I’ve been involved in the secular community for years. During this time I’ve read a decent number of books from humanistic authors and read resources provided by a variety of humanistic groups. Something that might exist in theory but that at the very least I’ve never seen is a guide that shows people how to create humanistic communities. I’m not expecting or demanding perfection from a guide that aims to help do this, I haven’t even seen someone create a brochure or a pamphlet that helps people begin the long work of creating humanistic spaces. I don’t understand for the life of me why there hasn’t been at least to the best of my knowledge an attempt at creating material that is aimed at readers who want to create groups and communities for humanists. I’ve seen plenty of material on how to get groups to become affiliates of other, larger organizations but never a guide on how to create an organization that might one day become an affiliate which is weird. The closest thing to this that I’ve seen comes from friends over at the Secular Student Alliance who have a guide on starting a chapter of the SSA. It’s handy and I recommend checking it out, but it’s by far the closest thing I’ve ever seen that lays out how to create humanistic and/or secular spaces in one’s community. Another group that at least talks about creating humanistic spaces is the Society for Humanistic Judaism. There should be more. Like way more. Big organizations that have time and resources shouldn’t just expect those of us in small towns and in isolated communities to know how to go about creating communities that can eventually become affiliates of theirs, they should be helping us go about this intimidating task.
Advantages of creating such a guide:
As a humanist who spent a while outside of humanistic organizations and tended to prefer homegrown and local communities of humanists whoever creates this guide would go quite a ways towards helping to shape future organizations and finding extremely talented activists because the reality is that a lot of activists stay local and are passionate but aren’t interested in engaging on these topics daily on a state or national level. I know folks from all over the country who are very talented but want to help their communities specifically for a range of reasons. More than a few of them work alone because even if they want to create local groups they don’t know how to go about doing that and creating and sharing a guide could begin to change that for the better.
Whoever creates this guide or starts a trend of creating guides would be able to share and publicize fantastic resources that people aren’t aware of. These resources might be obvious like Meetup or less obvious like Craigslist where people can create and plan events and even begin to participate in conversations with locals on a wide range of topics including humanism and irreligion.
This would be a kind thing for humanistic groups to do. Being a lone humanist is an intimidating task yet it’s a reality for humanists in smaller communities all over the country. Many people who live in communities where humanistic groups don’t openly exist want to make such groups but don’t know where they could go to safely discuss these topics or how to broach the topic of humanism with people who may or may not be humanists because resources that help us do this are still fairly uncommon if they exist at all. There are plenty of people like me who are open about humanism and publicly identify ourselves as humanists but there are also plenty of people who don’t do that and in many cases, it’s because they feel like they could be putting themselves in harms way socially if they took a chance and were wrong. It’s also easier in some places to identify as a humanist openly. I felt pretty safe in Greensboro when I openly called myself an atheistic humanist there, and I feel even safer in D.C., but if I were in Highland Beach, Maryland I’d feel less safe doing that. Humanistic groups should view this as an opportunity and as an activity worth doing because it is. It’s worth creating resources that not only help humanists who’ve looked for them but also help those same humanists help other humanists who didn’t look for them.
Why I want to create a guide:I want to create a guide that helps humanists in small communities not only feel confident and safe discussing humanism openly but also working to befriend other humanists in their communities face to face and eventually creating humanistic groups themselves. I want to do this because I and many other bloggers in the humanist sphere, especially those of us who are Latin-American have gotten messages from readers who told us they felt alone and didn’t know they weren’t until they found our blogs. There are people out there who walk away from religion and end up feeling alone because they are in small communities and in communities where religion holds inordinate influence and not all of them know how to find the digital humanist community. I don’t want them to feel alone anymore. I don’t want to be one of the only resources out there for friends and readers because I’m online and up until fairly recently most of my activism was purely digital. I want to give other humanists something physical, something tangible and I don’t want them to do it because they want to be an affiliate of another often bigger group, I want them to do it because they know it matters and if they end up becoming affiliates of bigger organizations that’s fine.
I’ve been quietly working on a guide for creating humanistic communities that contains a variety of tips for talking about humanism face to face and that goes over a variety of places they can go too to find other humanists both online and in their communities and I’m going to start talking about this more and looking for insights from experts and experienced community creators in the days to come. The plan I have for now is to start dropping sections of it for people to read over before releasing a full guide, or at least my attempt at one, in the next few months. I’ve been really quiet about it until now even though I’ve previously worked on similar guides that I never published on a range of topics such as getting Hispanic and Latin-American voters organized and active in caucuses.
I hope that now that I’m talking about this it comes together and is eventually publicly accessible for humanists throughout the country and beyond. If you want to help or you want to see part of the guide please let me know!