We were happy to have The Satanic Temple, represented chiefly by Temple co-founder Lucien Greaves, present this past weekend about the work they’ve done specifically targeting fundamentalist and extremist organizations such as the Good News Club in the effort of ensuring that no one religion is given equal access to public resources and that children can also be safe from the guilt-ridden “sin” messages of the Good News Club. We had over 90 people show up to hear him speak, after which we went down to Sabor y Sol to continue the discussions over guacamole and burritos.
We, for the first time, tabled at the 2016 Waldo Fall Festival. We got a few head shakes, but the response was overwhelmingly positive – lots of free candy for kids, buttons and bottles of water for everyone, and free condoms for those who wanted them. We met some atheists new to the area, some who had been around for a while, and more than a few people who had never met an atheist before yesterday.
All in all – a great and productive day!
We got a few of us together on this fine summer day to help answer questions and destigmatize what it means to be an atheist. There were lots of hugs exchanged, a few frowns thrown our away, but, overall, a warm and pleasant crowd to match the day’s weather!
We were recently invited to Abundant Life Baptist Church to discuss and debate the deity of Jesus – did Jesus claim to be the Son of God (as Christians today understand the concept), and what evidence exists for or against the doctrine that Jesus was the incarnate son of God?
If you missed out on it, fear not! We’ve got you covered with a video upload of the event:
The American Family Association, known for its active promotion of religious and anti-LGBT governmental and social values, has produced a map of organizations in the United States “that openly display bigotry toward the Christian faith” – including KCAC:
As Hemant writes on the Friendly Atheist:
The American Family Association has long argued that the list is unfair to certain Christian groups, so they’ve now created their own version of a hate group list.
The AFA Bigotry Map identifies “groups and organizations that openly display bigotry toward the Christian faith.”
Who’s on the list?
Basically every atheist and pro-LGBT-rights group out there, including local and college groups.
That’s not a joke: They’ve listed a number of groups whose members’ worst crime is disagreeing with Christianity and creating a safe space for atheists to discuss their doubts.
We can only speculate which of our positions that we, as an organization, promote landed us on this map, but we’d like to at least raise an objection to the idea that we’re anti-Christian. We’re content to disagree on the existence of a god and the divinity of Jesus and leave it at that, instead choosing to work with people of all stripes and faiths to promote common values and causes: LGBT equality, elimination of racial inequality, wealth inequality, and even freedom of religious practice. That’s not anti-Christian, and there are some who say it even makes us more Christian than the AFA.
As the saying goes: “haters gonna hate“
I asked, and was accepted, to give an invocation at my city’s city council meeting. With the generous help of one of our community members, we managed to capture it on video:
If you can’t watch it, the text of the invocation was:
Pleasant Valley, both as itself and as a satellite community of the greater Kansas City area, participates in a community bursting and burgeoning with diversity. With diversity inevitably comes disagreement – liberal and conservative, theist and atheist, capitalist and socialist.
These are just some of the volatile and passionate topics that influence the policy produced by our government on every level. Tonight, we come together in spite of such differences to work together to build a community that serves us all in the best way possible.
Let us keep in mind tonight, then, not the passion of these differences but our shared passion that bring this council together to serve us all in keeping Pleasant Valley pleasant.
The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
As the day of observance of the works and influence wrought by Martin Luther King, Jr. and his co-activists (and those who followed him and continued his work) arrives today, it marks a time of reflection on where we stand, as a society, in terms of recognizing the issues of racism that continue to affect us to this day.
As events in Ferguson unfurled and the deaths of other African Americans at the hands of police officers in the United States gained national attention, one motto took off across American (and, in many instances, international) culture, by traditional media, social media, and the organization of multiple groups in support of a simple (and what is, unfortunately, controversial among some) concept:
Black lives matter.
As an organization, KCAC has been trying to find the best way to support the movement behind this concept. Some may object to this as a mission drift (and we’ve even had a non-atheist detractor or two claim it as such); however, the board unquestionably feels this is within our mission statement, which (for your convenience), I’ll repeat here:
To advance atheism through activism, philanthropy, education, and by cultivating a positive secular community.
It’s important to focus on the last part of the statement: we’re seeking to cultivate a positive secular community, and, implicit in that statement, is the need for a safe secular community. We could not achieve this if we blithely ignored the issues that face people of color – not only in subtle and overt racism by individual citizens in our society, but also in the issues of increased rates of incarceration; disproportionately harsher penalties for crimes (compared to similar white offenders); the increase in violence – both by police and private individuals – against black people (and other people of color); as well as a multitude of other factors that negatively affect non-white people. We must also acknowledge the harms of white privilege – as an even minimal start to the list, we can recognize the complement to those issues listed above: the decreased risk of arrest, conviction, punishment, and harm at the hands of our justice system if you happened to be born with white skin.
As I mentioned, KCAC has been working to find how it can best support the (what shall henceforth be called) #BlackLivesMatter movement. A large part of this is learning about organizations and people local to Kansas City who are working to forward the movement. We, of course, would be remiss if we did not mention the work done by Kansas City’s own local organization, One Struggle KC.
Presently, religious organizations lead the charge in many ways in organizing the movement – providing safe spaces for various members of the movement to meet and organize and experienced leadership in moving the movement forward to meet its goals. Not to imply that anyone needs our permission for this to continue, but, speaking as president of KCAC, I want to make it clear that we support leadership in this form: if the only thing we disagree about is the existence of a god, then, by all means, let’s not let that stop us from working together to meet the goals we share in common.
The implication of this, however, is that KCAC isn’t likely to ever emerge as a leader in the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The board feels that this is fine. As I mentioned in a previous statement on Ferguson, this is a time for us to follow experienced leadership in the movement and do what we can as allies to support the movement. This means that we listen, learn, and take what we learn from the experiences of others and work to apply it in our own communities – for myself, this means KCAC and Kansas City Oasis.
This does not mean that we feel that atheists have no direct place in the movement, of course, nor that we who identify as humanists have any less of an obligation to support the fight against racism. Indeed, there are a number of activists – local and afar – who identify as atheists and are active leaders in organizing the #BlackLivesMatter movement. One of the most prominent and recent examples of this was the People of Color Beyond Faith social justice conference in Los Angeles. We would be doing a disservice to pretend that these dedicated activists do not exist.
Today, then, is a day where we all should reflect on what our place is in the movement to bring equality for all people and, in particular, to reduce and eventually eliminate the prejudicial harm that affects people of color in our society. We can – and should – appreciate the work of today’s activists and their predecessors, not merely stopping at Dr. King, but reaching further back into history to acknowledge the work of his predecessors, too. We don’t have to agree on approach or tactics, but, going forward, we must at least all continue to add our voices to the collective push against racism in all its forms – to, as Dr. King himself said, not propagate the silence of good people.
Our president will be making an appearance at this month’s Nerd Nite to speak about the topic of religious freedom in schools:
Then Josh Hyde is going to teach us about religion in public schools. Public schools have always been a cultural battleground, and Josh comes toting a well-researched presentation that will reveal some of the lingering influences of religion in our schools. While this presentation centers on legal and political aspects of this issue, we’re optimistic he’ll also offer us some concrete steps our schools can take to bolster our national War on Christmas effort. Either way, we’re super excited to welcome Josh to the NNKC mic.
If you’re interested in attending, RSVP and find out more at the Facebook event here:
The Kansas City Atheist Coalition stands by a position of equality for all people, regardless of the color of their skin, and a government that serves all people equally, again regardless of the color of their skin.
We hope we can all unite in sympathy for the pain and loss felt by Michael Brown’s family and an understanding of the underpinnings of the anger and passion behind many of the movements in action, both within and outside of Ferguson.
As stories emerge from across the country of gatherings, rallies, discussions, and plans of action on how to solve the problems that overwhelmingly affect people of color, it is easy to be caught up in the stories of those who seize the opportunity to inflict violence upon innocent bystanders. We do not condone theft and vandalism, but we must also bear in mind that, while loss of property is not to be trivialized, human life and dignity must be a higher priority in our minds. We as a society cannot ignore the multitude of factors, both historic and present, that have led so many to action nor can we let the actions of a few distract us from what is truly important.
Let us focus first on addressing and resolving these underpinnings. For some, this is an opportunity to listen to the experiences and knowledge of those who have dealt with these issues on a daily basis for the entirety of their lives; for others, it is an opportunity to rise up as leaders in a movement that would seek to end violence and discrimination against people based on the color of their skin.
The Kansas City Atheist Coalition wishes that everyone stay safe as the movement surrounding Ferguson grows, evolves, and progresses toward a goal of equal treatment and protection for all people.