Don Lacey, state director of the year (Arizona) for American Atheists, had a great idea and put it into practice. (We do not endorse American Atheists.)
Don’s insight was that the most important thing atheists can do is to build community, and have fun. And everything else will flow from that. (The AA hierarchy gave him an incredible amount of grief about this.)
So, Don started the Tucson atheist meetup groups a few years ago. Purely social groups, and they grew.
There are now about 1,300 members of the Tucson Atheist Meetup groups. Some have moved beyond the purely social and are doing good, everything from lobbying the legislature to picking up trash along the highways.
Would they have done it without Don’s initial push? I don’t think so.
Years ago, a friend of mine, Jon Russell, told me that social-change groups were doomed unless their activities were at least 80% fun. People would do the work after that.
Jon and Don were right.
I’ve been involved with leftist/anarchist and atheist groups for about 50 years now. The universal constants are that the internal dynamics are the same: joyless work is the raison d’etre for damn near all of ’em, and it’s the reason that damn near all of ’em fail. A big part of that is that the people into self-sacrifice almost invariably also expect others to sacrifice themselves.
This is what people joining atheist and other do-good groups typically face when joining: “Give up all hope ye who enter here. And don’t whine about it.”
Is it any wonder that people join atheist and other social change groups, hoping for something different, something better, and then leave in droves?
Don Lacey defied the leftist/atheist puritans, and founded the most successful atheist group in the country. A group based on voluntarism, on simple attraction, on voluntary cooperation — a group that gets things done, in contrast to damn near every other puritanical, self-sacrificing atheist group in the country.
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If you’re down here in Southern Arizona, please join us. You’d be a welcome addition. And if you’re not around here, please consider starting your own purely social Meetup group. Trust us. You’ll have fun, and you’ll get a hell of a lot more done than if you start a joyless, self-sacrificing cause-oriented group.