Atheism and Volunteerism (and the thoughtful secular life)

Atheists Talk TV has a nice interview with Erick Jayne (James Zimmerman does the interview) regarding volunteerism and atheism:

One thing often lost in the various calculations about volunteerism has to do with what people do when they lead a thoughtful secular life. Various helping organizations are run by private non profits, often religious, and contributing to those efforts counts as volunteerism (if you do stuff) or charitable giving (if you give stuff). Fine. But in a world more oriented towards secularism, we would do more via the secular civic organizations at the local, state, national, and international level. When we pay taxes and as activists insist that some of that goes to “foreign aid” that, in theory, is like charitable giving but via a different rout that counts less than when a Mormon gives 10% of his or her income to the Mormon Church which then, in turn, uses that money for various things.

One of the problems that then emerges within the secular community is this: A certain percentage of atheists are also Libertarians, who don’t believe that civic institutions, ranging from the city that might make room for a community garden or a food shelf to the UN’s relief units, should be large, or even exist. I suspect that many of those individuals do not spent excessive amounts of time volunteering or giving money to non profits (prove me wrong if you like). They are therefore pulling back from most forms of helping each other that are used by much of the rest of society, including work and donations via church, non-religious non-profits, and civic institutions. That is not good.

I suspect, but can not prove, that all else being equal, the average person leading a thoughtful secular life tips more at the coffee shop than the average Libertarian atheist or the average religious person who pays a tithe. This is underscored (though in a purely self confirming non-data based way, I quickly add) by the occasional high profile event such as the pastor who stiffed the server with the nasty note on the check about how she gives money to god, why should she give it to some slob that brought her dinner. Again, I could be wrong about all this. This may be just me assuming that nice people are nicer than non-nice people, and being thoughtfully secular and humanistic is nicer. Nicest even.

Should secular organizations combine? Or should we try to look big?

In a recent Minnesota Atheists newsletter, oft-times president and general all round Atheist Leader August Berkshire wrote about the idea of Humanists of Minnesota and Minnesota Atheists combining. He notes that this may have been impossible in the pas when the philosophies of the two groups may have been quite different, but that now the philosophies are pretty much the same.

I have to say that I agree that as far as I can tell, Minnesota Atheists members and Humanists of Minnesota don’t seem to be at odds. I’ve seen members of the two groups in the same place many times and fights, or even mild arguments, never break out. Of course, this is Minnesota, so I may be missing something. Perhaps there are withering stern looks that I’m mising. but I don’t think so.

I also agree, and this is almost an aside with this observation by August:

“In my almost 30 years of atheist activism, it seems to me that virtually every schism, split, or separation in the freethought movement was based on personalities, ego, desire for power, or quibbles about a name – not on atheist/humanist philosophy. Can we rise above our differences for the greater good of coming together under the banner of a unified atheist and secular humanist organization? Should we? Or are there rational obstacles that are just too great to overcome?”

There seems to be nothing to stop Minnesota Atheists and Humanists of Minnesota from melding. They can call themselves MASH. Minnesota Atheists and Humanists of Minnesota.

But there is a down side that I want to point out because I think it is important. Numbers. Right now there are these two major groups and one or to other Minnesota based secular groups other than CASH. That is not very many different groups.

This problem occurred to me a few years ago when I was strolling among the UMN student group tables during “put your student groups out on tables” day on the Saint Paul campus. There as a table for each of at least 15 different clearly religious groups and probably a half dozen or more groups that were not explicitly religious but that were in fact religious just under the surface. And the tables out that day represented about a third, or less, of the actual groups out there. And then there was CASH, the one, single, lonely secular student group on campus. CASH has a couple of dozen members. If those members were distributed among six explicitly secular groups, they would have had six tables at that event.

More recently I attended the Anoka county Youth Gay Pride day fest, held on the banks of the Mississippi a few blocks down the street from my house. There were about 10 groups represented there that had to do with gay youth, and at least half of them were explicitly religious (i.e, they were churches). Had there been a table for Minnesota Atheists that would have been just one explicitly secular group. If there were five or six explicitly secular organization involved in human rights and social justice in Minnesota, there could have been a few of them at that event, giving the churches a run for the money.

Ditto for the May Day parade. Ditto for Pride Fest. Ditto for whatever-whatever. You get the point.

Perhaps instead of Minnesota Atheists and Humanists of Minnesota, merging, maybe they should each undergo mitosis!

OK, no one is going to go for that, but there are ways we can both combine and make ourselves larger. The two organizations can form the Minnesota Secular Coalition and also the Committee for Secular Approaches for Social Justice (CSASJ) and contribute a few people to each one to help run them. These organizations would provide a vehicle for outreach to communities that we are currently not reaching but that are reachable. Then, once or twice or even three times a years, at the right moments, we can put out a bit of extra effort and all of us can staff tables at some event or another.

And, then, instead of having a dozen churches and poor little us at one table, we can have a dozen churches and a half dozen us. Give them a run for the money I say!

In the mean time, we could perhaps consider a combined membership deal. For a bit extra, you can expand you membership in one group to include the other group(s) at the same time.

We can take a page out of the books of nature. A whole chapter, perhaps. The chapter on “looking bigger.” And sometimes, a little scary might be good too.

Updated with some corrections.

Bob Grisham, Lauderdale County High, Rogersville, AL

Bob Grisham is a teacher and football coach at this Alabama high school. He has a few things to say about Michele Obama which one might consider offensive and racist, and he has a few things to say about gay people, which one might consider offensive and homophobic.

A yahoo like Bob Grisham would be fired for saying the things he said in most school districts around the US. But what will happen to him in some Stupid State like Alabama? He’ll probably get a medal.

But maybe what he said wasn’t really offensive and I’m over interpreting. You be the judge:

What time is the Superbowl on? And what station is the Superbowl on? And who’s Playing, and what is the halftime show?

The Huffington Post has written an utterly gratuitous post designed to do nothing but garner Google Search Hits, providing information about this Sunday’s Superbowl. It is well known that all sports fans automatically know when their favorite sports events are on, as this information is beamed to chips planted in or near their brains. Nonetheless, there are people who don’t receive this information automatically but still need to know it. For instance, the Superbowl is a great time to do shopping at the mall, or even better, Best Buy or the Sports Authority, assuming you know where those stores are located and what the store hours are.

For those of you who need to know the Superbowl details, here they are:

The teams will be the San Francisco 49ers vs. the Baltimore Ravens, and the game is on Feb 3rd, this Sunday.

The start time of the game is 6:30PM Eastern, 5:30PM Central.

The game will be on CBS (click here to find your local station) and streamed here on line.

According to Huffington Post, “There will also be several hashtags to track on Twitter, including #Ravens, #SBRavens, #49ers, #Niners, #QuestforSix, #SB47 and #HarBowl.”

Beyonce will be featured during the Halftime Show.

There will also be the usual amazing commercials.