SCA conference call

As I mentioned I would, I dialed into the Secular Coalition for America’s conference call yesterday afternoon. A good number of other people were on the line, including a few from the group Downeast Humanists (for those of you outside the state, this is the what Downeast means in Maine). A lot of what was discussed was the basic mission of SCA state chapters (lobbying), but there was also emphasis on the need for volunteers. The thing that makes any lobbying group successful is its ability to get people to pay attention; small or big, the way a group does that is with strong infrastructure and support from its people. Beside that, the bigger a talent pool we get, the better. For anyone interested in hearing the call, the SCA will have it up on the Maine page soon. If you’re really an eager beaver, an outline of the matters discussed is already up.

I’ve got to say I’m pretty excited about all this. Between the Downeast Humanists and those at Atheists of Maine, I think we’re already well positioned to get a strong grassroots movement going; it shouldn’t be long before we’re able to establish an official lobbying group.

Atheist lobbying in Maine

I recently wrote about the Secular Coalition for America’s push to establish chapters in all 50 states. I mentioned that I had been interviewed for a piece in the local Maine newspapers concerning that push. Here is that piece:

Rarely does a news release headline jump off the screen like this one that landed last week in my inbox: “Maine atheists to organize state lobbying group this month.”

Good heavens. As if Maine doesn’t have enough to argue about these days.

Later this week, the Secular Coalition for America will open its phone lines to anyone and everyone in Maine who a) doesn’t believe in God, b) can’t be sure there is a God or c) believes, regardless of his or her spiritual underpinnings, that government at any level should not be doing anything in the name of the man (or woman) upstairs…

“Lobbying is the tip of the iceberg,” [Sean] Faircloth agreed. Like the gay rights movement has done over the last three or four decades, he said, “the key is building a grassroots organization that has credibility.”

Which is where Mainers like Michael Hawkins come in.

Hawkins, 27, grew up attending the Roman Catholic St. Mary’s School in Augusta.

His road to atheism began when he was in his teens and heard a group of God-fearing adults asserting, with utmost certainty, that the Earth is a mere 7,000 years old.

“I knew that wasn’t true — but I didn’t know why it wasn’t true or by how much they were wrong,” recalled Hawkins, who’s now one course away from a bachelor’s degree in biology and helped found a loosely knit group on Facebook called Atheists of Maine.

Hawkins, upon hearing about the Secular Coalition for America’s conference call at 1 p.m. Thursday, said he’ll definitely be on the line. (To join in, call 530-881-1400 and punch in the access code 978895.)

But where it all goes from there, Hawkins said, is still up in the air.

He’s well aware that “there’s a lot of stigma around the word” atheist.

And he harbors no illusions that in Maine’s current political climate, wary politicians on either side of the aisle might embrace what undoubtedly would be branded the “atheist agenda.”

“With the Republicans in control of everything, it’s not going to be well received,” Hawkins predicted. “It’ll take a little while.”

If not an eternity.

The comment sections on this article are interesting. (The article appears on several websites because many of Maine’s major newspapers are owned by the same company.) Some people are going off with the usual garbage about atheists calling the religious stupid. I’ve never heard or read any major atheist do this. Other people are attacking Faircloth for this or that. One person even said he doesn’t have a real job, even though he’s one of only 4 people listed at the head of the Richard Dawkins Foundation. A few are trying to tackle the writer, Bill Nemitz, for one imagined thing or another. Hey, maybe my mention of the fact that Republicans control everything in Maine right now really is Nemitz’s political agenda. That totally makes sense. Fortunately, a good number of people are simply excited about this. We’ve even seen a slight uptick in membership on the Facebook page Atheists of Maine.

My only disappointment is that my old school got a mention. It isn’t something I’ve ever tried to hide, but I’m sure the people at St. Michael School (previously known as St. Mary’s) weren’t overly excited about it. As much as I disagree with the Catholic religion, I’m constantly grateful that I went to that school over the less than stellar public choices in the area.

At any rate, I hope the SCA makes a big splash in Maine. I’ll keep things updated.