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.

Secular Coalition for America and the organization of Maine nontheists

The Secular Coalition for America has announced that it is seeking to establish chapters across all 50 states:

The Secular Coalition for America is excited to announce the initial organizing efforts for a chapter in Louisiana this month. The state chapter will lobby state lawmakers in favor of a strong separation of religion and government.

The initial organizing call for the Secular Coalition for Louisiana will be held on September 12th at 3:00PM ET / 2:00PM CT. The SCA encourages interested participants to call in. Participation is open to anyone who supports a strong separation of religion and government and wants to get involved, irrespective of personal religious beliefs.

Other state chapters being organized later this month include Delaware, District of Columbia, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Wisconsin. Since June, the SCA successfully held initial organizing calls for new chapters in 27 states. Participants will be trained in lobbying state lawmakers, and the chapter will be provided with a website and other materials.

The big effort here, as far as I can tell, is going to be to dampen the negative effects religion has in politics. Namely, the goals will be to kill stealth creationist bills, promote science education, and maybe even support pro-science candidates. Along with this will come to the promotion of Gnu Atheist values.*

I’m excited about this; I’ve already contacted the former Executive Director of the SCA, Sean Faircloth. He is a former Maine legislator and currently heads up strategy and policy for the Richard Dawkins foundation. I’m not 100% of his involvement with the group at this point, but I do know he is being interviewed for an article that will appear in the Maine Sunday Telegram in a couple of days. (I was also interviewed for the piece.) I hope he can help get me started with all this or at least point me in the right direction. Maine atheists, agnostics, and nonbelievers need to be organized.

The current “organization” for Maine atheists and others currently amounts to an Atheists of Maine Facebook page I run with two other people. As far as I can tell, it is the largest collection of atheists in the state, so if you haven’t liked it yet, you should. I plan on utilizing it to do what I can to help establish an SCA chapter in Maine.

Those hateful atheists

The Obama administration invited the Secular Coalition for America to the White House for a meeting on national policy.

President Barack Obama was not scheduled to make an appearance at the meeting, nor were any policy changes to be announced, McClatchy news service reported.

But that didn’t stop a number of religious conservative groups from attacking the meeting as a sign the president has an anti-religious agenda.

Really? This holds as much water as claiming Obama was born in Kenya or that he’s a Muslim. The U.S. presidency will be held by pro-religious administrations for a long, long time to come, despite this encouraging meeting.

The title of the article I found is Right wing slams White House for meeting with atheist ‘hate groups’. Here are some quotes.

“It is one thing for Administration to meet with groups of varying viewpoints, but it is quite another for a senior official to sit down with activists representing some of the most hate-filled, anti-religious groups in the nation,” said Council Nedd, chairman of the religious advocacy group In God We Trust.

“People of faith, especially Christians, have good reason to wonder exactly where their interests lie with the Obama administration,” Donohue said in a statement. “Now we have the definitive answer. In an unprecedented move, leaders of a presidential administration are hosting some of the biggest anti-religious zealots in the nation.

And from this article,

The fact that this meeting is happening at all is an affront to the vast majority of people of all faiths who believe in God.”

You hear that? Secular, largely atheist organizations are filled with hateful zealots and it’s offensive that they would even get a voice in public policy. Why don’t those damned atheists just shut up?

This is one of the biggest problems facing atheists; the religious feel they have a right to use offensive, derogatory language at will, whether justified or not, and they aren’t afraid to apply it towards atheists – without fear of political fallout. And the truth is, they do have that right. The problem, however, is that they believe only they have that right. Anyone who says religion is bad should just sit down and shut up because their very existence is offensive.

Oh, and all those hate-filled comments from the atheist group?

“We are committed to the separation of church and state and to equality for non-believers in the political arena. Religious speakers must not continue to be given special privileges.”

Equality? HATEFUL!

“I have witnessed firsthand how [military] service members who are openly non-theist have been harassed by their commanders, leaders, and peers, and have been disrespected by their subordinates for failing to hold certain religious beliefs,” said American Atheists vice president Kathleen Johnson.

SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP! ZEALOT!

Johnson called on the Obama administration to make non-theists “a protected class throughout the Armed Services on par with the protections afforded to women, minorities, and those belonging to minority faith groups.”

What? They want equality for themselves and for faith groups? THAT’S SO ANTI-RELIGIOUS!*

*No special privileges for Christians = anti-religious.