I would like to encourage all of our readers in Phoenix to pick up a New Times this week. It’s got great pictures and an overall good story, but I would also like to give a little bit of a response and clarification on a few issues.
I do understand that they took a particular interest in Omar. He is an interesting, well spoken and good looking guy with a good story to tell, so the fact that the rest of us are a bit buried in the article is alright. What I don’t like is the Secular Free Thought Society (and me in particular) being painted as the villains and unwanted hangers-on who followed Omar down to Mill like lost puppies.
As Omar knows, but apparently Niki forgot, the Mill Avenue Resistance started when I started visiting Mill on a regular basis and arguing with preachers by myself. I believe it was the first night of doing that when I met a former street preacher named Emmanuel who was also having one on one discussions with preachers, and the initial group was formed.
Shortly after that I started making tracts to pass out and Emmanuel and I started talking to passers-by as well as the preachers, but it wasn’t until about two months later when Omar showed up with his megaphone that we were really able to make a difference in what the preachers were doing.
Omar and Jim have played an important part in the development of the Mill Avenue Resistance, intentionally or not, but we are not his groupies. We are out there every week, whether or not Omar is around.
Just to be clear, Emmanuel and I started going out there individually at first, and Omar and Jim showed up independently as well. None of us followed any of the others down there, and in fact with Emmanuel and I not having a speaker yet, Omar and Jim didn’t even notice that we were there the first night they came out. We definitely noticed the megaphone though.
Since then we have developed in parallel. I have always considered Omar and Jim to be somewhat peripheral members of the group, but they have seen themselves as more independent. Either way you look at it though, although I respect them and value their contributions to what I see as the betterment of Mill Avenue, I am not and never have been either following or intentionally interfering with Omar and Jim.
Historically, the Mill Avenue Resistance goes where the preachers go, and it is generally the same for Omar and Jim. For the most part this has not been a problem, particularly since most of us were using similar methods most of the time, but as we have more and more people wanting to speak, and as some of us begin to change our ideas about the most effective ways of accomplishing our goals, there is some friction. We are doing our best to resolve these issues and get everyone back on the same page again though.
It is not a situation where one brilliant man must shake off the chaff and let his singular glory shine through, it is a situation where many people with similar goals are attempting to do similar things in the same place, but not everything is meshing as well as it could at times. As far as I can tell though, there is no animosity between any of us, and I am confident that the issues which we have will be resolved to the satisfaction of nearly everyone involved.
Another problem I saw in the article was that I am not the founder of the Secular Free Thought Society of ASU. I do have a strong connection with the group, and I did help bring together the people who re-formed it (although Brother Jed deserves more credit for that than I do), but betterthanfaith.com and the Mill Avenue Resistance are the only things I can claim credit for starting myself.
Finally I would like to clarify (or un-clarify) what my intention is on Mill. Jim sees it more as an art project, and Omar may see it that way too. To an extent I see it that way, but I don’t have a singular reason for being there or one way of looking at it. If I have to pick something though, I see it mostly as an educational exercise. I want to share what I know about the world and religion in particular, and I want to add to that knowledge by learning from anyone who wants to talk to me.
I do want people to know the whole truth about the Bible and the things the preachers are saying, and I do hope that the things I tell them will make them think and do more research, but after that it is up to them. I am only trying to convert people to atheism inasmuch as I am trying to present the facts and opinions that have led me to my own disbelief.
There are some other minor mistakes related to me, the SFTS and the preachers in the article, but they’re probably not worth mentioning. Basically I see it as a good article about Omar and a somewhat less accurate and fair article about the rest of us.
I understand though that the author can only report it the way she sees it, and conflict helps the story, so we get stuck playing the villains a bit. If it helps with what we’re doing though, then I’m willing to take the hit, and Niki, you’re still welcome to come hang out with us any time.
Congratulations on the overall good article and very amusing pictures Omar!