August 26, 2010

More Thoughts on Secular Community Resource Centers

Community
Community (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The thing about ideas is that it is almost always easier to shoot down those of others down than to offer one's own. Yes, secular community resource centers are idealistic, would require resources most of us lack, and may face unique challenges in the locations where they are most needed (e.g., the U.S. bible belt). But it seems to me that we are making a mistake by giving up simply because it sounds difficult. If we imagine a secular community resource center as an eventual goal and agree that there are many small but influential steps we could accomplish along the way, it might look a bit more feasible.

Location

When we imagine a fully functioning secular community resource center like Alonzo described, it is easy to get bogged down in the idea of where such a thing would be housed or how much it would cost. Nobody is going to give us a building, and something of the scale he describes would not come cheap. Fortunately, there are some inexpensive alternatives that could be quite effective.

Assuming that one already had an active group and was simply looking for a place to provide the sort of secular services Alonzo described, there are community centers, public libraries, and office space that could be rented out after hours. We shouldn't abandon the idea simply because we don't have an ideal permanent location in mind.

The Free Clinic Model

Suppose that a group decided to pick an issue, compile evidence-based resources, and share them with the community as an initial step to getting something like this going. It seems like the free clinics offered in various communities might be one worthwhile model. And if "free clinic" sounds too medical to you for some reason, consider the free tax assistance offered by various groups every year around tax time. They meet in public libraries, community and senior centers, and donated space.

Most newspapers, radio stations, and Internet bulletin boards will accept public service announcements at no charge to inform the public about events of interest. As long as a service was being provided at no charge, advertising would be a simple matter. And the group providing the service would not necessarily have to trumpet the fact that it was a secular group.

What's the Point?

Providing services to one's community is a far cry from having a secular community resource center, so you may be thinking, "What's the point?" This is probably not something I can answer for you or anyone else. I'm not trying to convince you that this is a good or bad idea as much as I am suggesting some other ways to think about it. If sharing reality-based information with the public and some of the other possibilities does not interest you, such an effort may have little point. But it could provide an initial step toward working with other atheists to improve the lives of others in one's community.

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