Another question from a top donor:
“I’m curious to hear more about how you first got involved with the SSA and/or what it was that made you decide to become an atheist speaker.”
I co-founded the Society of Non-Theists at Purdue University the summer before my sophomore year. This was after a year of culture shock down at Purdue. I grew up in a part of Indiana that was fairly secular and liberal (yes, it exists!). I wasn’t used to being in such a religious environment, where people were constantly trying to recruit and convert me, or would literally run away when they found out I was an atheist. I wanted to make a club that could act as a safe haven for students like me.
But I didn’t really know about the SSA when I was getting started. If I recall correctly, they found me. It took our group about a year or so to really utilize their services and realize what a big help they were. When I attended my first SSA conference after two years of running the group, I wished I would have gone sooner. It was so helpful for practical skills like fundraising, getting media attention, event planning, and networking – everything we had learned through two years of annoying trial and error.
After that, I was kind of in love. I realized how great of an organization it was, and I wanted to continue helping out. That’s why I ran for the Board of Directors. It’s cheesy as hell, but us young people are the future for secularism and rational thought.
As for being an atheist speaker… I think it just accidentally happened. I’ve always been comfortable giving presentations, and I gave a couple talks for my group. Then I started getting invitations to talk after boobquake exploded. Then I was added to the SSA speaker’s bureau. Then CFI’s speaker’s bureau. Then I started getting invited to major conferences. Then people who saw my talks would go back to their home town and tell their local group to invite me.
And I keep saying yes because, well, they’re fun! I basically get to go on little mini vacations to different parts of the US, not to mention talk to a room full of really bright people for a night. How does it get any better than that?
Well…okay, maybe if I got super famous where people would pay me lots of money to do it (…or any money, for that matter). Or if groups in Europe or Australia would invite me. That would be pretty damn cool. (Did you hear that, international readers?!)
But even if that doesn’t happen, I’ll keep doing it. Like I said, it’s a lot of fun – I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t. And I think part of my brain considers it a back up plan if the whole academia thing doesn’t work out. Which isn’t totally unlikely – becoming a professor is hard and partially based on luck, and I’m still not totally sure if that’s what I want to do with my life. So might as well enjoy doing what I’m doing now, and maybe it’ll help out in the future!