In the last few days it seems that there has been some commotion on the subject of the A|N in the Atheosphere. I’ve been keeping myself busy with other things and haven’t been very active in the Nexus and thus I missed the actual conversation.
What happened in short is that after the donation request, some people raised concerns regarding where the money is going, why so much is needed and other assorted questions. It seems that there is a general feeling of distrust and skepticism on this issue which I think culminated with the recent posting from the Atheist Blogger.
Adrian has since changed his opinion on this after private correspondence he had with Brother Richard but I think the whole event was for the best.
You see, I am a big supporter of transparency and furthermore I am a skeptic. It goes against my nature to simply accept someone’s word that “it’s for a good cause”. Indeed I am diametrically opposed to the following statement from the donation page:
Quite a few members have chastised me for posting the below budget. Many feel that I am being way to open and only making it easier for people to make me a target for their scorn.
If anything, I feel that there was not enough information provided in the donation page which is what led to people to question the amount of money requested. If the A|N were to not just request this amount of money, but also keeps thins secret I wouldn’t have bothered donating. Indeed I avoided donating anything before I got a breakdown of the donation amount and even then I did it conservatively as many sums were suspicious.
I can truthfully say that the only reason I donated in the first place is because I’ve already invested some time and effort to the A|N and I’ve grown to trust Richard from private conversations. However this is certainly not true for all, and Richard cannot really have one-on-one chats with every member of the Nexus in order to build up the same level of trust, and this is where transparency comes into play.
All examples of the Rational Responders or the FFRF making a lot of money and keeping things secret mean absolutely nothing to me, for I have not donated to them either. However I do believe that people who donate to those causes do so because of the level of trust and goodwill the people in charge have built up. The A|N OTOH is very new in all this and there is basically very little reason for people to donate – until that trust and goodwill has had time to grow.
For each vocal person like Adrian Hayter, who comes out and declares the reasons why he is leaving or not donating, you can be certain that there will be 100 silent ones who have the exact same concerns. I had many of the exact same questions with regards to the donation breakdown but instead of driving me to write about it, I decided to wait and see.
For this reason, the A|N team should be actually glad that someone voiced these concerns. By having someone challenge the donation drive and ask for questions, we (the silent majority) have now a much more clear idea of what is going on and can decide either way. Indeed having such a “detractor” admit publicly that he was wrong, is a good thing in the long run. It is in A|N’s best interest to encourage skepticism, not hide it.
Frankly, those who seem determined to stick their heads in the sand bother me more than those asking tough questions. I am an atheist, but I was a skeptic first. To see dissent and skepticism discouraged in a community of atheists is surprising. The investigation was the right thing to do, and people should keep asking questions until they have been answered to everyone’s satisfaction.
Do not put your head in the sand and do not expect freethinkers to follow the religious motif of giving 10% of their income unquestionably. Yes, the respect to authority and the blind trust for “benevolent dictators” give the religious front much power and influence, but it is also part of their weakness.
You will never get the same behaviour from people like me, but make an effort to earn maintain our trust and 10% might start looking too little.