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: Lauren Lane.
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.)
LL: I am the co-founder and current Executive Director of Skepticon, the universe’s largest skeptic convention located annually in Springfield, MO. It is the mission of Skepticon to support, promote, and develop free-thought skeptic, and scientific communities through inclusive educational programming… which is just a fancy way of saying we all get together to share ideas, knowledge, and high fives. Skepticon is a non-profit organization that is run entirely by volunteer organizers — all the money we raise goes directly to funding the conference. Donate today and help us spread the awesome!
This year Skepticon 8 will be held the weekend of November 13th–15th, 2015 at the Ramada Oasis Hotel and Convention Center. Come hang out! We’re cool!
Tell me about a specific project or projects your organization is working on.
Our nonprofit revolves around the planning and execution of our conference. We spend all year fundraising, building, and organizing the best possible conference we can manage in all of our collective spare time. Over the past eight years, we’ve seen our con grow from a small student run affair to a wicked awesome con that spans three days and includes a dance, workshops, and as many dinosaurs as one can handle.
Where would you like to see organized atheism go in the next 10 to 20 years?
In a perfect world, organized atheism will fully embrace social activism and it will have propelled us into a bigger and brighter future.
What do you think are the main challenges facing organized atheism now?
The challenges facing the atheist movement are many: infighting, apathy, burnout, douchebags, diversity, sexism… the list goes on and on. I don’t think there’s one issue that is bigger than the others but there does seem to be some sort of cycle where one becomes more prominent for a while. For the record, I despise them all equally.
Do you consider yourself a “new atheist”? Why or why not?
If your definition of “new atheist” is one that means a godless person who values intersectional justice and activism — then absolutely. I’ve never seen my work in the secular movement to be insular or devoid of intersectionality with issues such as feminism, LGBTQ activism, racism, politics, etc. In my mind, these issues are all inherently linked and I have done my best in my activism as a heathen to reflect that.
Besides, if all this movement was about was whether or not a sky daddy existed it would be super boring.
Any questions you wish I’d asked, or anything else you’d like to add?
Yes, I’d like to take a moment to encourage more people to do more things. This movement needs everyone at all skill levels to step in and help out in whatever capacity they are able. Don’t let the jerks scare you or keep you down — there are plenty more non-jerks waiting to be your friend.
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.