Sometime in early November, 2009, an atheist friend of mine on the now-defunct Experience Project website directed me over to a relatively new site called Atheist Nexus. There, EVERYONE was an atheist, and you didn’t have to worry about believers crashing the party and constantly trying to convert you. Gee, I thought, I should have a look, and I did, and what I found was a lively, vital community of freethinkers who had no problem with stating their points of view in boldface.
Cool, I thought, and it wasn’t very long after that I published my first piece, relating my own atheism to my love of classical music, including religious music. Shock and amazement, I got all sorts of responses, which doesn’t hurt the old ego at all. Not very long after that came the shooting incident at Fort Hood, Texas and we all learned the name Nidal Malik Hasan. The clear relationship between Hasan, Islam, and that tragedy all but demanded some form of commentary and therewith came my first-ever blog. Over 170 have followed after, most of which I can say I’m pretty proud of.
There have been a lot of changes in the intervening time. Huge discussions on everything from climate change to circumcision to the politics of skepticism. I came here one year into the presidency of a black man until three Novembers ago, whereupon we shifted abruptly from a thoughtful constitutional scholar to a narcissistic, blithering idiot who seems to be determined to take down our democracy any way he can. During this arc, I got an online education in atheism and people I had never heard of before, with names like Dawkins and Harris and Dillahunty and Andrews and Ra. I discovered a brilliant British-born American contrarian by the name of Christopher Hitchens, whose encyclopedic understanding and rapier wit skewered opponent after opponent in discussions and debates. And then we all lost him, and while we grieved that loss, to one degree or another, we recognized the legacy he had left, not just in his books and YouTube videos but in us, in how we approached our own atheism and how we approached others with it. We owe him so very much.
A|N has changed too, in ways obvious and subtle, from the original visual format which in places could be downright garish down to the cleaner, sparer layout we know today. Sadly, our contributing population has suffered a similar winnowing as well, from who knows how many members in 2009 down to a hardcore bunch of nutcases who continue to hang in with this place, for its familiarity and our investment in it, both monetary and written, and absolutely for the close, dear friends we have made in the process. A lot of the growth I’ve experienced in the decade past I can credit to them in what they have brought to this place and what they have taught me. That value is incalculable to me.
Indeed, what a long, strange trip it has been from here to there. How much longer it’ll hang in, I have no idea, but I mean to hang in with it … because I think it’s worth it.