Armin Navabi was born and raised in a Muslim country. He was taught in school that the only way to avoid hell was to believe in Allah and Muhammad as his prophet, pray five times a day, and not sin, which proved to be much more difficult than he expected when he became old enough to start noticing girls. Studying history and biology made Armin doubt the existence of God, and by age 18 he was an atheist. Given that he still lived under an Islamic regime, he intended to keep his thoughts to himself. However, after witnessing firsthand the crimes committed in the name of God, he decided to speak out. Armin is the founder of Atheist Republic, a website with the tagline, "We are not just atheists. We are atheists who care."
1. When did you start Atheist Republic, and what motivated you to launch the site?
It started merely as a Facebook page just over a year and a half ago. After the Facebook page grew significantly, we started building the website. Most of the work on the website started about six months ago. With more than 749,000 fans, the Atheist Republic now has the largest atheism related page on Facebook.
2. Why did you decide on a website for your project rather than publishing a book, for example, or a print zine?
The online reach and flexibly of the website and social media outlets are a much more efficient way to reach out to people--especially in places where atheism is looked down upon or sometimes can get you killed. For example, one of the most popular types of content we share with our fans is high quality atheism related memes. So far we have created around 300 memes which are posted on the Facebook page. These memes mostly feature famous atheist quotes. We are still working on getting all of them on our website. The images work best as a conversation starter which is carried out in the comment section after they are posted. By posting them on our Facebook page, many people have been exposed to new ways of thinking.
3. What are your criteria for selecting content to appear on your site?
Atheist Republic aims to give a voice to opinions of its community, and that is why it is called a republic. We allow anything that is related to atheism as long as it does not violate some basic principles. Those principles are: no racist, homophobic, or sexist comments; no trolls; no spam; no gory pictures; and no personal attacks or threats of harm. We don't claim to be speaking for the entire atheist community, so our principles are not an atheist creed of any sort. We only represent our own community and abide by our own standards.
4. What do you personally think makes for a strong piece of content?
The best kinds are ones where the author or designer inserts some of her/his own personality within the content. The most effective way to achieve that is by telling a story. This way the viewer can relate personally to the content creator which will have a significantly higher impact on the reader.
5. Would you like to share a sample of your own writing with us?
Yes, here's a link to a piece I published in May of 2013 called "Islamophobia: An Oxymoron to Intimidate the Critics of Islam."