Thomas Sheedy is the President and Founder of Atheists for Liberty and a Founding Member of the CLARITy Coalition, a diverse group of academics, activists, writers, journalists, and more who came together to expose and oppose Islamism. Thomas attended the first CLARITy conference in Salzburg, Austria last year.
Thomas’s work as an atheist activist is a testament to CLARITy’s commitment to viewpoint diversity. CLARITy’s members include Muslims, ex-Muslims, atheists, and people of many other backgrounds and beliefs. Invigorated by the idea of joining such a wide-ranging group of people brought together in pursuit of a common goal, Thomas leaped into the fight to defend democratic values against Islamist tyranny.
AHA Foundation: Thanks for speaking with us today, Thomas. Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself and your organization Atheists for Liberty?
Thomas Sheedy: Before starting Atheists for Liberty, I was President of the Long Island Atheists and have been involved in numerous nonprofit organizations and political endeavors. I have always wanted to speak up for the values I and many others believe in, and I was excited by the New Atheist wave in the mid-2000s. With bestselling books from Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and others proudly championing atheism and reason, I felt inspired. The success of these books led to the creation of secular think tanks and community organizations and encouraged the rise of secular activists and content creators, all standing up for America’s great tradition of religious freedom and secularism.
Unfortunately, New Atheism petered out due to political infighting. That’s why I founded Atheists for Liberty, a 501(c)(3) organization that defends the fundamental freedoms that support the human quest for knowledge and the separation of religion and government. I wanted to build an organization to represent the next evolution of the atheist movement, which would create a nonpartisan force of activists and thinkers ready to take on today’s challenges from a secular perspective.
AHA Foundation: How did you come to be a Founding Member of CLARITy Coalition?
Thomas Sheedy: I was invited to join the CLARITy Coalition by the wonderful Yasmine Mohammed, an ex-Muslim human rights activist and Advisory Board member at Atheists for Liberty. It’s a privilege to be a part of such an amazing and diverse group of people ready to defend civilization from the grave threat of Islamist tyranny. The coalition is growing thanks to the work of myself and others on its membership committee and I’m thrilled to see what our future successes will look like. With continuing unrest in Iran and the anniversary of the horrific attack on Salman Rushdie coming up soon, CLARITy’s mission has never been more important.
AHA Foundation: Do Atheists for Liberty and CLARITy share any similar values? Is it important that Muslim reformers, ex-Muslims, atheists, and people of other beliefs come together to combat Islamism?
Thomas Sheedy: There are some clear differences between Atheists for Liberty and the CLARITy Coalition. For one, Atheists for Liberty’s membership is mainly composed of nonreligious Americans and ex-Muslims while the CLARITy Coalition has religious, including Muslim, members. Both organizations complement each other to bring as many individuals into the fold as possible to combat Islamism from different angles. At our core, we share a commitment to secular and democratic values against theocratic tyranny.
The great advantage of CLARITy, and the most exciting thing about it for me, is that it bridges the divide between people from multiple continents from various religious and political backgrounds. We need to be as broad as humanly possible to defeat the terrible threat of Islamism.
AHA Foundation: What did you learn from the inaugural CLARITy conference in Europe last year?
Thomas Sheedy: So much was discussed at the conference that it’s hard to answer this question briefly! Most importantly, I learned a great deal about how Islamism works in America, which gave Atheists for Liberty a bit of homework! I hope we can use what was learned at the conference to sharpen our efforts against Islamism in America and beyond. That is what is great about CLARITy—each member can take things away from it and build what they have learned into their own networks, whether they are activists, academics, writers, or anything else. By doing this, we can amplify our efforts far beyond what we could achieve individually.
AHA Foundation: What are Enlightenment values and how can CLARITy and Atheists for Liberty promote them?
Thomas Sheedy: Enlightenment values boil down to the view that reason and evidence are the best ways to solve the world’s problems, rather than monarchy, theology, or absolutism. Atheists for Liberty has Enlightenment values at its core, with its mission to promote secularism and reason against all forms of tyranny. CLARITy Coalition is not an atheist group, as I have already said, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t committed to Enlightenment values. These values are universal, and CLARITy’s commitment to secular, democratic values and its opposition to theocratic tyranny marks it as an Enlightenment-inspired organization.
AHA Foundation: What does the future look like for both CLARITy and Atheists for Liberty?
Thomas Sheedy: Atheists for Liberty will be going on tour during the fall 2023 semester to Question the Dominant Culture, bringing our values to 24 different campuses nationwide and spurring the next evolution of the atheist movement. With the additional growth of our State Director program, we will move the nation closer to an America where the nonreligious are common, embraced, and celebrated universally. The future of the CLARITy Coalition is also promising, with new members joining each month. I look forward to seeing a large and diverse group of politicians, activists, and other freethinkers working together to defeat Islamism around the world.
AHA Foundation: Would you like to add anything else to our readers?
Thomas Sheedy: Ayaan Hirsi Ali has had a profound impact on me and so many of our Atheists for Liberty members. I’m honored to appear in her foundation’s blog.