What are the potential functions of a secular group, and how do I get one organized?

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Discussion by: Mr. Meredith

I have recently been discussing a secular 'support' group of sorts with a few teachers and students of my college. It isn't official yet, but everyone is excited to get it started. That said, I have no idea on what would need to be done in order to do so. This brings about some questions.

1) How do I make it 'official.' Does anyone have a good example or link where I can read up on this? Anything would be appreciated.

2) What basic functions would such a group serve? I already have a few opinions on the matter, but I am more interested in what you all think it should or could do. 

3) How do I organize it? I am painfully inadequate at organizing things, and this has already posed an issue in the progress of this endeavor. I am open to any suggestions as to how to do so.

4) Does anyone have suggestions, comments, or criticisms that you can offer me? I certainly lack information on the subject, and I want to get started right away. It would be nice to know of any constructive criticisms or experiences with these groups before I dive in. 

Please number any responses so that I can keep track of answers. Links are most appreciated. 

13 COMMENTS

    • In reply to #1 by canadian_right:

      Why do people asking these questions never say where they are from? The answer is going vary a lot if you live in Pakistan vs the UK.

      So, where are you

      Sorry, I assumed it was easy enough to find via my profile.

  1. Try to model your group after any religious sect you wish – Roman Catholic Church, Islam, whatever. Only leave out the god part. These religionists are absolute masters at getting groups together providing cohesive shared rites, chants, heroes, reading material, music, art, anecdotes, and so on. Start with a shared meal and shared ideas. Let it develop from there.

  2. Consider specific efforts on gender and racial diversity; two particular SSA partner groups are: Secular Woman and Black Atheists.
    I think the social, support and community aspects of what religious congregations provide would be valuable. Family oriented things are probably not much on your mind though?

    • In reply to #7 by whiteraven:

      Consider specific efforts on gender and racial diversity; two particular SSA partner groups are: Secular Woman and Black Atheists.
      I think the social, support and community aspects of what religious congregations provide would be valuable. Family oriented things are probably not much on your mind though?

      Thank you, I will look those up as well. Community is of huge importance in my opinion. How that would fit into a college group is uncertain, but perhaps it could simply be a topic of discussion at the least. I have recently discovered a group of atheists in Louisville (where I live) yet have not had the chance to talk to them. It seems from their site that they are focused on that sort of thing. Louisville Atheists and Freethinkers I believe. I have seen a video of Tony Pinn giving his speech at Skepticon so I understand why community is important in the respect of black atheists.

      • In reply to #8 by Mr. Meredith:

        In reply to #7 by whiteraven:

        Consider specific efforts on gender and racial diversity; two particular SSA partner groups are: Secular Woman and Black Atheists.
        I think the social, support and community aspects of what religious congregations provide would be valuable. Family oriented things are probably not much on your mind though?

        Thank you, I will look those up as well. Community is of huge importance in my opinion. How that would fit into a college group is uncertain, but perhaps it could simply be a topic of discussion at the least. I have recently discovered a group of atheists in Louisville (where I live) yet have not had the chance to talk to them. It seems from their site that they are focused on that sort of thing. Louisville Atheists and Freethinkers I believe. I have seen a video of Tony Pinn giving his speech at Skepticon so I understand why community is important in the respect of black atheists.

        Of course, but there is life after college or grad school. Hopefully they’ll find value in similar communities later. whether as organizers or members. Critical mass and sustainability are important. Oh, you didn’t offer any guess as to how large a group you might have.

        Most colleges have something like a group of chaplains. Any resources available? (Hmm, in your region, better be careful, they might offer the stake or the rack).

        • In reply to #9 by whiteraven:

          The numbers are difficult to pinpoint, but I know of at least three teachers and a handful of students interested. I expect it will grow at least twice that, but it’s difficult to say.

          As far as the chaplains go, I must admit I don’t understand what you are suggesting. Please clarify.

          Does anyone have any personal experiences relating to the initiation, development and continuation of a secular group?

          • In reply to #10 by Mr. Meredith:

            In reply to #9 by whiteraven:

            The numbers are difficult to pinpoint, but I know of at least three teachers and a handful of students interested. I expect it will grow at least twice that, but it’s difficult to say.

            As far as the chaplains go, I must admit I don’t understand what you are suggesting. Please clarify.

            Does anyone have any personal experiences relating to the initiation, development and continuation of a secular group?

            College chaplains are funded out of the school’s budget so lacking a secular chaplain, I thought you might try to get some $upport through that (good luck of course).

            Oh, btw, before coming out as a “secular support group”, do a google search; top hits seem to be sobriety related.

  3. My wife who has all but given up her faith still misses many of the aspects that she considers good about going to church feeling you are part of something, people caring for each other etc.

    Perhaps you should be thinking along the lines of supporting people to provide a sense of community and fellowship while providing some purpose. A mix perhaps of intellectual stimulation mixed with community outreach and charitable work. People will support each other if you just get them together so I think you need to have some regular things that will attract secular people combined with something to engage them in.

    Dare I say that you are likely to be attracting a fairly bright bunch. So use that. I’ve been involved in clubs through various hobbies and getting out and helping others make you feel good. I suspect much to the feelings attributed to god are in fact there because we help each other. I think the warm glow of knowing your helping others is what religious feel is the power of god. So say helping out at schools tutoring in science, technology or whatever the skills set is, keep it secular no preaching but giving people some central purpose and a group to mix with who would understand my position would be all the help I would need.

  4. First and foremost, think about the level of tolerance that surrounds you. How does your community feel about diversity? Do you live in an area that is fairly secular, or do you live in a very conservative area?

    Secondly, how do you feel about diversity?
    Richard Dawkins wrote that organizing atheists is like “herding cats”. Having said that, perhaps a college environment is homogeneous in one purpose (i.e., graduating) but if you expand beyond campus you may encounter an extremely diverse flock of individuals that may even disagree on what atheism means.

    Atheists can range from stuck-up arrogant know-it-alls to trendy bandwagoneers (often one looking down on the other); occassionally some theist spy may visit you too. Or, for the most part, can be ordinary people like you and me. Bear in mind, though, that you may not have control over what you want your group to do or say.

    My suggestion for you is that your club offers a diversity of activities. In my group, some people are attracted to studying books and they organize reading groups. I am a fun-loving atheist and I organize parties.

    Finally, the truth is that only you may be the one who knows what you want out of this group. What do you want to advance? Are you doing it for fun or profit? What do you want out of it? A marketplace of ideas? Militancy? Moral support? Socialization? Political opportunity?

    Hope this helps.

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