Should Atheists Promote Reason in the Media?

Before my recent article in the Times Leader was published, a friend of mine criticized me for responding to the interview request by Jen Andes. He thinks that I should have ignored this interview request because the nativity controversy was last year and all is well. He thinks what I'm doing is "grandstanding" and simply wanting publicity for myself.

I've defended my work and efforts in previous posts (here too!), but never specifically tackled "Should Atheists Promote Reason in the Media?"

The interview request came from a reporter (I didn't go hunting for a reporter) who wanted to hear what I had to say about the new display plans. She also wanted me to reflect on the events from last year. This is all appropriate because December is approaching and the "one year anniversary" is coming. When major events in a community happen, people are usually interviewed a year later.

When I agree to do media interviews, I don't do them just to get my name out there. I, of course, enjoy being in the media and getting publicity, but it's not just about me at all. It's about a larger movement of reason, critical thinking, and skepticism. It's about showing others that it's okay to speak up and that like-minded people in their communities aren't afraid to do so. It's about visibility - I'm showing others that there are atheists in their communities who they can talk to about struggles. It's about putting my ideas out there so that people can hear a different perspective.

It's ludicrous to think that "It's all about me" when I constantly blog about a milieu of issues, put tremendous amounts of time into what I do, and state that my goal is to get people to think. My goal isn't "get as much attention as possible and promote myself." I'm promoting ideas and skepticism. When atheists like myself are out there in the media, a great service is being done for so many people who can't speak about these issues, are afraid to speak about these issues, and are questioning their current stances.

If I really wanted to make it "all about me," I would convert to Christianity and would be loved by almost every church in the area would have an immediate platform as a "former atheist who argues for Christianity." I'd never do that because it would be the zenith of dishonesty and would only convert if there was good reason to.

I constantly get good feedback from atheists who like the work that I do. They feel relieved that someone can speak up and put the arguments forth. Many people simply can't because they'll lose jobs, be ostracized, and commit social/professional suicide. It's sad that this is the case, but the only way to fix that is to get out there and normalize the atheist perspective. We desperately need more atheists speaking up, sharing their ideas, and taking public stances. Shutting up and declining media interviews isn't the way to fix things.

Atheists should take almost every reasonable opportunity to be "out" when it is called for...especially in the media. It's obvious that you have to "pick your battles," be prudent, and avoid some people who will grossly misrepresent your positions, but for the most part, be out and be proud if you're able to. If you're not able to, host an anonymous blog, get an anonymous Facebook profile, and work behind the scenes.