January 29, 2013

Atheists, I Guess We Do Have Leaders

English: A picture of Roy Speckhardt, Executiv...
A picture of Roy Speckhardt, Executive Director of the American Humanist Association. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One of the most common criticisms of the atheist movement (i.e., the activist-oriented subset of the atheist community) is our lack of leadership. Without leaders, organization is difficult. Without organization, it is almost impossible to utilize our numbers effectively to bring about change. Someone has to mobilize the many activists and point them toward shared goals, and that is what leaders are for.

Imagine my surprise to learn that we have leaders after all. At least, if CNN's account is to be believed, we have leaders. According to CNN, our leaders met last weekend in Atlanta at something called "the eighth annual Heads Meeting." Never heard of it.
Some of the nation’s most influential leaders, representing various organizations, will convene to chart a path forward and discuss the most important issues facing "nones" today.
That sounds good. I'm glad somebody is having the discussion. So who are our leaders? The names listed by CNN include:
  • Roy Speckhardt (American Humanist Association)
  • Dale McGowan (Foundation Beyond Belief)
  • David Silverman (American Atheists)
  • Ron Lindsay (Center for Inquiry)
  • Margaret Downey (Freethought Society)
I have heard of each one of these people, and I've interacted with a couple of them online. I am aware of the positions they hold with these organizations. And yet, it never occurred to me that they are our leaders and that they held meetings like this.

At this point, my reaction to this news is neither positive nor negative. I'm just surprised. I have no reason to think that any of these leaders are not doing a good job in representing their various membership. I suppose I just need to let the news sink in a bit longer.

Since this comes as a surprise, I naturally have questions. Were these individuals the only ones at this meeting, or were there others who were not mentioned in the article? I ask because there are a few names and organizations I am surprised not to see mentioned. I wonder if that means they were not invited or that they declined for some reason?