists. This includes the Minnesota Atheists, but it also covers a whole bunch of people who don’t belong to the group but still do things like blood drives, food drives, social events, and atheist media. This is a good place to be an atheist, and that has a lot to do with you.

I owe particular thanks to the people who support the Atheists Talk radio show. This isn’t a cheap project, either in terms of the cost of airtime or the volunteer labor that goes into it. But there are a large number of people who hear the word “atheist” every day because of our promotions, and we’ve created a large library of in-depth interviews with important figures in atheist America (plus a few elsewhere). Neither of those is a small feat. Plus, I get to talk to interesting atheists on a regular basis because of the show. Thank you to everyone who helps support that.

More big thanks go to the atheist noise-makers. FtB is part of that, and a part that has been particularly supportive of me, but there are so many people out there right now blogging; writing books; doing radio, TV, podcasts, and video from so many perspectives that it is getting difficult to really feel alone as an atheist. Some of these people have new things to say and are pushing atheist thinking forward, some explain the old things with remarkable clarity and make these ideas accessible to nearly anyone, and some simply make sure that the classic ideas don’t fall by the wayside as we travel. All of them together make atheism impossible to ignore. Thank you to all who share atheism with the broader world.

Then the last thank you, which is particularly special to me. At these conferences I go to, I keep running into atheist students and recent graduates. If you’re one of them, I can’t begin to tell you how happy you all make me. You are, by and large, doing everything I most like to see the adults in this movement doing, only you’re doing it without pay and making enthusiasm and energy stand in for resources. And you keep doing it even when the movement sometimes looks like it’s going to implode long before you inherit it so you can fix its problems.

Whether it’s putting on conferences and other events, working to make your communities better, sharing your understanding and appreciation of the real world we live in, or simply forging social bonds that will carry you through astonishing challenges, you’ve gone so far past “I figured out there’s no god” that you take my breath away. You make me wish I could have been you at your age, and you make me look forward to working with you for decades to come.

Thank you for that inspiration when I have needed it most. You’ve kept me going when I knew I was pushing through in a way I knew I’d pay for later. That means the world.

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