Can Agnostics Organize for Mutual Support?
A few weeks ago, Paul Sharkey wrote to me with a question, and I have been struggling to come up with a reasonable answer.
I do have a question/thought as a result of reading some of last week's submissions, especially those of Jason (problem of his children being invited to "Sunday School") and Hilde Hanson's having moved to a Bible Belt community.
I can and do sympathise with both, having had the same experiences, and wonder how, other than the rather "formal" setting of responding on the church website, folks might be able to share "pastoral" support with one another. I do intend to respond to both of those efforts to "reach out to someone else" (Paul replied here, and here) but wondered if there might be a way we members of this Church could do so other than through the formality of the on-site response?
My experience (teaching, counseling, etc) has shown me that these things can be very complicated and the best "solution" depends so often on the particular circumstances, setting and comfort level of each individual and much too difficult (impossible) to address by suggesting possible "solutions" unless one knows them.
As the Church grows (as indeed it seems to be doing) more and more of these sorts of "personal" and "pastoral" issues are likely to arise and it might be nice to have some way that members could communicate with one another if they wished to. Anyway, just thought I'd ask.
This has always been a problem. How do we organize for mutual support.
In the early days, I tried to set up a regional structure with local Bishops under regional Patriarchs / Matriarchs. But it just never gelled.
But out of that, we had a core group of activists who wanted a more formal structure. They legally incorporated and I had high hopes that something might take off from that. But it never got beyond that core group, and most of them encountered issues in their own lives, and the corporation lapsed.
We've tried several iterations of a message board, and at times it has been quite active, currently, it is moribund. The critical mass to keep discussions going is not currently there. We've also tried a chat room for several years and but never generated any activity.
While the response to this web site shows me that I am reaching a lot of agnostics, and they appreciate what I am doing, the vast majority do not seem to be prepared to get involved.
Why is that?
We are only united in agnosticism. On other issues, we are all over the map.
Agnostics have no common politics or view of economics. Politically, agnostics cover the full range from left to right, from libertarian to authoritarian. On contentious moral issues (abortion and same-sex relations. for example) there is no agreed position. Economically, you can find both Marxist and laissez-faire agnostics and everything in between. There are even agnostics who consider creationism to be somewhat more credible than evolution (Incredible and disturbing, to me).
Unlike other religious groups who tend to have more in common than a core theology, we don't. And our core theology("We don't know") does not require continuous reinforcement. Ultimately most agnostics don't see a need for an organization to represent their agnostic interests.
So what is the answer?
I do get a small but continuing number of requests for agnostic meetings. My standard reply is to seek out a local humanist / skeptic / freethinker group. There will be at least a degree of common perspective.
For ourselves, we still have our own bbs. (http://uctaa.org / http://www.dallasagnostics.org) As I wrote above, it is currently nearly dead. It once again needs a core group of people who are ready start exchanging views on it. If the board can be resurrected, then perhaps it can be used to generate some local groups ready to meet face-to-face.
I can only hope that one day some group will exist that I can pass this website on to when I am no longer able. My hopes are not that high; after all, so many agnostics really are apathetic about the promotion of agnosticism.