Curing cynical skepticism 6 – Diversifying the skeptical market

[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, 4, and 5.]

After I’ve hopefully identified my chief concern, hypothesis about the issue and presented the first steps to rectifying the issue by building positive-action centred communities (in addition to and not in replacement of the existing organizations), I want to turn my attention to one more concern that should be addressed. This final concern is about diversity.

Hemant Mehta posted a very illuminating picture a few days ago from a Skeptics Conference in 2006.

He asked if we could notice anything “manly or white” about it…

Of course the diversity question is slowly being addressed and people are more willing to talk about it now, but that doesn’t mean our work is done.

Doing the same things and expecting different results is Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity, so it’s well worth recognizing that to appeal to a greater demographic, our events are going to have to be more appealing than to just our current members – predominantly 18-35 year old white males, which, coincidentally, appeals primarily to other 18-35 year old white males.

While finding positive activities to focus on should help, I think we can be even more successful if we work on finding niches that need to be filled.

I’m not claiming my ideals are novel or that none of this is being undertaken. CFI Vancouver is launching a book club under my fiancée and my coordination next month, and the Saskatoon Freethinkers have been pioneering secular parenting in Canada with a Secular Parenting meetup and a Freethinker Family summer camp.

Not every event needs to be about debunking woo or bashing religion or drinking in the pub. We need events for mothers, fathers, singles, women, and children.

Heck, even just having a secular equivalent to Sunday School would allow many parents to come to events who wouldn’t otherwise make it.

These things aren’t hard to do (first-aid training and child care licensing are not difficult to obtain) but are just not always in the minds of people who mainly plan events to fit what they would want to do (something I’ve been guilty of too). On the basis of the increased membership alone, it’s worth at least trying to diversify our appeal.

2 thoughts on “Curing cynical skepticism 6 – Diversifying the skeptical market”

  1. Regarding the idea of a secular Sunday School: you know how we in the skeptical community are always griping about the sorry state of critical thinking in the education system and the public at large? A secular extracurricular class on critical thinking, reason, and the scientific method would be awesome and also something that could be pitched orthogonal to any religious disagreements (so parents think “oh, logic” and not “oh, ideology” – the myth of atheist brainwashing is dangerous and something we need to fight).

    I for one wouldn’t mind spending a day every week teaching kids Russell and Popper.

  2. Thanks for the shout-out about our Secular Parenting group, Ian. I’m currently working with some people in the Unitarian Centre in town about a secular Sunday school type program we could run along side our other family events — should be interesting!

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