December 10, 2013

How to Be More Active in the Atheist Community

English: "Beware of Dogma" billboard...
English: "Beware of Dogma" billboard of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A comment left on a recent post highlighted a subject about which I used to write frequently but have neglected as of late: how can someone new to atheism be more active in the atheist community without having to be fully "out" about one's atheism? This is an excellent question and one that deserves more attention than I have been giving it lately. There are many ways for people who are new to atheism and not yet able to be completely open about their beliefs to get involved and be more active in the atheist community.

Learn More About Atheism

The time in between when one first realizes that one no longer believes in gods and when one decides it is safe to be more open about it is a perfect time to learn more about atheism. Along with secularism and freethought, atheism has a long and distinguished history. It has received more attention in recent years due to a number of factors, but it has been around awhile. The point is, there is much to learn.

Fortunately, there are a number of excellent books on atheism, atheist blogs one can read, websites on atheism, YouTube videos, and podcasts. Plenty of information is now available that can be used to hone one's understanding of the relevant issues. If one thinks that atheist or secular activism might be in one's future, having an advanced understanding of the issues will be an asset.

Connect With Local and/or National Organizations

In the U.S., the primary national organizations I would recommend checking out include the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and American Atheists. Their missions have some overlap, but they are likely to appeal in different degrees to different people. Take the time to explore their websites and see if one appears to be a good fit with your personality, priorities, and the like. If you find one you like, membership is inexpensive and a great way to support their work.

At the local level, the initial challenge will be to determine if there are any atheist groups within reasonable driving distance from one's home. Check out Meetup.com to see what might fit the bill. If you cannot find anything there, give Google a try. Some groups will chose to organize via Facebook instead of Meetup.com to save money. Enter your location along with a variety of potentially relevant keywords (e.g., atheist, atheism, humanism, secular). If you are able to find a group in your area, consider giving it a try.

Take Advantage of the Many Opportunities for Online Activism

Some people minimize the value of online activism, but I think that is a mistake. Not only is the Internet a powerful tool for contacting our elected officials and signing petitions, but it can be quite effective for promoting atheism, informing people of important areas where action is needed, and influencing our culture. Something as simple as using social media to promote your favorite atheist content makes a difference by increasing the likelihood that more people will see it. When we promote the content of other atheists who are doing good work, we are indirectly promoting atheism and strengthening the online atheist community.

Be Inspiring

Some may perceive this as being a bit cheesy, but I'm going to say it anyway. Seek to inspire others through your words and deeds. You are on your way to becoming an ambassador of atheism, so give some thought to the kind of atheist you want to be and what you'd like others to take away from their interactions with you. As you learn more about atheism and explore the many ways to be more active in the atheist community, you are going to be tested. You will encounter things you don't like right here in the atheist community. We aren't perfect, and we do some truly stupid things at times. In addition, you will almost certainly face pressure from religious believers wanting to convert or demonize you. How you respond and how you carry yourself means something. Seek to embody what you would like others to believe about atheists. Be inspiring.

For more ideas of how to be involved in the atheist community, see Be an Atheist Activist in 30 Minutes a Week.

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