My activism begins...thanks to Margaret Downey

In early 2002 I was beginning graduate school.  After a year and a half away from school, I was very happy to be back.  I had not yet been active in any atheist community, nor had I ever heard of Margaret Downey.  My life was soon to go through a great change.

I moved into my place in West Chester, started classes, and was settled back into acadamia.  Very quickly I made friends with three other people in my classes, two of which were atheists, but we all had a strong like of beer and conversation.  One of those people was Staks, from dangeroustalk.net.   We had discussed how neither of us had been very active as atheists, but were both interested in the discussion going on about the West Chester courthouse and the plaque of the Ten Commandments on them.  We decided to do something about it.

Through the philosophy club and our positions as writers for the University paper, we threw in our views on the matter, and through some research we discovered the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia.  Staks and I discussed going to a meeting, and I was the first to take a stab at it. 

I had never been to such a meeting before, and found myself instantly interested. The first meeting I attended Margaret was not present.  The meetings were being led by a gentleman whose name I have since forgotten and who subseuently moved elsewhere.  But the discussions were lively and the people were largely friendly, so I returned.

Upon meeting Margaret for the first time, I instantly liked her.  Margaret is a warm, intelligent, and very capable woman.  I knew that had she been single every heterosexual man in the room would have been vying for her attention.  And through my first few meetings, I had a chance to talk with Margaret and get to know her.  Eventually, I started working in the FSGP office, which was not far from the campus, and got the opportunity to see how Margaret worked behind the scenes. 

The office at her house is filled with organized files of old newsletters, pictures, and other evidence of years of dedication.  There were times while working there that I would just hang out, off the clock of course, and read some of the old newsletters.  I would later write articles for the same newsletters as well as help organize FSGP events, and the next couple of years I slowly and very comfortably found myself a part of the atheist movement, which Margaret was helping to ignite and inflate.  I began to notice that the rest of the atheist world was starting to catch a glimpse of a person who would become a mover and shaker in the atheist community.

Then the books started to come.  There was Dennett, Dawkins, Harris, and so forth.  I was now finished with graduate school (MA in Philosophy), and was again working.  As the so called "new atheist" movement started to form, I watched as Margaret used the opportunity, as well as her closeness to such people as Richard Dawkins, to create wonderful meetings with awesome speakers.  Margaret found ways to keep us inspired in a time when fundamentalism had been doing so much to get under our skin.  She had been finding people who were knowledgeable and had something to add to the rational community.

When Margaret Downey was elected to the head of Atheist Alliance International, I was not in the least surprised.  I knew that the future of the AAI was bright, and that great things were coming if the recent convention is any indicator.  Now that the rest of us know it too, and I am looking forward to where this movement will lead. 

Margaret is a natural leader.  She is not only great at all she does, helps grow anything she nurtures, but she also inspires us to be better.  She is, if I may be so bold, a kind of atheist saint.  She embodies what any person would want to be; dedicated, hard-working, caring, intelligent, knowledgeable, beautiful, and always willing to give people around her a space to flourish.  So let us help Margaret help the atheist community flourish.  We have better days ahead of us, and we have Margaret to thank for much of this future.

We love you, Margaret!