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Secularist Community Building

February 25, 2008

You might notice that in my last post I proposed a list of activities that the secularist organization I plan to found would engage in.  One thing that hopefully stood out was that there is much more listed there besides the activism ideas.  Although activism is important, especially in an organization that is designed among other things to protect and promote civil rights, in my opinion it’s not all there is.  In fact, one of the core ideas that have influenced me in this planning stage is that there are very few large organizations that spend a significant amount of time and energy bringing local secularist communities together.

When I say there are very few organizations that bring local atheist communities together, I mean specifically national and international organizations.  There are in fact several local organizations in the United States that make community building a high priority.

The United States Atheists claim to have built the first atheist community center in the US, and I would not be surprised if it’s true.  Last year, their organization helped organize a Catholic and Atheist Dialogue night.  It appears that they at some point either intended to expand and become a national organization, or maybe that was the plan from the start.  However, they currently appear to have only one chapter that services the Portland, Oregon area.

The Minnesota Atheists are another highly active group in the local community.  They have a well designed website, radio show, cable tv show, and newsletter.  Their bylaws are consistent with the spirit of positive atheism.  They are currently raising funds to build a building that will, among other things: host an atheist library, provide a base of operations for the group, and give them a site for community activities and fundraisers.

The Atlanta Freethought Society is another locally organized group of non-theists with goals that are very close to those I have in mind for the International Society of Secularists.  Their goals and history are very clearly stated on their website, which I think is important.  Their activities appear to be built around social events such as social hours/meals and a book reading group.

Now, granted, there are several national and international organizations that are indeed well organized and active.  They include American Atheists, Atheist Alliance International, The Secular Coalition for America, and the American Humanist Association.  The last three appear to be umbrella organizations of independent groups.  American Atheists does in fact have local and state leaders, although its emphasis appeared to be on the national organization when I was a member.

One main idea behind the International Society of Secularists is that it would combine the community building done by some of the local groups I mentioned earlier with the resources and influence of the national and international organizations.  I may be wrong, but it appears that no such organization exists yet.

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