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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Heard

On Being An Atheist Blogger Today

Avijit Roy

I’m pretty small potatoes. I have an amazing group of readers who are incredibly supportive, but compared to say, Hemant Mehta or PZ Myers, I’m pretty small potatoes.

Despite the fact that I am pretty small potatoes, I have had death threats. They are few and far between, and I really don’t get the sense that any of them, thus far, have been serious, but I have had them.

I don’t have any delusions of grandeur or self-involved paranoia. I don’t think anyone out there is plotting to kill me.

And yet, today, I can’t help but feel a little uneasy.

When I started, it never crossed my mind that it could ever be a dangerous endeavour. I grew up in a secular town, in a secular country, with a secular education, secular parents and rarely ever came across anyone who took their religion more seriously than decorating a tree in December.

I was used to a world in which I could openly say, “I don’t believe in God” and have not one single person bat an eye. I had Hindu friends, Muslim friends, Seventh Day Adventist friends, Mormon friends, Anglican friends and Catholic friends and family. Not one of them, ever, looked at me funny for not believing in God.

So, naturally, it never crossed my mind that I could ever be in danger for writing a blog about my disbelief in God, full of satire and jokes and even self-deprecating humour. It wasn’t that I shrugged off the possibility of danger, understand, it’s that it never crossed my mind. It was unthinkable.

I bowled my way onto the atheist blogging scene, poking fun at anyone and everyone I felt deserved a little shake. I got great responses right off the bat. I was bombarded with messages of encouragement and support. It still wasn’t crossing my mind that there was any danger in what I was doing.

I got my first death threat a few weeks in to writing at I shrugged it off. It meant nothing. All bark and no bite, I thought. How could anyone risk their own lives or freedom to kill someone just because they don’t believe in God and openly write about it?

As most of you know, I helped significantly with the #FreeMubarak campaign when Mubarak was beaten, drugged and detained for being an atheist. Still, I thought, there is no danger to me. That happened to him because he was a native of and resided in the northern states of Nigeria, where sharia law ruled.

I had similar feelings about the situation with Raif Badawi. I would do just about anything to get him out of there, but I didn’t feel what happened to him was something that could ever be real in my life.

I guess it started to change when Charlie Hebdo was hit. Here was a progressive, Western country, rich with resources and wealth and one of the top 20 education systems in the world. They had impressive health care, low levels of poverty, and relatively low levels of crime. This was not a war-torn state or an oppressive regime. This was a country, just like my country, where men who did more or less what I do, were gunned down for doing just that.

I got a little scared.

Today, we lost Avijit Roy. Admittedly, I had never heard of him before this week. Upon some quick research, though, I found out a few things.

  1. He was an American citizen.

  2. He was passionate about the very same thing I am.

  3. He had, from what I can tell, a similar sized audience to mine.

I climbed into bed with Godless Dad last night. We watched a Food Wishes video. It was the one where Chef John assures us that boiling and baking ribs is not sacrilegious. Chef said, as always, enjoy! and Godless Dad and I kissed each other goodnight. I rolled over and loaded up Reddit on my phone for some late night reading to put me sleep. That’s when I heard about it.

Today, I am at Godless Dad’s store, about to help him with his annual inventory. I am exhausted. I didn’t sleep a wink.

Every time I closed my eyes I thought of places I would never be able to travel to again. I went to Indonesia once. Would I ever be able to go back? I visited Malaysia once. Could I ever sit on the beach in Penang again?

Panic welled up inside of me as I considered whether I have put my son, my husband, my family in danger.

There is no question, I know I am doing the right thing. There should be no mistaking that I will never stop. I guess now I’m doing it with a little less naivety. I guess now I’m just doing it, knowing that my small potatoes status won’t protect me.

I guess now, I am just doing it terrified.

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