06 August 2008

Funding Atheist Nexus

I've been pretty busy lately. School will be starting up again very soon and, rather suddenly, I got funds from my institution to pop off to King's College for some research into the personal papers of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (this is neither here nor there, but I'm all excited about it). I've been getting everything together for both and haven't had a lot of time to screw around online, like I usually do.

Imagine my half-surprise to find Atheist Nexus in a right kerfuffle, again. vjack over at Atheist Revolution has a handy breakdown of AN's recent problems. Now, the first one I get, the second one irks me a bit.

The last blog I was able to post here was actually urging people to donate some cash to AN. They had posted a budget, which, to me, seemed reasonable. Apparently not so reasonable to others. The objection I find most annoying is the objection that Brother Richard pay himself a salary. Fine. Then don't donate. Don't donate and continue to use this free service, provided for you by someone making it possible with their free time. It's free time because he wouldn't be getting paid for it. ow much free time do you have?

There are a lot of things I would do for free: soup kitchen, helping a friend move, generally volunteer for any good cause. Unfortunately, this is all heavily contingent on how much free time I have. If someone asked me today to take over and run Atheist Nexus the way it should be run--growing, being productive, becoming a massive central hub for atheist organization--I'd say no. Unless you paid me.

Does that make me sound horrible? I would donate my free time to other charities but not to something like Atheist Nexus (I am one of many small members of the AN Volunteer Corps, which I hope to help with my blogging, as seen here*).

First off, I don't consider work for atheist organization charity work. We are not cases for charity, we are a burgeoning social movement that needs to make some serious strides soon. In order for that to happen, it needs the kind of attention that charity cases don't often get, and that comes down to disposable time. When a person is compensated for their time, they are able to give more time to the cause. It's not greed. That's just life--we all need to get by in the world. I wish I had more free time to do good works, but it's just not there. In my case, it's not a job that's keeping me, but school. However, if someone would be glad to attend and do the work for a few of my classes, I'd be happy to get out there and do more for the world. I think you get the analogy.

I'm happy to give to make AN the organization I want it to be. If, in time, I find it's not living up to my expectations, then I will stop donating. Simple as that. What I won't do, though, is continue using a service for free (although I totally have that option) knowing that a lot of time and effort is going into it, on my behalf, without compensation. The level and frequency of my donations will hinge on how the site progresses, a formula I think Brother Richard appreciates and expects.

No one's asking you to give your life savings to AN--with the number of members, just a little here and there right now seems more than enough. It's surprising to me that there are people out there that expect every penny to be spent exactly how they want, and if it's not, then, they're outta there. It's like politics. I'll vote for Obama in November, but do you think I agree with him on everything? Hell no. I could refrain from voting at all, like some people have refrained for donating to AN, or have refrained from even using it anymore. That, to me, is a child stomping off because he didn't get exactly what he wanted--things didn't go his way. He won't play the game any more because he's not winning. Sound familiar (I'm looking at you, Religious Folks).

Like in politics, sometimes we have to weigh the good with the bad, what we like against what we don't like, but in the end, we need to step forward and participate. I can't think of too many moments in life where you get everything you want and you walk away losing absolutely nothing. This way of thinking--that somehow you should win, all the time, and never have to compromise your expectations--is counter-productive and is the kind of thing that will lead sites like AN to fail, movements like our lovely New Atheism (I use this term loosely) to fail, and perfectly good candidates like Obama to lose.

On the surface, big deal. You can live without all these things, right? Well, there are no vacuums. Maybe nothing bad would replace AN, but what seeps in when reason fails? Irrationality. Less atheism, more religion. Can't get a Democrat in office? Well, then I hope you're happy with another disastrous Republican reign. Have fun with your McCain and more, more, more happy god-loving folks getting in your face about everything.

That is, to me, exactly what a donation to AN is meant to prevent. And to me, that's worth not every penny going to exactly what I want. Right now, the money is going to basic operation of something that could turn into a real tool for a successful movement. Yeah, that's worth my $20.

*Do not make the mistake of assuming I would not criticize AN just because I'm a volunteer for promoting. Like vjack, I always reserve that right and will exercise it judiciously if ever I feel I need to.


  1. I don't think that makes you horrible at all. I'm not sure anyone would do the level of work involved for free. I'm in the A|N volunteer group as well, hoping to do what I can by promoting on my young, yet virile, podcast.

    I wasn't aware Brother Richard was paying himself a salary but frankly I'm glad he is.

    One of my main reasons for sticking around, supporting and promoting A|N is the lack of advertisements floating around. Donations spent on paying someone for work, hardware, software, promotion or salaries help keep the site from becoming a commercial joke like MySpace.

    I could see people being upset if he was out buying 'toys' with the money and trying to pass them off as site related but he's not. He's doing a lot of work that any other person would want some form of compensation for.

    I'm a big National Public Radio (and Minnesota Public Radio) fan and I donate to them annually as well. The service continues to provide what I expect so I don't question where that money goes.

    I do a lot of print and design work in my spare time for a non-profit group focused preventing teen suicide. I was offered payment per project and I declined simply because the work isn't intensive. The little website they have needs an overhaul and an admin that isn't a total rube. If asked to do that I would want payment, simply due to the level of work and the ongoing time commitment. I fail to see that as being unreasonable.

  2. Good points re: ads. Another excellent reason to part with a few bucks. :)

  3. Right. If you want to give, do so. If the planned expenses or the fact that giving through ChipIn and PayPal will reveal your identity bug you, don't give. Sounds good, and the issue should be laid to rest there. Unfortunately, some of those who have decided to give seem to feel the need to berate those who haven't. This has the potential to create a divide, but I hope it does not.

  4. My posts on this probably seem pretty berating for those not giving. I figured I can blow steam here (it's true, I link from AN) and it'd be okay because it's just my blog. Like...I'm not going into the forums there and harassing people.

    The one thread that I noticed on the topic, in my opinion, was ridiculous. It was just stupid. And I think BR was right--some atheists are just cynical. For some reason, this seems to be a point of pride for some. This is disheartening to me because it's exactly this sort of thing that keeps a movement from progressing. And that's all I'm really concerned about. Hence, my enthusiasm for getting AN off the ground and becoming something to be reckoned with.

    I'm just slightly annoyed and folks who won't part with a few bucks to invest in something that could potentially benefit them. It just rubs me the wrong way, like Libertarians who are disgusted at paying taxes but really like that we have an infrastructure and military, and use them freely. Now, those who don't give and feel the need to blather on about it--what's the point of that? Paranoia? That cynicism mentioned?

    I guess I just prefer to be more optimistic. :)

  5. Thanks so much for writing this. It amazes me that when there is a project which looks like it could genuinely unite atheists from around the world and make us a real force, there are people who are ready to quibble over a nit-picking details.

    I'm with you. I think atheism is important and I'm willing to put my money where my mouth is. I also think it's perfectly reasonable for Richard to draw a salary - and I think the salary he's budgeted for is miniscule.

    If everyone on Nexus donated just $10 - that would be over $30,000 on current membership. For most of us, that's not a lot.

    Come on Atheist Nexus members, get involved!

  6. I'm all for funding Nexus... My money will be on it's way before the month is ended.

    As Kristy just said... "If everyone on Nexus donated just $10 - that would be over $30,000 [based] on current membership..."

    Let's all get on board folks. What do you say?