The Sunny Skeptic: Surveying the Survey
By Crystal Dervetski
Recently, Minnesota Atheists sent out a survey to gauge interests and opinions of our membership. The response was absolutely overwhelming, mostly in a good way. There appear to be many questions regarding what Minnesota Atheists as an organization actually does, what we offer, and who we are as a group of people. I had already started answering some questions in previous articles. In one, I had discussed why we ask new members how they found out about Minnesota Atheists, and why they chose to become members, as there seemed to be some confusion in this area as well. Now that we have the survey data fairly complete, I’m going to start tackling some of the bigger issues that were brought up in the free form responses.
One of the biggest requests is ‘more’: more variety, more locations, more young people, more racially diverse people, more diverse people in general, etc. It makes a lot of sense; obviously we all want a large group that offers many different activities for many different individuals. In working together toward our future, how do we achieve this goal of ‘more’?
The biggest thing I’ve learned in organizing a local freethought group is that a group of people is only as good as those people who come to events. This sounds very simple, but it is also a much neglected concept.
The Day of Reason at the State Capitol will have much more political impact if we can even just show up. We’re close to having more people at the Day of Reason than the religious groups do outside at the National Day of Prayer. We need people to come out to make this happen. It’s honestly just as simple as that for this kind of event; you don’t even need to socialize if you don’t want.
A picnic is going to be much more fun and entertaining with 100 people instead of 30 people. It’s easier to move around and meet new people, play a game, or find an area where you feel you fit when more people show up. Here would be where the benefit of actually socializing comes into play: if you have something you want to talk about, you just need to find a group of people and start talking. With this active participation, you can also lead the conversation to topics you find more of interest, or you can find another group that is more to your liking. Do we all just sit around and talk about sci-fi like we’re at some kind of convention? Absolutely not! If that’s what you want, you can certainly find it. But if that’s not what you enjoy, why not try walking over to that other group of people?
Having more people come out and socialize also solves a couple of other issues that people have brought up. For instance, we can achieve more variety in events and have more locations if we have more volunteers and people willing to organize activities for Minnesota Atheists. It’s nice to have ideas of what we could be doing, but it’s even better if you’re willing to come help make those ideas a reality. Our organization is based on volunteers, as we are a non-profit organization. The very nature of volunteering means that we aren’t paid and unfortunately don’t have an unlimited number of hours to spend on atheist events. I’ve already written a piece detailing just how easy it is to get out and organize an event, it’s not that hard, but someone does need to be there to organize so things run smoothly. The board of directors and organizers are always here to help you when you have an idea, so don’t be shy. Tell us your idea and what you can do to help, and in some way we can make it a reality for our group.
The short answer, how can you have ‘more’ within our group, is to just show up. Come on out to an event. Make the time, make the drive. Try it out even if you’re scared or don’t know if you will fit in. (You will somewhere!) We can’t be a diverse group if you don’t help contribute to our diversity.