February Meeting Review: Debbie Goddard
By Joe Smith
After listening to Debbie Goddard’s presentation at the February public meeting, I found I needed some time to absorb her points. My initial reaction to her presentation was that it seemed geared toward organizers and not towards general members. However, after some thought on the presentation, I found some common ground with the second of her points: what does it really mean to be an atheist? If I remember correctly, the only real test to be an atheist is if one agrees that there is no incontrovertible evidence for the existence of god(s). I took her point and looked again at Minnesota Atheists public policy positions and asked myself, “Are these the policy positions of a pro-atheist group, or these the policy positions of an anti-religion group?” While that question is something I still need to ponder, an additional thought occurred to me concerning what I call a peer-group litmus test. I think this can be best explained by my example.
When I first joined Minnesota Atheists, I brought my wife to a meeting. After the meeting we were engaged in conversation with one of the board members, and it seemed that they were running down a mental list of questions on various topics. Questions like do you believe in alternative medicine, global warming, or a spiritual aspect to life. Afterwards my wife asked me what any of those topics had to do with believing that there is no god? That questioning had left her with a cold feeling about the group, and in the end my wife decided not to be a member.
Per Debbie Goddard, if atheism is to grow as a movement, then atheists of all stripes need to feel welcome. I don’t think it is only the public policy positions which make people feel welcome, I think it is also the ability to make people feel that they, and their opinions, are respected which makes people feel welcome. This is where I may have a short coming. As an atheist I have learned to articulate vehemently my position on a variety of topics connected tangentially to a belief in god. Maybe I need to dial that back a little when it comes to potential new members to Minnesota Atheists as we are already in agreement on the central topic about god.