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Sacramento Freethinkers Atheists & Nonbelievers (FAN) Message Board › Bookclub Discussion - Topic is guidelines and procedures on book selection

Bookclub Discussion - Topic is guidelines and procedures on book selection

Fair Oaks, CA
Post #: 1
The book club that Bakari has been organizing for the last several months has come under some criticism by some members of SACFAN because of concerns that the latest book selection: Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by Jon Perkins may reflect poorly on the rest of the group because it has been argued that the book in question is not relevant and/or related to this meetup group in particular. There are other concerns that have been expressed as well based on the political leanings and nature of the book, which could be considered controversial by some people.

The argument put forth by those who attended the last book club meeting is essentially this: The book was chosen by a majority of those in attendance and while they agree the book may not directly be related to Atheism, those that have read the book agree that there is a strong humanistic, freethinking and skeptical tone to the book. Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, they say, is not only relevant to the book club members but also appears to be popular enough to spend 70 weeks on the New York Times best seller list.

The current book club members I spoke with agree that there should be some limits and guidelines as to how books are selected in the future.

Personally I would not like to see books "blacklisted" or particular genres considered off limits. It's hard enough to get a group of Freethinkers and the like to agree on anything as it is, I say if those who participate in the book club agree on a particular selection, that should be good enough for those who choose not to participate. To balance out the needs of those who take umbrage with this selection or any future selection, each book club posting online should clearly state that the contents of the book of the month do not necessarily reflect the opinions of SACFAN or the individual members therein. To go even further, the previous statement or something along the same lines could even be read aloud at the beginning of each and every book club meeting.

Well, that's it from me, looking forward to all of your input.
Anyse J.
Sacramento, CA
Post #: 80
I am a bit startled that this has to be said at all! basically, the selection is by the group and, as it is a group interested in reading books, if we chose to read "A Cat in the Hat," it should make no difference to anyone. I would like to suggest that we read "The Annotated Mother Goose," as it is more violent than most crime novels as well as deals with our children and the myths that the poems convey overall. However, I may suggest it once and, if blown off, then so be it! We read books! We read them as a group and discuss them. It is that simple. There should be NO controversy at all. If anyone wants to be part of the book club and wants to weigh in with a suggestion for the next month, then show up and participate. I am there most of the time and have read every book since the beginning. I have NEVER commented on the books as inappropriate or whatever. I may attack the scholarship or the writing; however, that is part of being a critical thinker when reading. I would like to see more members at these meetings. I would like to see a greater diversity of opinions and views (so far, it looks like the number of views and opinions equals the number of participants!) that would be present should this happen. So, please, come, be heard, participate, be heard some more . . . All are welcome!
user 2418735
Elk Grove, CA
Post #: 30
Dustin and Anyse--as well as other dedicated members of the FAN club--thank you for taking the time to address the issues that have arose about the books the club has chosen to read.
Dustin, your honesty and forthrightness concerning this matter is helping I think move this issue along. And the use of this discussion board is a much better format for addressing the issues than the troll-like activity that was started on the Events page.

When I took on the facilitation of the club back in August, I attempted to get an understanding of any criteria that was put together for the book club. I asked attending members several times if we needed some sort of criteria. My way of facilitating (if you want to call it that) this group has always been to encourage attending members of both FAN and the book club to contribute to what we choose to read, and even what the criteria for the club should be.

Here’s a link (http://www.goodreads....­) I posted a few months ago that shows the books we have read so far. I posted the link on my FAN profile page so that others would get an idea of the kinds of books we have read. A few months ago, one young member of the group recommended a list of books that she thought would be useful to read, and I also posted that list a few months ago (http://www.goodreads....­. (Btw, starting next month, I will also re-post this recommended list every month on the Events page so that people can constantly consider different books to read.)

So anyway despite what Josh and Shane may feel, there’s no hidden agenda about the selection of books for the book club. The current book is not some political track for the Zeitgeist Movement, but even if it were it should not be a reason we don’t read this or any other book that we think would be useful for discussion. We are a group of Freethinkers concerned about all types issues related to religion, science, race, sexual orientation, the environment, politics, etc. We don’t limit ourselves in the way religious groups do.

I would hope that we don’t become a group of close-minded people that only discusses a narrow range of topics. Though we can’t always choose a book that everyone will want to read, we can respect the process by participating in the group and advocating book selections that we think will be useful and enlightening for group members.

If FAN members would like to come up with a criteria for what attending book club members should be reading, it has every right to do so. Depending on what that criteria is, I may not agree with it, but I will respect the process because I respect the intent and nature of this meetup.

However, I must say that I find it deeply offensive when a few members of the group make accusations about the selections of books but yet those same members have not recently attended meetings even when we have read books by atheist authors. I also was very troubled to see a few members call out Raj’s book as not relevant to be read. I really found that odd since his book does for Islam what Richard Dawkin’s book does for Christianity. I didn’t have a problem with members making constructive criticism of Raj’s analysis, but it was really troubling to hear a few members try to dictate what we should and should not be reading. Raj has been a dedicated member of FAN and he took the time to actually write his own book about a subject, Islam, few us know little about. Just on those basis alone I felt we needed to support him in reading the book. And despite the controversy that ensued about it, I felt that we had a very honest and fruitful discussion among those who actually ATTENDED the meeting. We didn’t agree on everything, but it was a healthy and respectful discussion, and Raj, as a scholar, patiently listened and defended his book.

So I look forward to many more discussions like these, as well as ones less controversial. But what I don’t look forward to is having to address the criticisms and accusations of people who are not themselves a part to the process or the group. I would never instigate such behavior out of respect for other people. And patience for it.

So this may be my last statement on the issue. Josh and other members can freely do whatever they like to shape the direction of the book club. I will never take it personally, and whatever the FAN group decides I will respect that process, though I might not be the one to facilitate it.

Thank you again for this exchange.
Roberto L.
Roseville, CA
Post #: 24
I was going to comment on the choice of book, not because I agree or disagree with whatever the author is trying to say, but because the topic did not seem relevant to the meetup group. There are I assume other meetup groups and book clubs where that may be appropriate.

But then I thought about it.

I don't attend the book club, so it's not my business what is chosen.
A former member
Post #: 32
Thank you Dustin for starting this discussion board post.

I am interested in the book discussions and would like to participate when I can. Weeknights are hard for me to get down to Sacramento but if there was a book that I have already enjoyed or one that sounds interesting I would gladly participate and make myself available in advance. The only reason I brought up the point of the book's relevance was not because I thought the book club was trying to bring in a hidden agenda (I don't know what I said that made anyone think that) or because I wanted to be argumentative. Bakari: Looking over your book list I would be interested in reading each and everyone, and more importantly, be interested in hearing from others on such work.

My thoughts were simply that people come to this group because it is an atheist organization and books should be relevant to the group.

Fair Oaks, CA
Post #: 2
I offer upMy Book List for the groups perusal.
Joe F.
user 10140880
Sacramento, CA
Post #: 20
I have been a part of this book club for over a year and a half. I am amazed that the people who are criticizing our selection of a book to read have never shown up to a book club meeting. And I would ask those who have criticized our decision to read this book, have you actually read this book? It’s a book on economics and how he cheated countries around the world of trillions of dollars, mainly third world countries. How controversial! As a secular humanist I am interested in economic issue and how money is used to keep others in poverty. So I find this a valid book to read and as one who actually goes to the book club meetings, I voted to read this book. I joined an atheist group so that I am not told how to think, what to read, what movie to watch, etc. I have thrown off the shackles of my mind from religious dogma. I am free to explore my intellectual curiosity to where ever it takes me. Yet people who do not show up or participate in the book club wish to dictate what we can and cannot be read. And I heard it mentioned at the meetup last night that we shouldn’t be able to read any books that someone outside the group might find objectionable and an example was Nazisms. Seriously? Is not the claim thrown at atheists that Hitler is an example of what Atheism will lead a nation and society to become? To combat such an argument you need to read about the Nazi party and you would read Mein Kampf and other works about Hitler and his party to refute those claims. It is obvious that Christer Hitchens has read such material as in his book, God Is Not Great as he explains in why Hitler is not an Atheist but a pagan polytheist. Yet according to some who have criticized the standing members of the book club that would be off limits. The book club is run by the members who participate in it. I as a non-participating member of the Mockingbirds, have no right to dictate to them what the can and cannot sing. The members who participate in that activity are free to sing any song they want. I have no right to tell them what to sing as I don’t participate in that club activity. And I feel that individuals who do not participate in the book club have not right to tell us what we can and cannot read. Come to the book club, pitch a book and the members who are there, will vote on the next selection. It's a democratic, not a theocratic or autocratic process.
Sacramento, CA
Post #: 118
So as an atheist group we have to always talk about religion? I know there are plenty of people who join the group to meet other like-minded/non-religious people but don't really want to focus on religion.

Religion is an interesting topic to me, but even I think it can get old. We do other fun stuff all the time that's not religious (parties, etc).

Also, if you are someone who joined only to focus on criticizing/discussing religion, then you can choose to attend only the meetings with those topics.
Sacramento, CA
Post #: 119
To play devils advocate (no offense Shane, just an expression)...
I don't understand why the book club attendees are so offended by the question. Shane obviously sees and wants different things from an atheist group and was just asking. I don't see where he crossed the line into being rude.

And as a Mockingbird, I would be open to suggestion by nonmembers (though the members would choose to use them or not).
user 2418735
Elk Grove, CA
Post #: 32
Rachel: “Shane obviously sees and wants different things from an atheist group and was just asking. I don't see where he crossed the line into being rude.“

Rachel, thank you for your feedback. I guess what troubled me was the way Shane went about raising questions and criticizing the book selections. I never would have used an open forum, especially on the Events page—to air my disagreement with what other members in the group were doing—especially if I had not been a part of the process. I did not take his critique personally, but I felt—and I could be wrong—that it was disingenuous of him to raise these issues instead of respectfully meeting with I or other book club members personally at first. The Carl Sagan quote he used in the thread was seriously in poor taste. And when I later learned last night that he really doesn’t know what he’s talking about (he hasn’t read the book; he appears to know little or nothing about the Zeitgeist Movement) I begin to have very little patience to hear him out.

Out of respect for this meetup group (which overall I have found to be the most accepting and easy to get along with)—I would not openly question and criticize any sub-group of FAN, especially if I were not a part of the process. It’s just not right, in my view.

But really in the scheme to things, it’s sort of petty. I typically like to brush stuff off like this and move on. But I happen to care about FAN and the book club and the direction we’re going. So I didn’t want to just ignore this matter and hope that it would go away.

I really appreciate the constructive feedback and process we’re using to resolve this.
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