By Gary Berg-Cross
In April Sean Faircloth (Director of Strategy & Policy for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason ) held forth in a wide ranging talk from making your own sarcastic Willy Wonka meme to innovations for a secular world.
He set the state of affairs with his visit accompanying Richard Dawkins during a joint book promotion ( "The Magic of Reality" and “Attack of the Theocrats”) at Eastern Kentucky University were first in Eastern Kentucky. In this relatively religious, Bible Belt area there was a large turnout with just a public announcement. Pretty impression and part Sean’s story line of a mission with a vision of what type of activism that is needed for a secular America. We might see atheism and secularism as a new stories that need to be told with proper anecdotes that are critical opening doors. The idea is to influence social direction, but do it humanely and don't exclude others who disagree.
Sean makes the point that hanging America is not trivial and requires more than a philosophical understanding and rhetoric. Religious “stories” have seductive simplicity of certainty that is a powerful brand message. These get folded into Lies about science and other topics. Non-religious humanists can take lessons from how the religious right worked their way into political power. This power now has to be countered thoughtfully. It requires action by people who don't disdain politics. An innovative framing of issue is more than just saying no.
From this general frame Sean launched into his latest book Attack of the Theocrats: How the Religious Right Harms Us All and What to Do About It where he discusses religious influence that American’s may not be aware of. In Chapter 1 he notes that there already are laws on the books with a Theocratic theme to them. One example are laws that exempt religious child care from laws that apply to everyone else. Children can indeed be harmed by religious-tinged laws as well as by so called “faith healing.” Does it make sense for Muslim taxpayers to subsidize mega mansions of fundamentalists Christian preachers?
Sean suggests that people can look at his video interview with Liz Heywood on fundamental mentalists, who get physically harmed by “Faith Healing.” Over 35 states have laws which give some greater leeway to "faith-healing." Another problem is how religion lessens parent’s or girl’s rights or how people lose job for having the “wrong” religion.
Chapter 2 - Jefferson Making the Religious Right Mad was an important part of Sean’s talk. It concerned the secular government described by the Founders. The message is simply to bring back Madison’s constitution and Jefferson’s 1st Amendment. It should be our mission. The freedom of man is the main goal.
Sean noted that we will shortly be coming up to celebration of the 400th anniversary of Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum (1620) which provided a scientific method that influenced Jefferson in his day and still provides inspiration. Maybe we can accomplish a significant part of our secular decade plan by then.
A help may be Sean’s 10 point plan which is positive in nature and is designed to persuade people to join us through a vision of compassion that addresses people being harmed by the status quo. We should speak of being free from others religion not freedom of religion and turn the issue to our advantage.
One part of the plan is to show the pervasiveness of the problem. Expose the religio-industrial complex and help put fundamentalists on defensive. We need to expose the gravy train religion provides for people like Joyce Meyer and Austin or Paul and Janice Crouch. The Crouches of the California-based Trinity Broadcasting Network preach a prosperity gospel. Good for them. Really good for them. With donations they built a single station into the world's largest Christian television network and have his-and-her mansions 1 street apart in a gated community. All provided by the network using viewer donations & tax-free earnings.
We also need to humanize the secular and make people aware of these humanist values. As part of this we need to separate faith from virtue and show that we are the tribunes of justice.
Sean is one secularist that believes that the blatant certainty of “I'm smarter than you” done well like people like Chis Hitchens turns people off. Perhaps it is a better starter to show that your beliefs are genuine.
Sean had a quire a bit to say about organizing. Locally, such as here is Maryland we should have a State wide presence. People might work with Fred Edwords (national director of the United Coalition of Reason) on secular laws. RDF promises to work with local people who are interested in secular change and are looking at new ways of making a Dawkins visit pay off and count to build a community we want.
Nationally the Richard Dawkins Foundation is working to organize things broadly and help facilitate state-wide groups.
RDF will have new web site coming out and the existing site gets millions of hits.
The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, along with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, sponsors a special fund to help ministers and priests who want to get out of the pulpit. Named the Clergy Project it will help ministers, priests, rabbis and other clergy who no longer believe in the supernatural (atheists, agnostics, secular humanists) and are looking for an exit strategy to a secular life.
Other thing to do include:
· working with secular parents
· Support Groups with unique issues, such as the military.
· Considers speakers as organizers
In summary. We have the best cause and as Wily Wonka suggested:
We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsake
So shines a good deed in a weary world.
Among the Q and As were:
The observation that in earlier times Rockefeller and Goldwater didn't care for religion in Government and spoke out against it.
On the role of libertarians in the movement, Sean agreed that there are some non-liberals in movement but the % is small. Perhaps 15% or so. They differ on economics but not on other important issues like evolution. So try to have the big tent.
One Q was. “Is the take away message that we should proselytize?”
Sean said that it depends on what we mean, but we should state what we believe and hope to get others to join us. It is important to not be discriminated against as non-believers. But this is not so much of an issue in some areas of the country. Elsewhere it is, but there are other problems there too.
A related Q was what we can do about religious movement? Sean believes in advocating and educating but not to imply that people who don’t agree with us are necessarily ignorant. He is worried about the mix with politics and people like Steve King of Iowa who opposed honor of slaves who worked on the National Capital in the capital building.
We have to remember that we can’t win just by defeating a national candidate like a Perry or the Theocrat Romney. They are wrong on the issue and have power since they are or were governors. But people like Newt and Santorium get elected to legislatures which a national election won't settle. We have to work there too.
Steve Lowe asked if we should create separate issue like the Log Cabin Republicans there? This provides a space where they can have their own meetings.
See Sean Faircloth videos.