“Whiny Activism”

Throughout my short career as an activist [particularly as an atheist activist], I’ve experienced a great deal of pushback from religious persons in many forms including governmental entities claiming a bus advertisement containing the word ‘atheists’ is an “attack on religion” and “controversial,” schools refusing to include groups for secular students amongst various other student organizations, vandalism of a banner, persons threatening to take legal action against me for honest and fair criticism of chiropractic, and much more. I’ve spoken and written about this pushback in various venues, but have not spoken much concerning pushback from fellow atheists.

A recent criticism that has been brought to my attention, thanks to the writer of ‘Women Left Behind by Mainstream Feminism,’ who does not herself make this criticism, is that I am a ‘whiny activist.’

What might this mean? Might persons voicing this criticism be objecting to my tone or complaining when my activism is stymied — in one way or another — because of what seems to be religious persons, persons who want to make free speech be a selective privilege for only certain groups, or government officials who appear to be either incompetent or intentionally difficult to deal with.

When a banner I put up, for example, is vandalized by a Christian individual who makes inflammatory and uninformed comments about atheists, I am going to draw attention to the vandalism and the rhetoric of the vandal. Is this ‘whiny?’ It is ‘whiny’ to expect to be treated as an equal in a free speech zone who has, like other groups presumably had, paid $50 to obtain permission to have a banner displayed for one week?

The banner, at the time of this post, has been vandalized ten days ago and still has not been restored by the city despite local officials knowing about it and the great attention which has been drawn to the matter. Am I ‘whiny’ for pointing this out and objecting to what seems to be a local government which doesn’t care about the interests of secular individuals who, like others presumably did, went through the required steps to be afforded a display?

I have  pointed out the fact that atheists are often treated quite unfairly — and even perhaps discriminated against — by government officials, family members, and ‘joe shmo religious folk.’ While not all religious individuals behave poorly, there exists a significant number of religious individuals who do that merit a post like this and what some consider my ‘whining.’

It’s quite interesting that those who talk about my ‘whining’ ignore what seems to be the discrimination and unfair treatment which follows activism. If there were not a problem, why would the discrimination and unfair treatment follow the activism? If a problem did not exist, one would expect less ‘whining’ from me and mostly ‘smooth sailing’ concerning what I do. It overwhelmingly appears to the be the case that pushback is experienced because the ‘message’ is connected to atheism; in so many cases, there is no pushback to ‘Christian messages.’

If you are an atheist who doesn’t like my tone, does not approve of my activism, or considers me to be ‘whining,’ I invite you — as I do to everyone else — to get involved with atheist activism in a public way in which you feel comfortable. Show me a way to go about activism which merits your approval. Speak with local press and other individuals upon engaging in activism and show me how to participate in interviews. Make a mark on not only the internet, but also your local community or your country.

If you don’t want to become involved and ‘show me how it is done,’ please feel free to directly address me with your complaints rather than complaining to others and providing no helpful constructive criticism whatsoever. As always, I am quite a public person who is very easy to contact.

Justin Vacula

Justin Vacula produces content about Stoic Philosophy; serves as co-organizer and spokesperson for the Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) Freethought Society; and hosts monthly Stoic Philosophy discussion groups for the Humanist Association of Greater Philadelphia. He has appeared on and hosted various radio shows and podcasts; participated in formal debates and discussions; was a guest speaker for college-level courses; was featured in local, national, and international news; and has been invited to speak at various national, local, and statewide events. Vacula received bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology, a minor in Professional Writing, and the distinguished W.A. Kilburn Memorial Award for Philosophy from King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He is pursuing a degree in Marywood University’s graduate-level Mental Health Counseling program and formerly worked for the Arc of Luzerne County’s Transition to Community Employment program as a teacher’s assistant and job coach alongside adult learners with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He also plays poker; volunteers as a member of the website and media team for the Greyhawk Reborn Dungeons & Dragons campaign and plays at events in the Eastern United States; and enjoys metal music.

  • pboyfloyd

    You get treated unfairly, you get to say that you’ve been treated unfairly! That’s fair! Ask for your money back! You didn’t pay to get a fucking runaround.

  • Far from being “whiny”, Justin, you’re actually one of the more effective debaters I’ve seen in the atheist community. I’ve seen podcasts of you taking on theists before, and you’re very effective. (Not sure if it would be divisive or helpful given the current atmosphere, but a debate between you and Greta Christina or PZ moderated by someone like CFI might be a good exposition of differences underlying the shouting match that’s currently taking place.)

  • NoCrossNoCrescent

    I am so sick of getting called “whiney” when there is clearly a double standard against us: if we vandalize other people’s signs we pay a price, but if others vandalize ours they go on TV and gloat.

  • Copyleft

    Don’t sit still for being called whiny, Justin. Insist on “uppity,” which has a much more honorable history.