Hi Jane. I don't know where in SA you are, but in Cape Town at least, we're becoming increasingly visible, although far more can be done! The Free Society Institute, which I chair, is a registered NPO, and frequently contributes letters to the press, op-ed's and so forth, as well as doing things like launching an ASA case against PowerBalance. We're a member of the IHEU, hosting (usually) annual conferences and (usually) monthly Skeptics in the Pub events. But despite this, I have to agree with your observation re. invisibility, because so few people get involved actively - so critical mass is difficult to generate. Anyway - let me know where you are. If you're in CT, I can tell you more about what we're doing (there's a skeptics in the pub on the 20th of Jan, for example), and if elsewhere, point you in the direction of contacts I've made in your area.
Aye, I've heard some horror stories re. Unisa, but I'm sure they're the tip of the iceberg! I think I met Tanya at the LA conference last year, but in any case, glad to hear she's heard of us. The JHB crew are actually quite organised, especially in terms of community solidarity. There's a sceptics in the park on Saturday, Jan 22 at Zoo lake, so if you're free then, go and meet them: https://www.facebook.com/events/233471210062234/ . Most of the South African atheist chatter is on Facebook, usually cross-posted to the SA Sceptics group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/25920789463/ . Owen Swart & Michael and Angela Meadon do a weekly podcast on matters sceptical and sciencey, as does Deon Barnard (not weekly, if I recall correctly).
I am available for campaigning. I live in Tokai, so I can easily coordinate with you. All the skeptics, humanist stuff its all fine, but I am really interested in hard core atheism, without any of the euphemisms. I would like to see us pick first a single unifying issue that we can rally around. One at a time we pick and win the issues that matter.
The kind of thing that interests me is ICASA bringing a court action against Top TV about their porn channels. I like this type of issue becasue I neither watch porn or have much interest in it, except that I defend any persons rights to watch whatever they want. The idea that religious people bring, that free thought somehow "damages" society is the first step to closing athiests down. If porn damages us, imagine what denying prophets or messiahs does. By aligning ourselves to other groups we start to out flank the theists and show them to be the biggots that they are.
I find the deification of a man insulting to human intelligence and while the claims of prophets to have direct lines of thinking to God are only marginally less ridiculous, both concepts are rooted in pathological irreverence to reality and are severly offensive to the rational mind. Now if theists find pornographers so dangerous as to wish to limit their private viewing habits, imagine what they think of me and person who think like me. Its a bit like PW Botha and the total onlslaught. Let us fight them on the peripheral issues before they get to the core of our beliefs, and start strangling us for who we are.
While I think it is great that you have your own society and I am sure you are an able president thereof, I would however prefer to work inside the context of Atheist Nexus and use the momentum that they have. It is a lot stronger when we make public statements on behalf of a high profile international organisation. Brother Richard is a full time atheist, without a day job and he has an able and full record as a card carrying atheist. \it si difficult to fault his public statmetnt adn he creates a great framework in which to function. When Bishop Tutu speaks he carries with him the full weight of the Anglican Church. So should it be with us. We cannot be simply Jaques, Philip and Jane.
We need to open a line of organised activity and make sure that Brother Richard is fully behind us.
I work in the open source software industry and one of the rallying points we have is a world software freedom day. A world atheist day - like Good Friday or Eid will give us a rallying point for media promotion. You will surprised how quickly it comes around.
OK - give me the unifying issue...
We aren't simply Jacques,Philip and Jane. In my case, I'm pursuing a strategy agreed upon by an executive committee, with input from members at things like AGM's. So I'm not in a position to make ad hoc arrangements here. It sounds to me like our (ie. yours vs. the FSI's) strategies aren't aligned, even though our causes are. For example, I've written on the TopTV thing, and will be presenting at the public hearings. But none of this happens on Atheist Nexus, because I've never found any SA atheists here besides you (and now Jane), and only joined here to respond to your post a while back. By contrast, there are already hundreds of people on other social networking platforms (Facebook, even though I don't like FB), so it makes no strategic sense for me to want to move here.
Good luck with your direction,
I'm here... :)