Organizing the secular/non-religious communities

I notice that Jacques’ FSI is the only SA member organization to the IHEU and on his website he(you?) claim that you want to serve as a type of umbrella organization for secular groups in SA.

What kind of success have you had in bringing in new affiliates and what are your plans for bringing all these groups together/opening lines of communication?

I see very little evidence of any secular websites and forums on the internet, but just go to facebook and you almost drown in South African secular/non-religious groups/pages etc. I think this evidences a clear need for something like that, but just creating a facebook page/group is very easy and isn’t really very original or ambitious, maybe it’s just to show there’s an outcry for such groups and communities to raise awareness of secular issues/interests.
I think all these groups show that people want to do something, but are either not taking it that seriously - like me, chatting here on the forum is almost more than enough to get something off my chest or have a good laugh at something I can’t do in other situations; - or people just don’t know how to organize and probably lack resources and capabilities etc…

This school debacle has really got me thinking though, isn’t the real problem perhaps a lack of leadership and direction? I don’t see that we’d get anywhere if we can’t even find each other and get together and have a good laugh or maybe some serious discussions.

Like having some type of national campaign/event (congress/summit/etc) I mean it’s awesome having the skeptics in the pub thing (even if I haven’t been to any) but shouldn’t it be time think scaling up?

Meh… just another ranting, raving complaint…

But what are you guys & gals’ thoughts on the matter?

By their nature, freethinkers tend to be individualists. Coordinating their activities is a proverbial herding of cats.

The trick is to find an issue about which the majority feels similarly and strongly enough to rally around. I don’t know what that might be.


Yes, I sort of expected that reply in some shape or form, I know that the central theme amongst the various groups revolves around secular/non-religious issues, and while it’s true that we can’t even seem to agree on what to call the community (hence all the /'s in talking about almost anything, we can at least all agree on some points, like just raising awareness or something general like that, the main problem is that there is no one place where someone with a non-religious worldview can turn to, take example the word “skeptic” is you don’t label yourself as a skeptic, you probably won’t include a word like that in your searches, hence possibly never come accross this forum, for instance.

Whether you’re a freethinker, secular humanist, skeptic or whatever, you are still going to want to find groups who share common interests to yours and fight a bit against the isolation that comes with being part of a community only making, what? maybe 3% of the population? The other thing of course is that since you’re so isolated there’s no incentive for most people to start doing things that can really bring about some change, like this Pietersen guy only having his own, small little club that no else knows or cares about basically taking on a big project like this on his own, once we can do something to start organizing (creating awareness and opening lines of communication) there may be a greater incentive for more such organizations to take on whatever projects as they will have the exposure they need to start pooling more resources. The issue for me is complacency, we seem to think that since we’re so isolated we can’t do anything or if we do have some issue you can’t turn to anyone to help deal with whatever issue you have, since you are not aware of/exposed to whatever is out there you basically just stay quiet and “just deal with it” thereby giving theists more power and playing straight in their hands.

For one thing, I think, it would be great if we can add a category along these lines, like “idea pool” or something so we can have a place to start talking and thinking about organizing and sharing resources and stuff…

I know it’s a crazy idea, but most ideas start of sounding crazy, don’t they?

Perhaps we should start some sort of church:stuck_out_tongue:

I don’t think it’s crazy since such organisations exist all over the globe.

I think that the number of atheists here that would also be interested is probably minuscule though.

LOL! Would be great, instead of going to a comedy night, you go to a parody Sunday ;D

If you take our population, which is roughly 50 million people and you use a conservative figure of say 2% you still get a least 1 million non-theists, and I think we are a little bit more than 2%, also think the estimation of population I used is a little outdated

Okay, so just to be clear, I wasn’t trying to turn this into some ‘us vs them’ thing, I’m just noting what the social norm is like for us - with the most of the population having some faith or the other, atheists are really shunned and stuff like that if they speak up, I mean, we’ve come a long way since the apartheid years and have much better freedom of expression, but I think we are still stuck firmly under society’s thumb.

Also I’m not necessarily talking about starting a whole new organization, but in the first place attempting to inquire what the FSI is doing to live up to its aspirations of being an umbrella body for secular organizations and secondly how we can help bodies like the FSI or someone else who think of trying to create this type of platform and basically create an environment where the non-religious segment of the population would want to get more involved, getting us all organized so we can better focus our attention, aligning strategies and be more influential in society.

What’s the FSI? Flying Spaghetti Initiative?

Anyway, as has been pointed out, freethinkers are just about impossible to herd, and once you do it, internal struggles break out immediately.

How about a secular ice bucket challenge? :slight_smile:

How about a secular ice bucket challenge?

Been done. We could do the secular marshmallow challenge instead? :stuck_out_tongue:

I have considered joining the FSI, but I’m put off a bit by them quoting their fees in dollars.

I doubt that brian is really unaware or ignorent about the fsi, as long time member he should have had multiple encounters and perhaps even have build some kind of relationship with Jacques, no doubt he visited the fsi or synapses or other links posted by jacque and others; the referral to the icebucket challenge is probably just teasing me for being over passionate, and I must admit, my imagination was ignited - so see it really for what it is - humour, I can certainly appreciate humour as I recognise my own faults and value different opinions, it also helps not to make things overly serioius ;D

Yeah, I must admit that doesn’t encourage me much either, but the main reason I don’t feel like joining is that I don’t really what I’ll be buying, just giving him money for no other reason than for running a really good website isn’t really a good motivator is it? I mean if I contribute to a charity, you still want to know that they actually do the things they claim to do, don’t you? You still want value.

I must confess: the FSI genuinely does not ring a bell.

Okay, my bad:

  • me ;D ;D ;D

In my defence, it’s difficult sometimes online to read between the lines, as posts lacks an emotional intonation, and everyone view stuff through some kind of filter, making it incredibly difficult to make yourself clear sometimes.

Like what I mean by not being too serious, I didn’t mean that I that I take the discussion on creating awareness lightly or jokingly, but rather pointing out that I’m not trying to be radical or over zealous, I do think that there should be some central place/resource to help us as a secular community to interact and perhaps work to achieve some real goals one day.

Well screw you guys - I’m going home. :slight_smile:

Like what I mean by not being too serious, I didn't mean that I that I take the discussion on creating awareness lightly or jokingly, but rather pointing out that I'm not trying to be radical or over zealous, I do think that there should be some central place/resource to help us as a secular community to interact and perhaps work to achieve some real goals one day.

I think most of us suffer from the condition known as “having a life,” and thus cannot be bothered too much to create organizations. Perhaps we are also a tad uncomfortable with the idea of going from door to door on a Sunday morning, asking people whether they have found Darwin yet (or even just being perceived as doing this).

There is certainly much to do. Yesterday, at the school where I teach, I overheard some grade 5 kids talking. The one was telling the others about a witch burning that happened in his town in Limpopo. It began to dawn on me that he was quite serious, as were his audience.
“Now, now, there are no such things as witches,” I told them.

“But there ARE!” they all insisted. In this particular case, the witch in question killed someone, using lightning as her weapon of choice. So there! Clearly, there really are witches!

I the face of this sort of thing, I tend to swing between wanting to start up a skeptical youth organisation, and wanting to run away and go create my own civilization somewhere on a remote island.

This is simply just a cop-out, I’m not saying any one person should make a full-time commitment, but rather find a way to utilize the time people do apparrently want to waste on efforts that really amounts to hot air and turning it into something more productive, but in the same breath, once we can start organizing and have some sort of NGO body that most people can identify with, you can then see the potential for employing people to help run something once it reaches a sufficiently large enough stage, with a solid membership and a good financial support base.

Perhaps we are also a tad uncomfortable with the idea of going from door to door on a Sunday morning, asking people whether they have found Darwin yet (or even just being perceived as doing this).

LOL - “Knock,knock”, ‘yes, what do you want?’ “Nothing” err yes… that’ll work ;D ;D
No, I don’t think most secularists want to convert anyone, but what about improving the way people see atheists/skeptics etc? What about creating a community (okay this is trying to be sorted and where the bus seems to stop) What about campaigns that either raises our concerns/issues etc as a relevant stakeholder group, or fight against social injustices borne by the non-religious portion of the population?

All this can be achieved once people have some sort of rallypoint.

Vulcan, I think the FSI is pretty much already doing what you have in mind:

1. What do we do?

The FSI works in four main areas to promote individual and social freedoms within a secular humanist worldview:

Education: Through direct teaching, including seminars, workshops and conferences, and through enabling access to information and tools for critical thinking. One example is Ideas for Africa, our initiative for distributing pro-science and secularism books to those who might not otherwise get to read them.

Advocacy: Providing comment on laws and bills, engaging in policy debates, and providing a secular voice in interfaith debates. Examples include a submission to the Press Freedom Commission on media regulation; promoting secularity in schools and universities and defending freedom of expression in broadcasting regulations.

Consumer protection: Providing media commentary, laying complaints with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), and publicly opposing violations of law and policy. Examples include ASA complaints regarding misleading advertising for e.g. PowerBalance bracelets, and frequent letters to school principals highlighting discrimination against non-religious pupils and staff.

Creating community: Through regular meetings, social events, annual conferences and the maintenance of online community. We host a monthly “skeptics in the pub” social gathering in Cape Town, an active Facebook community, and we are currently in the process of planning a major national conference.

We should be careful not to duplicate and thereby undermine such initiatives.

Leave 3 skeptics on a island and when you come back,
they would have created 5 podcast and 4 organizations doing the same thing.

O and nobody would be talking to each other.

I agree, that’s why I’m interested in hearing about what has been and what is being done to achieve these objectives by the FSI and what are your ideas on what can be done, think this is a good discussion to have to get us all thinking just a little bit more :smiley:

Leave 3 skeptics on a island and when you come back, they would have created 5 podcast and 4 organizations doing the same thing.

O and nobody would be talking to each other.

Diversity is good and this helps raise our social presence, however, the idea that we are like a bunch of cats -where it is impossible to share common goals and things like that is to me at least a bit of an exaggeration

One way of “mobilizng the forces” without actually leaving the house is to jointly participate in external forums. The idea is not original, as it’s been done at least once over here.

Religion and evolution seems to be a hot topic in the Afrikaans media these days, especially on news sites. Invariably this leads to a mudslinging contests in the comments sections, lots of bible verses, insults, and, most disturbingly, a preponderance of really sad scientific misconceptions.

What if we could catch such an topic early, flag it here as a “hot-spot” and aim for maximum participation? Not only will it demonstrate that the skeptical community is at least as verbal as the other lot, but there is a chance that rational input may influence those with a real desire to get to know a bit more about reason, philosophy, science and the likes.

One snag is that many external forums now require you to log in via Facebook before commenting, which may not be to everybody’s liking.

Some examples from this week’s crop, and that’s only from Rapport:

Rigil: I recently participated quite a bit in the comments after Rapport published an article on evolution, by a scientist who thinks creationists are crazy. You can imagine some of the comments he got. :slight_smile:

Well, give as a heads up next time as you did with that Litnet dude. :wink:

Hey folks. We (the FSI) haven’t been too successful at community-building, except for the Cape Town SiTP-type thing, which is fairly successful. Things that have been suggested already in this thread - like congresses - have been tried. I’ve organised 3 of them, two in Cape Town (2010 & 2011) and one in Jhb (2013). The fact that people who “should” know this (as in, are the target market) don’t, as well as the fact that people keep creating new groups, indicate that the main issue is communication.

In my view this is the sort of job that needs to be full-time, so that on any related issue, there’s an FSI comment in the media. That then conduces to membership (or at least awareness) across the country, etc. And while I’m personally on the radio, quoted or whatever fairly regularly, it’s 50%+ of the time in a personal capacity, not FSI, so that’s a problem too. But it being a full-time job requires funding, or extensive membership, or eager volunteers, etc. And to be honest, most “activism” in related areas in SA consists of posting memes to Facebook, or being abusive towards religious folk - neither of which help the aims I’m interested in.

Someone upstream said they were put off by the FSI quoting membership in USD. I really don’t understand that objection, to be honest, or see how it can outweigh the (presumably) virtue of our mission. Practically, PayPal is the easiest way to gather donations, and PayPal doesn’t allow ZAR. Second, there’s a free membership option.