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Arkansas Society of Freethinkers Message Board General Discussion › Who to include in a Freethought group?

Who to include in a Freethought group?

Chris B.
user 14049557
North Little Rock, AR
Post #: 2
Among the un-churched, there is a wide variety of viewpoints about religion. The spectrum ranges from "questioning Christians" to "militant atheists."

The range goes something like this, in ascending order of discomfort with religion:

Apathetic Cultural Christians
Questioning Christians
Atheists, who prefer an inclusive group
Atheists, who prefer an exclusive group

Suppose some un-churched people decide to form a group. Which categories should be included in that group? This actually isn't an easy question.

If you include the Deists, the Atheists who prefer an exclusive group lose their opportunity to have the exclusive group they want. If you include the Atheists who prefer an exclusive group, the Deists feel unwelcomed by certain members of the group. That's the pitfall of including everybody. Some would say the Unitarians already tried this experiment. The result was high internal conflict and low commitment.

If you create a group for each individual segment - you've created not much of anything. Most Deists and Questioning Christians would probably fold back into churches and contribute their talents and energy there. Count that as negative progress. Meanwhile the Atheists form a tight little group that's too small to be effective and too much of a homogeneous echo chamber to be interesting. The agnostics, of course, can't determine what to do (OK, that was a mean joke - laugh people!).

Of course, draw any line and you've bascically created a litmus test for membership, which many people wouldn't agree with. What next, a series of political litmus tests until the group whittles down to a handful of people?

It's more than an issue about "can we be tolerant of beliefs other than our own?" It's a practical concern. Whether they are religious, political, activist, or social in nature, Homogeneous groups are typically more committed, energetic, dynamic and are considered by their members to be more rewarding than groups that have multiple factions. However, their success is always limited by the number of people who are a perfect match to join them. Heterogeneous groups, on the other hand, can get very, very big, but people's commitment and enthusiasm is limited by infighting, distrust, and disagreement on issues. Much of a heterogeneous group's energy is invested in keeping itself from breaking apart.

So what is the ideal scope of a group like this?

A former member
Post #: 4
There are definately advantages/disadvantages to both. It is a very interesting question.

My own personal opinion is that we do not hide who we are, which are mostly Atheists. If someone does not like that, then it wont be long until they leave anyway. If someone has truely lost their faith, I dont think they would end up going back to church just because the local atheist group wasnt interesting enough. Maybe I am not militant Atheists enough because I want people to do what makes them happy. If that means going to Church, then they should go to Church. If they find that they do not believe anymore, then we should welcome them.

I dont think faith is something that can be found or lost simply by talking with members of our group. Yes, we have information we can share, and if they came to us asking for this information, I do not think they would be met with negativity from any of our members. The problem is when they come with a confrontational attitude trying to "stump the atheist" which does not indicate that they have any interest in gaining any actual knowledge.

Although we can fight the social stigmas of atheism, and demonstrate that atheists are good people, I do not think we should go out of our way to try to convert people. Let them discover their lack of faith on their own. We can be there to support them in their journey and provide information if they need it, but should not have to be drilled with questions or made uncomfortable in our own group. Indeed if there are diests who do not get defensive or confrontational from views/comments of atheists, they should be allowed in our group as long as they dont make it unpleasent for the rest of us. Atheists should feel like our group is a safe place to share our views and be ourselves.

Of course this is just my opinion, I would be very interested in hearing what others think.
George S
user 13502116
Little Rock, AR
Post #: 152
Where do you feel the "un-churched" fit into your list?
I would put them at the top with "Apathetic" people.

These are probably not going to flip one way or the other, since religion does not have much meaning or value to them, except probably in difficult times, when they might pray. Apathetic sums it up.

The second two, "Questioning" and "Deists" are more prone to be actively looking for answers.
We are in a good position to answer some of those questions, so I would not exclude them.
I believe a deist is already someone who "is good without god" at least good without the god of the Bible.
I doubt, but I could be wrong, that a deist does not believe in prayer or a personally involved god.

The more active members will be those seeking a social outlet without church, and the most active and supportive will probably be the militant atheist members, who want to keep the church from influencing the state.

I wouldn't try to exclude anyone, though we have to be careful that people do not infiltrate our group for the purpose of disrupting, fragmenting it or worse.

It's a risk we just have to take.
If secretive government agencies can be infiltrated, how easy would it be to infiltrate ASF?

We just have to be aware of the possibility and will have to be vigilant.

I think we have enough people with different view points to keep the group interesting, so I am not worried that we might become too homogenous.

Could the group become too heterogeneous?
I doubt that will happen.

To answer your last question, I think from honest "Questioning Christians" down the list can be safely included in our group.
Unless you can give a good reason to exclude questioning Christians and deists.


George S
user 13502116
Little Rock, AR
Post #: 153

My feelings exactly.
I don't think anyone can convert others. The emphasis is on any*one*.
It will take much searching, by the one questioning religion, to come to what they will feel is the truth.
Talking with others, reading scholarly books, watching videos and documentaries on religion takes time.
No one wakes up one morning an atheist. It's a slow process, (unless you were raised atheist) and we must be patient with people.

I did not come to atheism early in life, and most people who will come to atheism will come at different times.
We just have to be there for them and be careful not to exclude a possible "convert".
We also have to be careful not to take a belligerent (atheist) stance like many religious people take, which we ridicule.

I think the best advice one can give to a critical thinker is to tell them to read the Bible.
Uncritical thinkers will never see the problems of the Bible.

roy L.
user 16673771
Little Rock, AR
Post #: 2
everyone in the world is atheists
I was once a religious person until something happened to me and I and I became unbeliever I became an atheist when I no longer won't religion all messed up inside I am talking about all churches in the world I like pagan witches because I liked their music I call myself the world is with in me
I'm not talking about churches on talking about the world I hate churches because they tried to stuff the information in you that's my experience with all churches
world everyone should one of these days should have a profile telling who you are what you believe in or what you don't believe in what you like and what you don't like so everyone in the movement with understanding you more better they might stay in the movement because they know you a little bit better before right now they don't know you and they will not stay the more they understand us and the more they will know us they will stay we are only human beings everyone makes mistakes wake up people
I really care less if I look like a fool or not what I say what I do and how I do it is me
I am trying to wake you up everyone in this group this is how you should do it I don't care if you like this or not it is challenge that I have for the atheists is trying to wake you up I know how bullheaded you could be sometimes
I hope this will kick you in the head and wake you up you need to be awake you get a challenge up I had once again in the profile every single one should have this
repeating means you might wake up and listen I can't talk very well in the meetings but I'm sure in hell I'm talking right now wake up people we need new ideas
here it is if you use this you will be the happiest free freethinkers and no religious would like you to be happy all might go is a helping the atheists and no one else I have spoken
Robert S.
user 13193557
Little Rock, AR
Post #: 2
Had this discussion a number of years back within this group. Since we call ourselves "freethinkers", it would seem that we should be open to anyone willing to think for themselves. If not, the group's name should be changed. When I began Little Rock Atheists, it was intended for atheists, but I actually like the results of widening the membership to anyone that thinks "outside the box".

Unfortunately, I've not found atheists to be a heterogeneous group at all. Atheism only describes what one doesn't believe in rather than what one does believe in.
roy L.
user 16673771
Little Rock, AR
Post #: 3
I second the motion matter who I am your are right out of the box anyone that thinks that away should not get punished a way they think they should get a reward for a way they think out of the box glad you wrote that that will be a real hard to change so it will be for everyone to try to change the name not for certain group decision it made sense
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