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Nonbelievers Reach Out

March 8, 2008

In this post, I will describe my vision for the outreach activities of the International Society of Secularists, the planned secular organization I plan to officially launch. Right now I can think of four major areas of focus for our outreach activities. The four areas are religious leaders and groups, the media, holders of public office, and other atheist/secular/nonreligious groups.The outreach activities for religious leaders and holders of public office will be fairly similar. Depending on the size of the chapter, either the outreach officer or chapter leader (or both) would be encouraged to write letters and phone calls asking for meetings with office holders and religious leaders.

Meetings with religious leaders will probably focus on asking them to refrain from denigrating secularists and secularism. Hopefully positive relationships with at least some religious leaders will be established, and the ISS members might then propose that atheist and religious groups work together on service projects, as well as have public dialogue events and perhaps even socials together.

Meetings with holders of public office will probably focus on separation of church and state topics and any civil rights issues that may be of concern to the chapter or perhaps entire ISS. Chapter leaders and chapter outreach leaders would probably meet with city council members, school board members, mayors, and state legislators. Regional leaders would probably seek meetings with mayors of larger cities, governors, state legislators, and possibly federal legislators. International leaders might seek meetings with governors, federal legislators, and federal leaders and cabinet members.

If religious leaders and holders of public office are unable or unwilling to meet, the ISS member can follow up with phone calls and letters. Occasional (polite) letters might be most appropriate when the person is unwilling to meet.

Establishing relationships with members of the media will be important because members of the media tend to have the ability to make the general public aware of issues of concern to the atheist community. They will also be able to make the public aware that atheists, and especially the ISS, are dedicated to service and community building. Such reporting alone will probably greatly improve public perception of atheists and atheism. Members of the media will also be able to provide a voice for the atheist community when issues of separation of church and state and discrimination exist.

Outreach to other atheist and non-religious organizations will be another important activity that the ISS will pursue. ISS leaders will attend the meetings of other organizations on local, regional, and national/international levels. We will establish relationships with their leaders and members. We will attend their local meetings, as well as large scale conferences. We will also communicate with them on a regular basis and praise them for their strengths.

I realize some of the ideas I have mentioned may seem radical to many atheists. Hopefully, however, one can get a sense that our unique approach will in fact raise the public opinion of atheists and atheism, as well as allow us to pursue our goals in ways not yet possible due to the way atheists approached them in the past.  Of course, that is not a detailed explanation, but I think if one reads several of my writings about the ISS, he or she will begin to understand the approach I am taking with this organization.

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