The Sunny Skeptic: “Atheists Ask Atheists”
By Crystal Dervetski
In the course of writing publicly about atheism, I have come across some questions, and many times opposition, regarding belonging to a formal organization for freethinkers. As with most questions, they are repeated multiple times by a variety of people, and oddly enough, many times they come not from religious persons but from fellow atheists. I plan on sharing a few great statements and questions I have received over the last year, and my answers to them.
“Organizing is just like a religion, and I’m against that.”
Organizing is not like a religion solely because religions are organized. Most religions are, of course, what we would call ‘organized’, as in they do have a formal structure to carry out a variety of activities and the members of the group are usually united by a commonality or shared goal. But the act of organizing does not make a group ‘like a religion’. If this were true, then your grandma’s knitting circle would be a religion, as would your friend’s straight-edge punk band. We know that organizing is a basic human necessity, and that the simple act of organization isn’t what is harmful to society.
The benefits that a formal organization provides are a sense of community, a sharing of information and knowledge, the ability to make a significant, positive impact on society through charitable works, and the political impact that an organized group wields to defend their own rights and the rights of others. These benefits are all found within Minnesota Atheists, and are the best reasons to join and support this organization.
“I don’t believe in publicly sharing my life-philosophy/beliefs/political stance/etc with others.”
Joining a formal atheist or freethinker organization doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be ‘wearing your beliefs on your sleeve’. People who decide to join also decide how “out” they want to be in the atheist community and whether they would like to participate or not. Members also decide how much or how little they would like to share about themselves. Although almost all of us at MNA are atheists, it seems at times that the similarities end there. That is part of what makes our group so interesting and unique: our wide variety of members and their range of experiences. Also, our Minnesota Atheists meet-up sites and the Atheist Weekly Email offer ways to keep up on activities while remaining anonymous.
“People shouldn’t have to pay to join or keep a group going, that’s like a church.”
This is yet another fallacy based on the assumption that if a religion does it, it must be inherently bad or wrong, much like the first idea of organizing being something to avoid.
Minnesota Atheists is a dues-paying organization, which has a membership fee for those who wish to obtain membership privileges, such as voting rights or serving on the Board of Directors. The reason paying dues is not like a church or religion is because any organization needs funds to continue to operate whether they are religious or secular. This is unavoidable, and we can’t ignore the fact that just being a presence in the community will require at least some expenditure. Almost all of our meetings and social events are free and open to the public. You can come have fun with the group without ever spending a dime, just as you can read this newsletter for free if you choose to do so. There are no collection plates passed around at any of the meetings or events. That being said, it is important to remember that those who contribute financially help to spread the word and keep the group afloat. Dues-paying members and financial supporters are the foundation that keeps an organization strong and running smoothly.
If promoting positive atheism is an important cause to you, it makes sense to contribute to Minnesota Atheists in any way you can. Consider joining Minnesota Atheists to promote the work that we are continuing in the community.
If you are reading the paper copy of this newsletter, please see the back cover for more information about joining Minnesota Atheists. If you’re on the web, see our web site at: www.mnatheists.org.
Comments? Questions? Email Crystal D. at email@example.com