This past weekend there was a wonderful dinner benefit for American Atheists and the Central Florida Freethought Community. There were two tables; one with Richard Carrier, prolific author, activist, and speaker. I unfortunately didn’t get to meet Dr. Carrier, but i believe we both ordered a single malt scotch. 🙂
I did have the honor of sitting at the table with David Silverman, president of American Atheists, and eight other members of our local secular community. The conversation was inspirational, uplifting, and full of hope. David shared his experiences as a global activist and how things have changed over time. He confidently projects a positive vision of an inclusive world that is not far down the road. You may feel like you have a mountain to climb, he told the student president of the Secular Student Alliance at UCF, and you do – but so much has already been accomplished.
Initiated by someone wearing a t-shirt at the table that read “Atheists believe in Good”, David and others shared stories about what it is like to wear an Atheist T-shirt in public – what it was like 20 years ago, and what it is like now. Attitudes of inclusiveness among the religious have evolved, and members of the secular community are everywhere. David said that his current experience is almost 100% positive, often forming meaningful connections among strangers in public places by inviting conversation and openness.
In my personal experience of being visibly secular in Central Florida, there have been occasional hellfire glares; however, the most common reactions are of fellowship and even gratitude. In 2014 when starting a university workshop imitative promoting inclusiveness for secular and faith minority individuals, a savings of enough money to replace car tires seemed a wise step. But that was never needed; in fact, the reception to the initiative has been overwhelmingly positive. David Silverman pointed out that Atheists may have a bad reputation among the religious, but the opposite is also true; we often make assumptions that religious individuals will be non-accepting of our perspective.
Silverman was a wonderful conversationalist and a great listener. His genuine interest in the personal journeys of those at our table encouraged sharing experiences from family rejection to empowering activism to humorous anecdotes.
The topic of increased secularism in the young generation bubbled through the conversation a time or two. Information accessibility allows critical and comparative evaluation of one’s faith perspective. Exposure to new ideas and to facts that document the untruth of mythology allows critical thinkers to see dogmatic flaws, reflect on different ways to view our place in this world, and develop positive secular values.
Thank you to David and Jocelyn Williamson of the Central Florida Freethought Community for organizing this event, and thank you to David Silverman and Richard Carrier for your support of our local secular community.
A challenge to our readers: Wear an Atheist or Separation of Church and State t-shirt for a day either out shopping or when traveling. You might be surprised at the reactions.
For my own identity, the label Humanism focuses the message of my Atheism rather than softens it. Humanism is an ethical stance predicated on human responsibility for making a positive impact; on our connectivity to – and effect on- others and nature; and on personal integrity. While there are people of faith who use the term Humanism, they are using it to differentiate the potential and catalyst for human goodness from an assumed supernatural existence whereas secular humanism rejects the existence of the supernatural altogether. Humanism is a philosophy of ethical Atheism.
- David Silverman
- American Atheists
- Richard Carrier
- Central Florida Freethought Community
- Reason Rally 2016 (BE. Article / local info)
- Reason Rally 2016 (national site)
- Join BE. Orlando, Central Florida Humanist Volunteers