Who is the Northern Skeptic?
It is funny, I write this post to launch a blog, yet I don’t know the answer to the question. My life and ideology has taken many winding turns to arrive where I am now, the number of adjectives I have used to describe myself covers a large range.
Redneck, Capitalist, Fundamentalist, Mormon, Christian, Right-Wing, Faithful, Saved, Chaste, for my youth these are some of the words that defined me.
Unsure, Agnostic, Doubting, Lost, Aimless, Searching, Incomplete, Gullible, Ignorant, these words covered a time after I lost my faith but still couldn’t define myself.
Conservative, Libertarian, Liberal, Socialist, the range of political ideologies I have entirely embraced at one time or another.
Then a few years ago I was poking around websites that had information about space, and space phenomena. As a kid I loved Sci-Fi, and I loved hearing about the manned space program, so every so often I poked into a website that talked about misconceptions, myths and outright lies about the space program. For those who are in the skeptical community you should already have figured out that I discovered the website of astronomer Phil Plait http://www.badastronomy.com . I couldn’t stop reading the site, I absorbed everything there from Phil’s debunking of Nancy Leiber’s ridiculous Planet-X claims, to Richard Hoaglands paranoid ramblings about aliens on mars and NASA covering it up. It was amazing.
For a while it was enough to just read the debunkings over and over again, however that all changed when I began to read his blog. Phil talked about more than just space and science, he talked about creationism and schools and critical thinking. I started to see that there was more going on in the world that just my floundering on the internet absorbing random websites. This was the beginning of a new chapter in my life.
Phil started a brief series of educational videos that he posted to YouTube, this placed me on an unalterable course. From Phil’s small YouTube channel I followed links to other youtubers and they linked to yet other youtubers, for example from the channel of Skepchick Rebecca Watson I found the “Blasphemy Challenge”. What this led me to was the YouTube Atheist Community. I discovered that people like me were talking about their lives and others were listening and commenting. I felt the need to speak and so I registered a username http://www.youtube.com/truenorth15.
Again it was an amazing paradigm shift for me, this did lead to one of the biggest realizations in my life. I am an atheist, those words were terrifying to me for many years I thought atheists were to be despised, ridiculed, mocked and now I realized I was one as well. I put out a couple of videos as an ardent agnostic before my self realization, by that point my new course was set.
I began participating in video chains, and projects. I logged into Stickam and spoke with other atheists live, but there was always something in the background that was calling to me. I realized not all atheists were there via the same path I took, I continued to read Phil’s blog but added others to my list too including PZ Meyers, Orac, Skeptico, and most notably James Randi’s Swift blog.
I was still an atheist but I found that I was identifying with the skeptic community too. I coasted along in this state for some time, until I was laid off from my job. I suddenly had loads of free time between job hunting and found something to do with it. I joined the local atheist society http://www.edmontonatheists.ca. Regular events kept me busy, and I enjoyed the company however something was missing, and that fortuitously came along in the form of a new local skeptical society edmontonskeptics.org. Little did I realize this was another major shift in my life.
In my unemployment I began to listen to podcasts, lots of podcasts. I listened to months worth of Skepticality, Non-Prophets, Atheist Experience, Skeptoid, and the venerable Skeptics Guide. I wanted more, so imagine my suprise when I found out that there was a local skeptical call in radio show qtransmissions.wordpress.com. I was hooked on the first episode I heard, and I had to call in. Pretty soon it became apparent that I had called in every single episode since I first started listening. You could say that I became the official fanclub for the show, in fact I purchased a small AM/FM radio so that if I was out I could listen to the show no matter what.
While this excitement was carrying on there was great political upheaval going on south of the border. We were about to see which direction our powerful neighbor to the south would take after 8 years of disasterous leadership. In the end the canidate I was hoping for won without question, but somebody lost. The loss that occured was to same-sex couples and their right to marriage. I remember thinking that they didn’t deserve rights that they were an abberation, I remember thinking they should be happy with civil-unions and no more. What changed? Me. I got to know a couple of gays and lesbians, and it got harder….no impossible for me not to see that they were people too deserving of the same equal rights that everybody else was. I started to empathize to the point that I could imagine the heartache that these fellow human beings were feeling.
It turns out I took this violation even more personally that just the frienships I had made, I also felt guilt. No I didn’t vote for the proposition, I didn’t campaign to remove their rights, but I had indirectly allowed my name to be associated with this campaign of hatred. At this time I am still listed as a member of the mormon church, this same church from the pulpit mobilized to abolish gay marriage completely in California. This was a violation of the separation between church and state and I was a quiet accomplice because I did not take the time to remove myself from the member records of this church. This is where I define myself again.
I have written a letter to member records in Utah using resources from http://www.mormonnomore.com, and timely input from my favorite activist Desiree. I will be mailing it within the next few days. With this act I become an activist.
So Who am I? I am an Atheist. I am a Skeptic. I am an Activist.
Take me as I am for I am Nathan Hinman.