This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

← 17 Year Old - In Need of Some Inspiration

17 Year Old - In Need of Some Inspiration - Comments

AsylumWarden's Avatar Comment 1 by AsylumWarden

Don't give up would be my first piece of advice. Also, if people are going to use finals/exams as excuses not to show up, when planning ahead, look all through the calendar for any possible clashes and make sure to avoid them.

Tue, 24 May 2011 10:37:33 UTC | #630178

TheChrissetti's Avatar Comment 2 by TheChrissetti

I imagine that a new group will take time to get on its feet and especially if meetings are being held during hectic times of the year. Keep up running a good group with interesting discussions and you should soon start to see numbers rise.

Tue, 24 May 2011 10:57:52 UTC | #630191

Fujikoma's Avatar Comment 3 by Fujikoma

A couple friends of mine are priests at a church I used to attend when I was very young. They always held meetings (even in bad weather) on a regular basis regardless of how many people showed up. It was to maintain consistency for the core that did show up, so they didn't waste their time/resources showing up to a cancelled meeting. It also forced them to develop a long term strategy to gain members and accept when a meeting wasn't as great as hoped. It also gave those who weren't sure, the time that they needed to develop a bond with the church.
I think that it's more difficult to hold non-belief meetings precisely because there is no underlying, unifying belief (while equality may be the belief, it's seen as 'a given' and not out of the norm). Look at black civil rights in the U.S. It's tied to a religious proxy, in spite of the historical irony, because black churches were the only permissible place allowed for organizing. It went through its slow building process out of necessity. Gays have had a much more difficult time, because they've had to construct their own organizations from scratch. If you want to find out how to expand your membership, maybe you should seek out the first few 'generations' of a successful campus group to see how they weathered the initial storm. You may have to initiate contact with other non-belief groups in other cities to see how they organize, then pick and choose what you feel may work the best in your area.

Tue, 24 May 2011 11:31:32 UTC | #630208

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 4 by AtheistEgbert

Joseph. I remember reading your article on this website when you first set up the organization. It was you who inspired me and others in what you were doing.

Many people like you are setting up organizations and standing up against religion and irrationality all over the world, some are risking their lives in doing so. And it inspires the rest of us to fight for the same cause.

However, I recently share the same sense of demoralization, because the task seems so overwhelming, that people seem apathetic and even lacking in any morality. I look at my fellow atheists sometimes, and wonder if we're all on the same side.

Probably the only advice I can give is take one step at a time. Break down the overwhelming problems into small easy steps, and then work through all the steps, and in time you will achieve whatever you want.

Tue, 24 May 2011 11:48:49 UTC | #630216

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 5 by Jos Gibbons

If a group starts at a time of the year like this it's good to see whether you can persuade those who do turn up to become committee members or whatever the equivalent is. They can work together, primarily by email, to plan everything properly for the next term or anything like a "Freshers' Fair" (to use the terminology of my own university). One more thing: keep a very close eye on the paperwork your university has regarding student groups. They can require surprisingly stringent and/or frequent filling in of forms, and can need chasing up.

Tue, 24 May 2011 11:51:06 UTC | #630217

Hellboy2's Avatar Comment 6 by Hellboy2

Comment 4 AtheistEgbert - Many people like you are setting up organizations and standing up against religion and irrationality all over the world, some are risking their lives in doing so. And it inspires the rest of us to fight for the same cause.

Can't put it better Joseph. Just take heart from the recent 'C'rapture' debacle - getting the message across to the next generation that religion is not something to be feared or mindlessly obeyed, is a worthy fight. If anything, at this moment in time, religion is having to justify itself more and more, especially in the US, and whatever you do, adding your voice to the increasing cry of reason is only going to be an ultimately good thing. Best of British Luck!! Hell

Tue, 24 May 2011 13:17:57 UTC | #630241

rrh1306's Avatar Comment 7 by rrh1306

Keep it up man. Your laying down the ground work, and I think your efforts now will pay dividends in the future for the atheist at your school. Your group is new, and people can be scared to jump onto a new cause before it's been accepted by everyone. But I think as time passes and people get used to the idea, you'll see things start to take off. And as for the comments from the religious people goes, I say fuck em. There "faith" is so weak that they get angry at even the idea of non-belief. For them to hear about someone else's disbelief stokes their own doubt. It's like salt in the wound of their souls. But that's their problem, not yours. Keep fighting the good fight.

Tue, 24 May 2011 13:48:18 UTC | #630253

C.Wood's Avatar Comment 8 by C.Wood

Do a little marketing (non-agressive so you don't draw too much negative attention).

Keep up doing those meetings.

Deal with many different subjects from a secularist point of view. Human rights, education, science, just to name a few.

At the end of the session, ask if someone would like to suggest a topic for the next meeting.

With or without suggestions, prepare the next meeting. Gather a few articles, books, opinions, videos, etc.

It's going to be a long walk, I predict. But if you've got the strength, you can do it and make it worthwhile.

Good luck! :)

Tue, 24 May 2011 15:45:49 UTC | #630295

jel's Avatar Comment 9 by jel

The article linked to failed pretty much right at the start, it says that the atheist speaker brought his pagan beliefs to the meeting. The speaker is atheist, not pagan! If that's the level of people negatively reporting on the meeting I wouldn't worry too much.

Tue, 24 May 2011 17:24:39 UTC | #630336

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 10 by ZenDruid

The only bad publicity is no publicity.

I would say, write a public rebuttal to the fool who wrote the article, and submit it to other media sources in addition to his paper. I'm sure there are many people to help you with the wording.[*]

[*] I don't think PZ is a good choice today. ;)

Tue, 24 May 2011 17:41:00 UTC | #630346

VitruviannMan's Avatar Comment 11 by VitruviannMan

Abraham Lincoln ran 8 times for President and lost before he could win. If unsuccessful at first, keep on working and eventually your labor will pay off one way or another. If it means anything to you, I wish I was as active as you are when I went to highschool or college. I truly envy your activism and would hate to see you give up because of the frustrations that many of us free thinkers have throughout our lives. Do not let them bring you down, use them to your advantage, because you're doing the right thing.

Here's a small clip for you. It helps me motivate myself when I'm not satisfied with stuff. Perhaps it'll help you.

Tue, 24 May 2011 21:07:16 UTC | #630436

Ivan The Not So Bad's Avatar Comment 12 by Ivan The Not So Bad

Have a meeting with the theme Atheists Have Better Sex.

Given your target demographic, that should work a treat.

Tue, 24 May 2011 21:29:24 UTC | #630440

John_Geeshu's Avatar Comment 13 by John_Geeshu

I can speak as a kindred spirit of sorts. 18 months ago I co-organized the first non-believer group in my town and that in turn was the germ for an SSA chapter at the university here. I understand the demoralization you are describing -- I felt it. I will tell you my experience, and you can take what you will from it. If you need more advice, for what it's worth you are welcome to contact me through my account here.

My friend and I worked our asses off for months prior to the initial meeting, and then even harder for the first six months, preparing meeting topics, organizing social events, and trying like blazes to build a community of nonbelievers. It was a lot of work and physically and mentally exhausting, and in a college town of 60,000 in NE Arkansas our most vibrant meetings were attended by 20 people. After 6 months', participation waned so fast we could no longer hold regular meetings, and exhausted I turned over control to another member.

The group has since merged with the SSA chapter here because of flagging membership and when I last attended a month or so ago there were six members and the organizer later told me she is utterly demoralized by the lack of participation and is ready to call it quits.

I think that it is plainly very very difficult to get nonbelievers interested and keep them interested unless you have a lot of dedicated people willing to put in a lot of work. Believers have a powerful, unifying theme that keeps them coming back for more; nonbelievers are lacking that (at least they appear to be in this town). It is disheartening.

We were criticized by believers as being immoral and bad for the town's image, and by nonbelievers for being rude and intolerant and bad for atheism's image because some of our members are critical of religion.

Members never seemed to be satisfied with our format and efforts. We were never able to find the right balance of content and tone. This is expected because it is tough to please everyone all the time, but the most frustrating part was the unwillingness of the loudest complainers to get involved or offer ideas of their own.

Can it be done? Yes. Is the time right? Yes. Is it worth it? Only you can answer that question.

Best of luck. I hope it is a rip-roaring success.

Tue, 24 May 2011 21:46:10 UTC | #630449

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 14 by AtheistEgbert

Comment 13 by John_Geeshu :

I can speak as a kindred spirit of sorts. 18 months ago I co-organized the first non-believer group in my town and that in turn was the germ for an SSA chapter at the university here. I understand the demoralization you are describing -- I felt it. I will tell you my experience, and you can take what you will from it. If you need more advice, for what it's worth you are welcome to contact me through my account here.

My friend and I worked our asses off for months prior to the initial meeting, and then even harder for the first six months, preparing meeting topics, organizing social events, and trying like blazes to build a community of nonbelievers. It was a lot of work and physically and mentally exhausting, and in a college town of 60,000 in NE Arkansas our most vibrant meetings were attended by 20 people. After 6 months', participation waned so fast we could no longer hold regular meetings, and exhausted I turned over control to another member.

The group has since merged with the SSA chapter here because of flagging membership and when I last attended a month or so ago there were six members and the organizer later told me she is utterly demoralized by the lack of participation and is ready to call it quits.

I think that it is plainly very very difficult to get nonbelievers interested and keep them interested unless you have a lot of dedicated people willing to put in a lot of work. Believers have a powerful, unifying theme that keeps them coming back for more; nonbelievers are lacking that (at least they appear to be in this town). It is disheartening.

We were criticized by believers as being immoral and bad for the town's image, and by nonbelievers for being rude and intolerant and bad for atheism's image because some of our members are critical of religion.

Members never seemed to be satisfied with our format and efforts. We were never able to find the right balance of content and tone. This is expected because it is tough to please everyone all the time, but the most frustrating part was the unwillingness of the loudest complainers to get involved or offer ideas of their own.

Can it be done? Yes. Is the time right? Yes. Is it worth it? Only you can answer that question.

Best of luck. I hope it is a rip-roaring success.

John, You seem to have a very low opinion of me, but can I say that I fully agree with your experience in attempting to organize nonbelievers. It can be demoralising.

As soon as group dynamics emerge, then we have problems where rationality begins to 'get lost' for personality and politics. It even happens on these forums where threads turn into arguments and battles of egos. I think it would be progressive if we faced up to some of these uncomfortable truths.

Tue, 24 May 2011 23:24:06 UTC | #630491

reebus's Avatar Comment 15 by reebus

I think if there was a debate format, it would be more interesting to both sides of the argument, but i realise that might be harder to organise. But usually people might turn up to see if their side 'wins' and so you appeal to both sides of the 'market'.

Perhaps organising teams of students to debate it might work, although i must admit i'm reminded of 'Ron Jones' and his 'The Third Wave' in the late 60's experiment even as i suggest it.

Also you have exams and study to do too, so don't feel so bad if you can't afford to give enough of yourself to acheive something that is really for other people who haven't had the good sense to become as secularist as yourself. You are not betraying secularism if you find you have to concentrate on yourself rather than helping other people for a while.

Anyway i want to congratulate you: i wish i was as even half as enlightened and energetic when i was your age.

Tue, 24 May 2011 23:41:35 UTC | #630499

Problem Solved's Avatar Comment 16 by Problem Solved

The advice from the previous posters is all great. I'll just add, as someone who grew up in Northwood, that I think what you're doing is fantastic and necessary, and your audience/community is all around you; they just need motivation, which is what you are already offering sufficiently. The development might be gradual. As word of this meeting gets around (it sounds like those in attendance enjoyed it), you'll find more folks coming around.

I think ZenDruid's public rebuttal is a great idea, especially since the Register article was so poorly written. Other marketing is also a good idea. Good luck!

Tue, 24 May 2011 23:57:51 UTC | #630508

jonjermey's Avatar Comment 17 by jonjermey

My atheist blog is just starting to get traction. It's taken two years. People like Richard who are looked up to in the atheist movement have usually been working away quietly for decades. It takes time and effort: but history is on our side.

Wed, 25 May 2011 07:58:20 UTC | #630631

sandman67's Avatar Comment 18 by sandman67

Dont give in is the best advice.

Develop a thick skin, and take comfort and example from men like Dr Martin Luther King and every other fighter for equal rights and rights for minorities. Read Al Stefanelli's blog and others.

And never stop fighting.

Good luck sport!

Wed, 25 May 2011 13:53:43 UTC | #630772

C.Wood's Avatar Comment 19 by C.Wood

Just remembered something I read or saw on a video, not sure where, but it seems very useful to deal with a common religious argument that "there has to be a soul" or something more than just our physical bodies.

It's so simple, too. Here it goes:

If the body and consciousness (or soul, or whatever they'd like to call it) are two distinct and separate things, then how is it that a birth defect can strip someone away of almost every behavior that makes us human?

Anyone care to give a satisfactory answer? :)

Wed, 25 May 2011 20:27:26 UTC | #630889

mmurray's Avatar Comment 20 by mmurray

Comment 19 by C.Wood :

Just remembered something I read or saw on a video, not sure where, but it seems very useful to deal with a common religious argument that "there has to be a soul" or something more than just our physical bodies.

It's so simple, too. Here it goes:

If the body and consciousness (or soul, or whatever they'd like to call it) are two distinct and separate things, then how is it that a birth defect can strip someone away of almost every behavior that makes us human?

Anyone care to give a satisfactory answer? :)

The birth defect damages the physical connection between the soul and the mind. Like breaking the monitor cable on your computer. Everything inside the computer is perfect but what appears on the display is all distorted.

I don't believe this of course but that is the line I would take if I was sold on souls. Alzheimers is another example you could use. Many people these days have sadly watched their relatives and loved ones slowly disappear while still alive.

Michael

Wed, 25 May 2011 22:12:13 UTC | #630930

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 21 by Schrodinger's Cat

One option you might wish to consider is additionally providing virtual meetings. Anyone here who's aware of Second Life may or may not be aware that there's a rather well made 'Atheist Center' there that one can visit. Actually well laid out...with a copy of Dawkin's God Delusion displayed at the entrance and photos of Hitchens, Harris, Dennett, etc around the walls. I've seldom met anyone there....and it seems a shame the place is so little used.

The place also has an associated 'group'....where I've had a few IM discussions with other non-believers in Second Life.

Thu, 26 May 2011 10:49:53 UTC | #631068

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 22 by AtheistEgbert

ZR1,

Whatever you decide to do, please continue informing us on how you your organization is progressing, what problems you're coming up against, what successes you achieve.

It might be a good idea that someone starts up a kind of website forum for secular organization members to post and exchange ideas and offer support. Perhaps there is one out there already, if so, if anyone can post the address, it might help people like ZR1 in future.

Thu, 26 May 2011 19:22:43 UTC | #631261

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 23 by ZenDruid

It might be a good idea that someone starts up a kind of website forum for secular organization members to post and exchange ideas and offer support. Perhaps there is one out there already, if so, if anyone can post the address, it might help people like ZR1 in future.

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State

Freedom from Religion Foundation

Thu, 26 May 2011 20:04:20 UTC | #631279

Omri's Avatar Comment 24 by Omri

I would think about printing fliers and handing them out. each with a different argument for God and its rebuttal. No more than a page in length. I've been working on a few if you are interested. A sort of blog with one page for every argument. More are added every couple of days.

http://debatingwithgod.blogspot.com/

Sat, 28 May 2011 09:38:51 UTC | #631661

Anvil's Avatar Comment 25 by Anvil

Comment 24 by Omri

I would think about printing fliers and handing them out. each with a different argument for God and its rebuttal. No more than a page in length. I've been working on a few if you are interested. A sort of blog with one page for every argument. More are added every couple of days.

http://debatingwithgod.blogspot.com/

Here's my suggestion for a flyer:

'God is Great!'

'Er, no, he's not - grow up.'

Anvil.

Sat, 28 May 2011 11:08:26 UTC | #631670

educationsaves's Avatar Comment 26 by educationsaves

You attracted the attention of an obvious biased religious reporter. Be Proud of that fact. Point out each one of the articles biases publicly , the reporter deserves to have it pointed out that his article was poor reporting of an event. Your little club attracted attention of the "enemy" you must be doing something right.

Thu, 02 Jun 2011 01:27:59 UTC | #633084