Curing cynicial skepticism 5 – Building positive communities

[This post is part of a week-long series from July 24-30 about issues within the secular community. Also see parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.]

So far I’ve discussed the issue of non-active atheists and how the cynical skeptics and their tone may keep them from joining and being active in our organizations. Today, I hope to outline some constructive ideas for starting to build these communities.

The benefits of community building that result from collectively bashing religion are not limited to negative activities. It is very possible, and in fact relatively easy to build a community on positive and constructive discussions. There’s a few ways to build such a community, and I think each of them can help a group break out of a funk of deconstructive cynicism.

A great example is that of the Students for Freethought (notice their relatively kick-ass website) at Ohio State University. For two years in a row, their group has paired with a campus Christian group and travelled to New Orleans to help with the ongoing reconstruction efforts since Hurricane Katrina. While not every group needs to pair with Christians, the positive emphasis on charity work and (literal) community building is something I think every secular group out there should emulate.

I also appreciate non-religious groups that participate and support local Pride Parades (Edmonton, Toronto, Vancouver, etc.). It’s great to defend our own community, but the true nobility comes from the solidarity we can show to other minorities who’ve been victim to relentless religious discrimination.

One final thing that I think is of vital importance to establish in BC is a humanist officiant program, mirroring the successful programs in Ontario and several states. These officiants provide guidance and oversee major life events which don’t cease to happen when one leaves their faith. Marriages, deaths and even birth (or naming) ceremonies are already in a large demand for people who don’t want a church service but don’t find a civil / government ceremony to be meaningful enough for them. These ceremonies are a great chance to show how we can use humanism to build communities of like-minded individuals.

Of course there are many, many more ideas and opportunities out there, which all take money and volunteers. The lucky thing is the more services we start to offer and the more people who start to attend and take ownership over the community, the more resources that we will have available.