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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Heard

An Atheist On Activism, Human Rights & Getting To Know Heroes

I don’t believe in fate. That much is probably obvious.  I do think that a mind that believes something strongly enough will work, sometimes subconsciously, to make things happen. I think when like-minded people suddenly find themselves amongst each other, the reality is, their like-minds brought them there. Fate… fate is just a cop-out.

My whole life, I’d been less than thrilled with small talk. I don’t like chatting about the weather, talking about make-up or hair, or wasting my precious and limited breath on vacuous subjects that drain me of valuable energy better used for other things. I’m not one to hang around the shallow and collect friends just to up my numbers. I’m choosy. I’m picky. I like a certain type. Other types of people literally exhaust me.

I guess when you don’t find many of your type, it starts to get a little lonely. Especially right after you moved away from your old life. I did that. I moved away from the big, open-minded city where everyone was okay with me. I moved to this small town full of churches where the jeebots ring the doorbell once a week. It’s foreign here, and I don’t have many friends yet. Being as I’ve never needed many, I am totally okay. But it does get lonely sometimes.

When Mubarak contacted me for help two weeks ago, I really had no idea that the feeling of loneliness that had grown inside me since moving, was about to be blown apart like Bikini Atoll, mushroom cloud and all. I most certainly never expected that I was about to meet 7 people in 3 separate countries different from my own, who I would soon consider my friends, and see as true heroes.

I jumped into this campaign with everything I had. I always do. I’d love to say that it was entirely selfless, but this is my passion. I am not whole unless I’m doing something, in some way, to ensure the rights of humans are being protected. I often find myself lost in a mess of what to do, and how to satisfy that passion. There’s just so many stories, so many cases, so many abuses, choosing a place to start is almost impossible… but this one just fell right in my lap, and I jumped on it like I’d been starving.

When I take something like this on, I become obsessive. I immerse myself in it, and drown out all the noise. Every little triumph is celebrated and every small loss lamented. Through the whole process, I have an absolute compulsion to eat, breath, sleep and talk it. And the talking is often just to myself. As previously stated, I don’t have a whole lot of my type around… and my type is the type who is just as passionate about human rights as me. So, when I ramble about my current project, literally no one is listening. The people around me have become very good at smiling and nodding. That’s not to say they don’t support what I do, it just is not important enough to them to want to listen to me talk about it 24/7. I totally get that.

This time though, I found myself in the middle of a group of 6 strangers who were just as devoted to this as I was. These 6 people lost as much sleep as I did, they typed up just as many emails, tweets and chats as I did. They made more phone calls than I did. They dreamed about it, they forgot to eat, they spent money on it. I was suddenly amongst 6 of my type of person, my A-list type, the type I had literally never met before aside from my father. I’ve worked in non-profits, I’ve volunteered, I’ve done activism, but I’ve never met people as devoted to a cause as these 6 people. I’d never met anyone so willing to turn their lives completely upside down to ensure freedom for one human being they had never met before.

I was suddenly not lonely. It took about a week for me to realize it… but I suddenly had a group of people with whom I could totally and completely be myself, obsessions and all.

Our chat stayed open on Skype for two weeks. We’ve migrated to hangouts, but it’s still open. We’re bonded for life. The 7 of us and Mubarak.

We obsessed, and we got what we wanted. Mubarak is free.

But let me make something very clear. It wasn’t us who did this. It was you. We were 7 people. Without you, it would have been 7 people tweeting about a man in Nigeria. Instead, I put out a call to all of you, atheists and theists alike, who support human rights, and you responded. That first Friday, when we launched the hashtag #FreeMubarak, your tweets crashed my web site. Your tweets were retweeted by Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss. Because of your tweets, we brought the attention of the world to Mubarak. Your tweets alerted his family to what was going on and made them squirm. Those who supported this campaign from day one can walk away from this with a brand new accomplishment on their resume: Helped free a man.

This seemingly insurmountable feat was brutally conquered by you.

It would not have been possible, without Bob, Bamidele, Andy, Adeyinka, Nancy (still anonymous!), and Deana. It would not have been possible without these people who have become my heroes. It would not have been possible, either, without your tweets and your emails going back to day one. Sure, as this campaign gained momentum and bigger and bigger names gave their support, more people jumped aboard, but it was those of you with us from day one that made the difference. Make no mistake, you are the ones who freed Mubarak.

Thank you for trusting me. From the bottom of my heart, there are no words to describe what it means to me that you did.

Congratulations, Mubarak. You are nearly a free and out atheist, now. I don’t believe in fate, but if I did, I’d say we’re all supposed to meet and make this 8-way BFF-ship IRL official.

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