This post is in response to Dave’s Dear Secular Community: Lest we forget, we’re on the same side.
Lately in the atheist blogosphere (I can not believe I am using that word non-ironically now; I think I just threw up a little) there has been much conversation about instituting harassment policies at conferences. That is actually only tangential to what I want to discuss in this post. What I actually want to discuss is the idea proposed in Dave’s blog post, including the tweet. The tweet (by Florida State Director of American Atheists, and Vice President of Outreach for Secular Woman, Bridgette Gaudette) read:
“Dear Secular Community: We agree on 95% of the same stuff, can we focus on that and not the 5% that we disagree on?!”
There are a few issues I have with this idea, as well as the suggestions that come of the application of this idea. Firstly, on the most basic level, let me grant the arbitrarily decided on percentages and even then most of that 95% that we agree on is going to be things like gravity, that humans require oxygen, that 2+2=4. There is nothing to discuss with these issues.
I am not setting up a straw-man argument. I realize that what was meant by the original comment were issue about church-state separation, science education, LGBTQ rights, etc. However, I think it is important to point out that that would not make up this full 95%. Most of what we agree on we have no need to discuss because everyone else agrees with it as well. Then there are the “movement issues” that most of us agree on within the movement, but that a large part of the rest of society does not. These get a lot of discussion, as we want to convince those that disagree of our viewpoint in an attempt to mold society into one that shares our values. This is precisely why these things need to be discussed in the movement. The only way to promote positive change in society is by discussing the issues with the rest of society. The only way to promote positive change within the movement is by discussing the issues with the rest of the movement.
I understand the sentiment behind the idea; the whole “let’s be friends” mentality. And I completely agree with it. However, I think we need to tread carefully lest we enable the silencing of complaints and discussion. We can, and should, discuss these ideas respectfully. There should not be long-standing feuds and resentment due to discussion of these issues and we should certainly not have different camps forming. For Thor’s sake people, we have escaped this herd mentality once, lets not jump into it again. So I certainly sympathize with the desire to get along, but I think that can still be done while discussing important issues that people within the movement disagree upon, and I do think it is necessary. The complaints about not wanting to read about it on the blogs anymore are not at all helpful. For one, you have the ability not to read them if you do not care about the issue being discussed. There are titles and tags that can help you with this endeavor if skimming the article first to too time consuming for you. Secondly, and more importantly, these comments seem to me to be showing quite a bit of privilege. ”This does not affect me personally, and I don’t want to feel like I am doing anything wrong, so I don’t want to read about it anymore.” This may all be true, but it does affect other people within the movement, and they just as much of a right as anyone else does to try to keep people safe and treated equally. If you disagree with arguments being made in favor of some of these issues, then engage in the discussion, but to say that we should all stop talking about it is edging towards censorship and is not at all productive.
Tony Lakey is the President of MU SASHA. He is currently interning with the Center for Inquiry On Campus in Amherst, NY. He will be starting his fourth year at the University of Missouri – Columbia in August 2012, majoring in Philosophy and Sociology.
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It’s officially the first full day of the CFI Student Leadership Conference 2012, although most people got in last night for the welcome and first few talks. Ellen Lundgren and I actually came in from Columbus Wednesday night—we are interning for the summer for the Secular Student Alliance there—and stayed with Tony Lakey, SASHA’s president and CFI summer intern, and Stef McGraw from UNIFI, the other CFI summer intern.
I’m taking a break from one of the talks here to give a quick update. I have LOTS of photos to post but I need to go through them first. Here are a couple from a group of us at Niagara Falls yesterday!
The talks have been unbelievable informative and very inspiring. Last night, Lauren Becker gave a great talk about what CFI does and how it helps students. Then we had a panel discussion with some of CFI’s more “seasoned” (according to them, old!) employees about the history of the organization. The amazing Debbie Goddard gave what I think was the best talk of the evening about CFI On Campus and her own history with the movement, and then Jessica Ahlquist talked to us about why it’s important to be persistent and stand up for your views.
I have to get back to the talks, but I want to say one thing: If you are interested in secular activism, you have GOT to start going to these leadership conferences. Reddit is great, but there is simply no substitute for getting together, in person, with other leaders, meeting movers & shakers, and bouncing ideas off of one another in a community that fosters and advocates critical thinking, creativity, questioning, and intelligence.
If you are not able to attend the CFI conference this year, you should definitely attend next year, and you should also come to the Secular Student Alliance student leadership conference in Columbus, Ohio on the weekend of July 6-8. I will be there and would LOVE to meet you (or see you, if we have already met!).
My first student leadership conference last summer was here at CFI, and it was life-changing for me. Meeting all of these other group leaders in person and hearing about all the ineffable projects they are each doing was inspiring. Realizing that my group was not just some isolated student group in my town made such an impression on me: This is a movement. This is happening everywhere, and in numbers that are growing so quickly, they’re nearly impossible to track.
Students are the future of the movement. Leadership conferences are the path to success for secular activism. Go to them!
I will write a more in-depth article with lots of additional pictures soon. Gotta run! Until next time,
Dave Muscato is the 2012 Writing Intern for the Secular Student Alliance in Columbus, Ohio. He is also Vice President of MU SASHA. He is a vegetarian, LGBTQ ally, and human- & animal-welfare activist. A junior at Mizzou studying economics & anthropology and minoring in philosophy & Latin, Dave posts updates to the SASHA blog every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday and twice monthly for the Humanist Community at Harvard. His website is http://www.DaveMuscato.com.
and don’t forget… other SASHA members! We are here for you, too!
Welcome to the official MU SASHA blog!
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We’re halfway through Day 2 of the conference and we’re having a blast. We just finished up a talk by Jennifer Beahan about organization and how to work with volunteers, which I think will be invaluable for us in the coming year (more about that later!). Next up is a talk by Judy J. Johnson of Mount Royal University (Calgary, AB Canada) about dogmatism. The talk will be starting in a few minutes, so I’m going to get off of here, but more is coming soon!
Dave Muscato is Vice President of MU SASHA. He is a junior at Mizzou majoring in economics & anthropology and minoring in philosophy & Latin, and posts updates to the SASHA blog every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. His website is http://www.DaveMuscato.com.
This week’s posts
- RT @AmericanAtheist: .@todayshow @alroker @NMoralesNBC Atheists are citizens too. Leave your god out of journalism. Remember we don't all b… 1 week ago
- Buying CAFO products is bad, mmm-kay, Part 1: youtu.be/s8C9ajXYZOI?a via @YouTube 1 week ago
- Buying CAFO products is bad, mmm-kay, Part 2: youtu.be/NGrCwXW084U?a via @YouTube 2 weeks ago
- About to get started at Speaker's Circle. Come out and help us #DefendDissent 3 weeks ago
- Come to Speaker's Circle today at noon to #DefendDisssent facebook.com/events/1828297… 3 weeks ago