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This issue completes three years of me editing the Critical Thinker. Much has changed since then, with United States Atheists and with me.
The organization, of course, has a new name and a new location. We also seek to be a national force, rather than simply a local group. Again we scramble to gain a tax-exempt status with the IRS. Not that we wish to avoid paying our fair share, we don't; this status should qualify us for much-needed grant money.
As for me, my goals as a United States Atheists member have intensified. Three years ago, having social contacts was very important to me, as was advocating for the separation of state and church. My original motives remain intact, but I have learned a lot since then. I now work for change both within the Atheist movements and without, in the "real" world.
Crucial to the survival of our nation is that we wage a fierce separationist fight. I hope USA becomes influential in this battle; however, it matters less who does the work than that it gets done.
I am no longer willing to waste time arguing with a "brick-wall" believer. Sure, sparring with somebody on occasion can be fun, especially if an audience can learn by watching us. However, I gain nothing by arguing with someone who will not listen or who cannot make an honest or coherent case for themselves.
If I go ahead and duke it out without stopping to see if the argument will go anywhere, my tendency is to stoop to their level of blind rage. As an atheist, I seek to transcend emotion and superstition, and try to see clearly.
Anymore, if evangelicals wish to make a god-claim, I tell them I will listen for two years, if that is how long it takes. I am willing to convert to theism if they can make their case to me. However, I will not engage with people unless they are similarly willing to renounce their faith should they fail to make their case.
Remember, it is the theist, the person making the claim, who must make a case; an atheist need merely listen and ask for explanations or proofs. An atheist makes no claims and thus has every right to question and to doubt.
I am not here to save anybody from personal ignorance. I do not care what people think, but what they do to others.
Ideals such as those that forged our nation's Constitution, those I will defend. They are in constant danger, and have been since Jefferson's time. The question is, can I clearly express those ideals to people that have been taken in by a modern-day "generation of vipers?"
Copyright ©1998 Cliff Walker; Portland, Oregon