Yesterday I attended the 2nd annual Philadelphia Coalition of Reason (PhillyCoR) Picnic. PhillyCoR is an umbrella organization which unites several freethought, Humanist, atheist, and secular organizations together. The picnic was a great way to mix all of our respective groups together and to engage in intellectual dialog, brainstorming, and just some pleasant conversation.
One of the most important aspects of this picnic however, was to help form a greater community of reason. That is what PhillyCoR is about and what the new UnitedCoR is seeking to do in cities around the nation. The Coalitions of Reason are a great first step in creating and strengthening the community. But it isn’t enough in and of itself.
For starters, let me ask a rhetorical question to my atheist readers. Are you a member of your local freethought group? Most atheists are not and yet if we are to form a community, a support system for dealing with the theistic pressures of society, and a voting block capable of countering the Religious Right, we need to take the first step by joining our local freethought groups. Usually people can become members of their local groups for less than $50. Usually the membership costs are about $35. What about national atheist groups? Most atheists are not members of any of the larger organizations either.
Toward the end of the picnic, I was talking with a few fellow freethinkers about one of the other problems that I see within the community of reason. Atheists don’t support each other nearly as much as we should. The truth is that I am just as guilty of this as most other atheists, but I am going to try to change that and you should too.
A few of my friends have written atheist books which they have self-published (despite my objections to self-publishing) and I have yet to support them by buying their books. So, today I plan on buying “Of Men and Muses” by Tom Verenna and “Malevolent Design” by Matt Edwards. One thing that I think my fellow atheists can and should do is to support the efforts of other atheists.
There are also many atheist podcasts and shows out there. Shows like the Infidel Guy and The Atheist Experience which depend on listener support. Atheist blogs (including this one) often have donate or contribute buttons which are rarely actually used. But times are tough right now and like most people atheists don’t have a lot of extra money flowing around that they can just throw around. But I think almost everyone has a few dollars to spare here and there. So I think that if you enjoy a particular podcast or blog, you should donate at least $5 every once in awhile. That’s not enough to break anyone’s piggy bank, but it is enough to let people know that you appreciate what they are doing.
The sad fact is that it is really embarrassing. Christians generally are having the same tough times that we are and yet they donate their last dollar to churches and Christian ministries. Now I don’t think anyone should donate their last dollar, so if you really can’t put food on the table, then please don’t feel bad about not supporting your fellow freethinkers, but the fact is that very few people are really in that bad of a financial state. We can all certainly afford to support the each other’s efforts a little bit every now and then. I don’t think atheists will ever really donate to atheistic endeavors in the same way Christians donate to Christian ministries, nor do I think we need to compete in that way. We don’t generally use fear and guilt to get people to “sacrifice” until it really hurts (like Jesus). That type of soliciting donations I think is dishonest and cruel. But I do think that the atheist community needs to do better than we currently are doing.
Not all contributions necessarily need to be monetary either (although monetary contributes certainly help a lot). There are things we can do to support each other which are free. We can help promote our fellow atheists blogs, podcasts, youtube videos, etc. We can post links to various social networking sites, use word of mouth to help promote other people’s projects, and simply contribute ideas.
The message for today is that atheists need to start supporting each other and forming stronger communities with each other. People of reason need to start organizing. When I first de-converted from theism, I felt alone as an atheist. It was before the internet was widely used. Now we can find like minded people all over the country. The fact is that there are atheists all over the country in every state. We don’t have to be alone any more.