I did a rather unscientific study for the Human Rights submission we just prepared on behalf of Australian members of Atheist Nexus. We suggested that some of the main ways in which atheists use the internet are:
5. Political Awareness/Activism
Some, but not all, atheists say that information found on the internet helped in their deconversion process.
Some, but not all, atheists say that without the internet they wouldn't have been able to 'put a name' to their feelings about religion - or that it has helped the 'confirm' their identity as atheists.
I think probably all atheists use the internet for self-education.
A lot of atheists in highly religious countries find the internet is their only real source of community interaction. This is particularly true in America, but also in Muslim countries where the internet provides an important level of anonymity and security.
A smaller number of atheists were interested in political activism.
I don't think it matters if there are many different atheist organisations BUT I think it is absolutely vital to forge links between them so that they can easily come together in local, regional, state, national or international groups to lobby and press for political action. This is where Atheist Nexus should be moving - to provide links between atheist organisations at all levels.
It is also vital for us to start getting involved in charitable causes. For example, I believe that, in Australia, a code has been set up at the Blood Bank, so that we can donate blood and assign the donation to Atheists of Australia. I think it would be great if AN could donate even a small amount to a micro loan organisation like Kiva. Kiva is great, because you can donate a small amount to help a chosen individual in a developing country start their business, and then, over time, they pay you back. Once the loan is paid, you can direct it to another entrepreneur - and add a bit more if you like.
I think political activism is vital to add a positive 'backbone' to the site. Without a level of activism, we would degenerate into a load of whiners. We need to identify areas of concern, but then we need to DO something about them.
I agree that we should play a role in teaching atheists how to debate and providing easy to find resources for that purpose. I also think we should encourage debate for the purpose of education, not for the 'sport' of abusing Christians. I think that demeans us as individuals and certainly would demean AN as an organisation.
And, finally, yes, I think that we should be making a financial contribution to this site. BUT I think we need to know exactly how those funds will be spent. My recommendation is that, at the very least, a percentage breakdown should be presented before a fee is instituted, e.g.: 60% site maintenance and promotion (including stipend for Executive Director), 10% to charity; 20% for political activism; 5% for attendance for Executive Director or other AN representative at non-theist conferences; and 5% for membership of other Atheist Organizations.
"5% for membership of other Atheist Organizations." I already suggested to Richard to join AAI once AN becomes non-profit. AAI eliminated fees, so it is free plus AN will have a say in how AAI is ran. I like AAI because it is exactly what we need. It is an umbrella organizations for smaller organizations around the world. Right now AAI has 50 US and 11 international organizations as it's member organizations.
I just created a new group for people that are interested in organizing local face-to-face atheist groups. If you've ever started a group or if you're interested in helping to brainstorm, please join up.
Hi Mark, we've just started an atheist meetup group in our local area (in Australia). We meet for dinner once a month at a local pub. Those who don't want (or can't afford) dinner, can just come and have a drink, or just chat if they want.
We've all found we have a lot in common and the conversation is always interesting, intelligent and rational. My advice is to keep it informal and casual. On the odd occasion that the conversation stalls we've found asking if anyone's had an 'ethical dilemma' during the week usually gives the conversation a kick start.
I expect different things from different organizations. I would not expect a local group in Alabama to be as active in national issues. I would expect them to be more heavily involved in state issues. I also expect local organizations to provide a social outlet for atheists. After all, we need fellowship just as much as religious people. Fellowship is not a religious institution.
National organizations should be fighting for three things: Separation of State from Church, civil rights for non-theists, and true freedom of religion, which means freedom from religion. Even national organizations can provide a social outlet through forums and yearly conventions.
I expect my money to be used toward those means. As with any charitable donation, I fully expect a percentage of my money to cover administrative costs, such as newsletters, magazines, paying the utilities, advertising, etc. The advertising serves the purpose of not just finding new members, but letting the general public know that we exist.
The group here in Huntsville, Alabama (North Alabama Freethought Association (NAFA) covers the social and activism aspects for its members. NAFA has a monthly dinner, monthly movie night, weekly coffee social, weekly bagel social, monthly picnic, bi-monthly speakers, annual camping trip, and much more. In addition the member resources are tapped when activism is needed, whether it is for writing letters, protesting in the street, or calling legislators.
We already do have an umbrella organization. Atheist Alliance International is an umbrella organizations for smaller local groups. They have over 50 US and about 11 international member organizations. www.AtheistAlliance.org
In addition, American Atheists has an Affiliate program which currently has 62 Affiliates nationwide. American Atheists encourages local groups to affiliate with as many national organizations as they can because American Atheists sees the need for local and national groups to work together. Each national group has its own focus and tactics, but they are all working toward the same goals.
I just wish CFI would allow multiple affiliation for its affiliates...
I don't think organizations reach everywhere and that is the problem. And when you ask how to get started in your area the information I know I have recieved on this has been very vague. I live in an extremely small town in the state of Virginia. I went to American Atheists a few times about finding groups in my area, and to no surprise there are not any in my immediate area the nearest one is way on the other side of the state 5-6 hours away. I asked them what I should do to help setup one in my local area, and all I got in response was go to meetup.com as if somehow that was a good answer. I admit they might have been trying the best they can but if that's all I am going to recieve when I come to you for help. Quite frankly, it pisses me off. I want groups to do more to reach out to people in smaller towns, we exist in these places and they are the hardest places to get help because you are much much more isolated.
Dre: If you need help starting a local group shoot me an email at email@example.com and I will be happy to help.
Meetup is a great service to use to start local groups because it is a read-made Web Page, Forum, Mailing List, etc. It is also great advertising. My local group in Huntsville has far surpassed its humble Meetup origins, but we maintain our Meetup page because 30% of our membership still finds us that way.
Don't dismiss Meetup so quickly - it is an amazing tool and resource.
I find it astounding, and curious, that there are any atheist organizations at all. And, frankly, I have unsettling feelings about their existence in the first place. Why?
Well, I think that people organize around things they believe in, a cause they can rally behind, a goal, a purpose.
Human nature, being what it is, we are less inclined, if inclined at all, to organize around not being something.
People don’t join churches be they are not atheists. Rather, they join because they believe in something...er...have faith, or want to have faith in ... whatever.
My acquaintances who are atheists join political parties, or voter registration groups. We join circles of friends and have pot lucks for the purpose of fellowship and pleasure, not because we don’t believe in something.
That A/N exists is a remarkable and wonderful phenomenon, and I look at this site as a sort of ongoing social gathering where we can share, and laugh together, enjoy conversation, and each other’s company.
Purpose?? meh. Who needs purpose?