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Progress Report

I have been working seven days a week since September 2008, but I have managed to make time to work on the first draft budget and strategic plan for the ISS.  Here they are:

Mission Statement: The mission of the International Society of Secularists is to improve the well being of the nonreligious worldwide by establishing social and support networks for secular communities on a local level, serving local communities at large, and reaching out to relevant individuals and groups.

I was having trouble pasting a chart into the post, so more info will be coming soon.

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Response to Benedict XVI

The AFP reports that Pope Benedict XVI made several interesting statements about the modern world and materialism July 19 in Sydney.  He allegedly:

…urged worshippers to become “messengers of love” to counter a “spiritual desert” spreading in the modern world, saying their youthful energy had helped reinvigorate the church.

“The world needs this renewal,” he said. “In so many of our societies, side by side with material prosperity, a spiritual desert is spreading, an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair.”

The pontiff has repeatedly railed against consumerism and greed through the week and again warned young worshippers to avoid “the shallowness, apathy and self-absorption which deaden our souls and poison our relationships.”

If Pope Benedict is claiming that a growing lack of faith is equal to a lack of love or morality, I certainly disagree. If he means that faith and spirituality are giving way to reason, how is that a bad thing?  The only thing I have ever noticed about non-religious people as far as an “emptiness” is concerned is that they sometimes are suffering psychologically because of the social isolation they often endure.

The sense of despair and emptiness Pope Benedict describes may also be an indirect result of other factors that accompany development. For example, more people live in and near urban areas in developed countries, where population density is much higher than we are likely evolved to cope with.  Workforces are also much more mobile where infrastructure allows it.  Although this is good for the economy, it may cause additional stress on people as they are forced to rebuild their social networks.  In a nutshell, the negative emotions described by Pope Benedict may have more to do with our evolutionary hardwiring than the fact that we are less religious.

It is normal for humans to be consumers and to stockpile resources. Resources help men attract mates and help women raise healthy children.  We are therefore likely to seek to acquire them, along with status symbols that imply we have them.  To rally against consumerism and greed is to rally against human nature.

An Early Logo for the International Society of Secularists

I recently created a low tech logo for my ISS Facebook interest group to help symbolize my vision for the organization.  Here it is:

Also, the Facebook interest group is a way for people to network with others that are interested in the organization.  Feel free to take a look.  You can find it at:

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=10903714877&ref=ts

Barack Obama Endorses Faith Based Initiatives

When I first saw part of a speech made by Obama in 2006, it seemed as though he was very close to promoting a strong separation of church and state point of view.  However, when I viewed the speech in its entirety, I saw that Obama was attempting to make observations about church and state from both the left and right.  He offered points of advice for both conservatives and progressives on how he thinks religion and politics should interact.  So instead of proposing a reenforcement of the wall between church and state, it seems he was actually calling for a kind of pluralistic movement towards the center on church and state issues.

About a week ago, Obama endorsed the use of faith based initiatives to give funding to religious organizations that perform community service.  While I commend Obama’s lifelong commitment to community service, this particular decision troubles me.  The organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State has voiced its objections to the press, and hopefully atheist and secular organizations are doing so as well.  If leaders of both of the two major political parties in the United States endorse faith based initiatives, it seems as though permanent erosion to the wall separating church and state might occur.  What leading politicians will now speak for the non-religious, who are likely to object to having their tax dollars given to religious organizations?  Obama is reaching out to religious conservatives in an apparent attempt to poach their votes from the Republican Party, but he risks alienating the non-religious.  Perhaps it is the correct strategic decision; maybe religious conservatives are better organized and will donate more money… or maybe Obama’s campaign strategists think that his left wing and secular supporters are likely to stay with him while he causes former loyal Republican voters to switch parties.

Obama later clarified that the money would not be able to be used to proselytize, and that federal dollars would have to be used on secular programs.  However, it seems as though a religious organization, even if it did indeed use the federal money only for community service programs, would then have that same amount of money freed up in its budget plan for uses such as… proselytizing.

Obama, according to the Associated Press, has said that he will make his Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships the moral center of his administration – perpetuating the false dichotomy between religion and morality.  It seems as though the myth that societies and individuals need religion in order to be prosperous and moral will continue for some time – or at least for four more years.

More on Barack Obama’s Speech on Religion

I found out where the speech I mentioned a few posts back by Barack Obama was made, thanks to James Dobson…  It was a speech made to the group called Call to Renewal on June 28, 2006.  The reason I found out is because the press has been paying attention to remarks made about it by Dobson.  I might disagree with Obama about his comments regarding the pledge of allegiance, but for the most part I tended to agree with what he had to say.   Here is the full speech, courtesy of Youtube:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

David Silverman’s Response

A couple posts back, I shared how I wrote this comment on the blog sponsored by American Atheists and administered over by David Silverman, which can be found at http://www.nogodblog.com:

Congratulations, David and Kathleen (on being appointed to the Board of Directors). David, I personally think your appointment to the Board is overdue by about 10 years, give or take. But better late than never. Is the board considering terms and term limits? One book on nonprofits that I’m reading says that in many organizations, once a board member serves the term limit, they have to leave the board for at least a year. Afterwards, they are able to rejoin it. Also, if you haven’t already, you might consider recruiting board members with a diverse range of abilities and experience. For example, one with experience in accounting, one with experience in web design, one with marketing experience, etc… Is the board considering hiring an executive director? It seems that most nonprofits that reach a certain size will hire an executive director who runs the day to day operations of the organization, and the board is there to provide oversight, knowledge, and fund raising contacts… Does AA have an up to date strategic plan? Up to date handbooks for board members, staff, volunteers, state and local leaders? Does AA regularly put out a call for volunteers, contact community colleges and universities for both volunteers and interims, and place ads for interims? -Andrew Clapper

Here is Silverman’s response:

(Andrew), Our board HAS broadened recently with the addition of Edwin (Attorney), Kathy (Military), Arlene (Local Groups) and myself (pretty face). You’re going like the changes over the next year.

Although Silverman addressed the question of the need for a larger board, the idea is to have a board of experts that are able to make sure that the organization is run efficiently and professionally. There is nothing wrong with having activist board members, but I can not help but wonder if certain areas of the organization’s management are being neglected.

The post on the expansion of the Board of Directors of American Atheists can be found here:

http://www.atheists.org/nogodblog/index.php/2008/06/09/news_dave_and_kathleen_join_the_board

Barack Obama and John McCain on Religion

I noticed this very interesting speech given by Barack Obama tonight. I don’t know where or when he gave it, but it seems like he is on the verge of advocating separation of church and state.

I have not yet found a recent video featuring John McCain on religion. It appears he has been very quiet on the topic lately:

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0408/9361.html

However, I did find a video from before the primary season that is somewhat troubling – somewhat because he was at least partially making these statements with the primary season in mind:

I don’t (publicly) endorse either candidate, but it seems as though these two different approaches to the issue of separation of church and state might contribute to the decision of non-believers.