Monday, October 5, 2009

Starting a Campus Rationalist Political Group

I went to the San Diego Atheist Coalition meeting last week, and this week I'm going to try the local San Diego Humanist group. It's good to network; I've been talking to people about what to do at UCSD, since what appears to have been the only atheist group is now defunct.

I met up with someone on campus today (hi William) and rather than just resurrect the previous group, I think I'm going to do an experiment and organize something around issues where we can make a difference, rather than "atheism", whatever that can mean. It's a frequent catch-22 for us that it seems strange to organize a group around the absence of something. It is - but of course, that's not really what we're doing. We're organized positively around the presence of reason, transparency and accountability.

Look: I might find it odd that my neighbor believes in a telepathic ghost who lives in the sky. And as one person to another, I will be glad to engage her and ask her why she believes that and maybe if she wouldn't be able to live a better life without that belief. What I do care about is whether she expects my kids to be taught about her sky ghost, or she votes based on what the sky ghost tells her to do. But like many (if not most) sky-ghost believers, this neighbor will probably go through all kinds of contortions to interpret the sky ghost's book in such a way as to arrive at the same morality and make the same decisions as a rational citizen of twenty-first century. Because this particular madness affects crowds, it bears close scrutiny. But if she is just as willing to fight for separation of church and state in the form of keeping creationism out of schools, encouraging medical research, and protecting women's choice, I'm happy to get on board with her. What matters is not the rhetorical process but the result.

That's why I'm going to do an experiment. Instead of starting up another campus atheist group, I'm going to start something like "Rationalist Political Issues", except hopefully more inspiring. A few months back I posted about political issues that atheists care most about. Not only does an action-oriented group not suffer from the lack of focus that can creep into atheist meetings, we can coordinate with pre-existing single-issue groups - and, a rationalist action (as opposed to atheist) group is also more inclusive. Rational theists welcome!

The first step is to come up with a name, and as you can see by my unmemorable title above, I got nothing. Happy to take suggestions.

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