46 comments posted · 2 followers · following 0
Kids like lots of things other than picnics, otherwise churches wouldn't be as successful as they are. The reason you're only getting 11 humanists at your gathering, none of whom want family activities is that, I suspect, your humanist gathering is typical of such things-dry, intellectual conversation among people who prefer philosophical / political discussions to being warm and friendly. Perhaps that's not true, but I do hear that from a great many people who attend humanist events. I also hear, at least from those here in the Denver area, that the average age at a humanist meeting is around 60. That's fine, if that's the type of group you want, but I keep hearing over and over that humanist groups around the country seem to be bent on maintaining the status quo rather than trying to recruit new members. Churches, on the other hand, are quite successful at providing not only peer groups for older members, but are inclusive of younger members and those with families. If the atheist/humanist movements want to grow both in numbers and influence, groups need to find ways to be inclusive of those like me, and not just the older crowd only interested in philosophy and politics.
That's different than the activist groups we're discussing here, but it's also at the heart of the problem the whole atheist community has-everyone seems to want to only interact with those who are exactly like them, rather than form a community with strong social bonds. Unless we can get atheists to care, they won't pony up, and it's difficult to care when you don't feel that you're part of a community.
I don't think vjack is suggesting a new organization so much as a movement. Moveon.org, while being an organization, has really been successful at getting people who are not necessarily "members" to become active in causes that are important to them. Their website frankly isn't all that great in terms of content and design, but their true genius is in how they mobilize people. THAT'S what we need to learn from them.
One of the complaints that I've heard from many atheists over the years is that we tend to not be joiners and we resist traditional organizational hierarchies. Moveon.org has been really skillful in tapping into many people who share those tendencies, and they tend to avoid internal political issues in local groups because of it. Not completely, of course, because people are people and eventually, in any group, someone will start trying to be a leader and force everyone to agree with them. However, I've participated in some moveon.org activities, and they felt far more focused on the actual cause than on internal politics.
There's an organization here in Colorado called COCORE (http://www.cocore.org) that was formed for just such a purpose-to bring together the secular groups in Colorado to join forces for common causes. They were responsible for the "Don't believe in God? You are not alone" billboards that were up last fall, and while I think they've done a pretty decent job, they still struggle with getting people mobilized.
Having also participated in other community causes, my perception is that this is a people problem, not just an atheist or secular humanist problem. People have lives, families, jobs, hobbies and other things that get in the way, and the only way to get them mobilized is make the cost of NOT being mobilized big enough that they'll take action.
We have a particular problem being atheists, that many of us are not completely out, and even those who are out may not want to call attention to the fact because of the strife it causes in their family and/or work life. I think this problem may lessen over time, as more and more atheists are out and it becomes more acceptable, but right now, it seems like many people are just too busy living their lives or don't want to rock the boat.
So, the question becomes: how do we get atheists to care enough to become involved?
I visited your site and while I like the overall concept, there are a couple things that I think bear comment. First of all, as someone who designs and develops websites for a living, I may be overly biased, but the site design puts me off. I am admittedly a design snob, and I generally dislike and don't use sites that I find unappealing, unless the content is really worthwhile.
Secondly, and most importantly, the whole milesians concept, while it sounds good, takes too much explanation, and frankly, people just don't have the time and patience to work through that. The brights movement has the same problem-it takes too much explanation to define the term (plus they have the whole arrogance factor to overcome). In order to build a community and a movement, we have to convince all the splinter groups that a central site offers more than they would get by going to CFI or atheists.org or any of the other groups.
Drupal is terrible. People like it because it's free, but the way it works is clumsy and confusing. Creating a custom site in Drupal is incredibly time intensive. If you're content with just dumping your site into a crappy template, it's ok, but for anything sophisticated and even moderately well-designed, it's awful.