Jen, over at BlagHag, has recently started graduate school in Seattle. Apparently, despite being in a hippie liberal city, Seattles atheist meet-up has a lot of the same problems as other atheist groups– small, few female members, and too many of the people who do show up are assholes.
Ive dealt with small groups before (theyre fine, its just most groups always want more members) and low female numbers (“HI! IM THE TOKEN GIRL!”) too, as well as being the only member under 40, and the victim of ‘atheist politics’. The incident with ‘atheist politics’ put me off of doing anything for any atheist group for years (I have *never* been more offended or felt more used in my entire life) (but the wonderful experience I had with the Texas groups has happily warmed me back up a bit).
How do atheist groups avoid this sort of thing? The generic problems of numbers and women and diversity, plus worse problems like sexism, infighting, politics, and financial fights?
You know who you should ask?
Im pretty sure we are the best atheist group in the country.
We have a ton of women in our group. Young ones, old ones, and every age in between.
Tons of guys, of every age.
People of different ethnicities.
People of different sexualities.
Weve got so many young parents, we actually had to form a ‘Secular Parenting’ spin-off group.
Every month we have numerous activities, from movie nights, to outings to the Zoo or a local museum, to pizza parties, to house parties, to bar nights, to bowling nights, to volunteering at the food pantry, to podcasts/blogs, to volunteering/participating in charity walks/5Ks, to book clubs, to our newest activity addition: lectures from local scientists/MDs/mathematicians/etc on skeptical topics. And like, 40 people show up to these events.
If anyone did to me, what happened to Jen, I can think of at least a dozen people who would have spoken up for me (to put it mildly– I think some would have freaked out, hard-core). The only ones who Im not sure would speak up or not are just new people I dont know well yet. I certainly dont know of any member who would have been the aggressor, much less three.
Maybe its because we are in Oklahoma. We are aware of the fact we are ambassadors for atheism, and must be on our best behavior. And this is our only atheist group– we are an island in a sea of insanity. If youre a dick and make yourself unwelcome in this group, youre kinda on your own. Honestly, thats good incentive to play nice.
Or maybe its just because this group is, by luck, made up of genuinely nice people who want everyone to feel welcome and everyone to have a good time.
But I definitely think a large part of OKCAtheists awesomeness is our current Pres, Nick Singer. He has *actively* cultured a positive environment. He has fantastic organizational, informational, and political/diplomatic skills, and knows when he needs help, and knows when he should pass the reigns. I have really been impressed with him, and proud of him (and the whole group).
OKCAtheists is the best atheist group ever.