New Times Article: Performance Atheist

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!

This entry was posted in News by Kazz. Bookmark the permalink.

About Kazz

My name is Shawn Esplin and I am an advocate of Free Thought and general good sense and thought in general. To that end, I encourage people to seriously question the things that they have been taught, especially as children, because many of these things - religious and secular - are taken on faith until we actively choose to seriously examine them for ourselves.

3 thoughts on “New Times Article: Performance Atheist

  1. Another error?

    Omar Call may have quote “bookworm intellect” BUT
    he most certainly does not KNOW Hebrew in the
    real sense of the word KNOW – on this I am willing to bet
    my chonies.

    VM

    PS – “OK” article, although I did sense a strong strand of HERO WORSHIP
    from the author (whom I do nonetheless like and respect) …

  2. This is a pretty good article about Omar and yes, I definitely see glimmers of hero worship here. Omar’s performances are definitely creative and thought provoking. Amerist: I think the shots are from a professional studio session specifically for the article.

    Other than some minor issues of not getting the who, what, when, where, why and how facts straight, I guess my biggest grievance is her portrayal the SFTS. As he states here, Shawn is not the leader of this group, but the Mill Ave Resistance and BetterThanFaith.com were his creations. He would hesitate to call himself the leader even of the Resistance; but apparently there is a lack of leadership here that he or someone needs to step up and deal with.

    The reporter tries hard to reinforce the differences in appearances and associate them with intent. SFTS is shown as a bunch of in-your-face douchebags who love death metal and dress like hobos; therefor they’re a rude and anarchistic bunch of thugs to those to whom they “preach”. I find it funny that she mentions Dunkin’ Donuts so much…. especially since she brought the donuts in the first place. Describing the resistance as a “chaotic club party” where things get “out of control” and “disintegrate into anarchy” may be a fair assessment from her point of view and that is something to think about.

    Putting Shawn as the “leader” of this rag-tag group she describes really pisses me off and I’m not sure if it was because Shawn was the willing patsy she was looking for or if nobody else would talk to her. Maybe she just wanted to use him to show conflict between the artist and the rabble “wanna bes”. I know he put a lot of time and effort into putting things together for her for this story, and to be characterized so unflatteringly is really insulting. It’s especially infuriating because I don’t think Shawn is out there trying to convert people to atheism and the way she portrays him as a gigantic wiener who has no control over “his” group infuriates me.

    The way it’s written it makes it look like Omar is embarrassed by the SFTS and does not want to be associated with them. With the way the group is described in the article, I wouldn’t want to either.

    So I guess enough bitching about the slant in the article. What needs to be done straight away is make changes that put SFTS in a much better light. I don’t think this means suits and ties, but it probably means not screaming at the preachers and turning things into a circus sideshow. Maybe put a damper on the death metal. Maybe be better organized. Maybe do something positive and support some local charities. Do SOMETHING besides showing up on Friday and Saturday nights to shout at the preachers.

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