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Local Atheist Hero: Devidyal Givens

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rug Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-08-11 02:48 PM
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Local Atheist Hero: Devidyal Givens
William Hamby
Atlanta Atheism Examiner
December 8, 2011

We've all read the heartwarming stories in Christian pamphlets, right? Somebody was just going along happily, living their life, until one day, tragedy struck. They found God, and now just look at how happy they are! It's proof that God exists, isn't it? He must be real, since a real person's life has been changed for the better. Right?

Well... maybe not. It might be that sometimes tragedy strikes, and people make it without god, but we never hear their stories for comparison. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with one atheist whose non-belief has strengthened as a result of overcoming personal struggles.

Devidyal Givens has been an atheist for most of her adult life. Now thirty-three, she has been quietly living her life without gods since she was in her early twenties. She owned and operated a small cafe in New Mexico, was active in the arts, and by all accounts, was having a fine life. Though people did go to church where she lived, she didn't feel like she was an outcast. "In New Mexico, I guess people go to church but it's not a major part of their lives," says Devidyal. "The entire time I lived there I can't remember one person asking me what religion I was and the rare occasion it came up and I said oh, I'm an atheist they'd say okay and conversation would continue."

In 2005, Givens moved to Atlanta, where she worked as a manager at the Flying Biscuit. Here, too, her non-belief was no big deal. "When I was in Atlanta, I was heavily involved in the art scene. I don't think I know anyone there that goes to church on a regular basis and if I do they certainly don't talk about it. No one ever asked me about my religious beliefs and if they did it was no big deal or they'd be curious and want me to tell them about atheism."
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dmallind Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-08-11 03:04 PM
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1. nice start.. but the meat comes later
Edited on Thu Dec-08-11 03:06 PM by dmallind
Even though I was raised in the South, I went to private Catholic schools. All my friends went to school with me and I was insulated by that world. I never noticed the insanity that is evangelicalism that was all around me. So Gainesville is my first one-on-one experience with people that truly believe the earth is 6,000 years old, evolution is a leftist conspiracy and anyone that doesn't believe every word of the bible is literal is going to hell. I encounter it every single day out here."

I've become much more vocal about my atheism. I'm tired of hearing how evil we are, how all the rapists, child molesters and murderers in the world are atheists and all the other evils they blame on me simply for not believing their fairy tales. I never considered myself an atheist activist until moving to Gainesville."

And oh, has she become an activist! Since enrolling in college to pursue her lifelong interest in neuroscience, she's been one of the biggest movers and shakers in the Gainesville secular community. She joined the Secular Student Alliance and due to her hard work and persistence, Gainesville State College recently hosted the biggest debate... well... probably ever, in Gainesville. Renowned atheist and former preacher Matt Dillahunty debated local Christian Mark Allison. (Read my synopsis HERE.)

"At school there are about a million Christian clubs and only our one secular club. The Secular Alliance can't keep our fliers on the walls for more than one day, they are often torn down almost as soon as we put them up. I believe one way to combat that fear is by exposure. If we create more clubs and have more of a presence on campus perhaps they won't be quite so frightened of us. I think the most important thing is to constantly tell people I am an atheist. I want them to associate a nice, young, good willed person with atheism."


This captures some frequently ignored uncomfortable truths.

For believers: The best way to avoid people making a big deal of their atheism is to avoid making a big deal of your religion in the first place.

For nonbelievers: You'll never improve the marginalization and hate directed against atheists without being active and organized. This whole "I'm a rugged individualist who doesn't see the point of collective atheism" stance is a recipe to stay the most hated and least accepted and trusted minority in America.
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qb Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-08-11 04:06 PM
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2. Atheists are also accused of doing nothing for society.
Aside from the scientific breakthroughs and other accomplishments by atheists throughout history, a notable success is the Atheist Centre in India that advocates for justice and helps poor people, women, victims of crime, and members of the "untouchable" caste.
Their director, Lavanam ("Salt") visited our atheist group while I was a student at the University of Minnesota.

Atheists for Human Rights is a Minnesota group that seeks to eliminate religious entanglement in government, defend civil liberties, and promote a secular morality.
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