A Freethought Center
Date: September 6, 1996
My name is Kimberly, and I am president of the Atlanta Freethought Society. I have been campaigning for our organization to acquire a “homeplace” — that is, a permanent facility for our activities and programs. Here in Georgia, where fundamentalist Christianity thrives, we freethinkers and atheists often find it difficult (read impossible) to find a place to meet. I want our organization to expand, to offer a wider range of activities for our members, sponsor an SOS groups, etc., but I think that all hinges on getting a permanent place.
I visited your location in Portland when I was in Oregon in April. Unfortunately, at the time, no one was “home,” so I wasn’t able to meet and speak to anyone. Great neighborhood — an Eagle club next door and a used book store around the corner.
Can you tell me what range of activities your organization offers its members? I am hoping to show my membership what we can aspire to.
I look forward to hearing from someone with CRT.
Basically, we offer space to the local Rational Recovery chapter, which meets free of charge twice a week, and would meet more often if RR wasn’t so minimalistic in its approach to recovery meetings. We also have a weekly meeting and a monthly brunch. We tape the TV show “Bunk Busters” monthly, do political activities when the occasion arises, and hold fundraising events such as auctions and an annual Solstice party. The center is open as volunteers are available, but traffic is very light — mostly friends of whoever is in charge that day, and a few regulars who use our library. Our rent is now $600 per month, but that may change soon. We might be evicted in spite of what the landlord-tenant law says.
You might want to contact David Noelle, of SANDASH in San Diego. They and others are joining together and planning to open the Thomas Paine Coffee House in the North Park-Normal Heights section of San Diego. They got a grant from the James Hervey Johnson Trust. I don’t even know if it’s open yet.
If I had my druthers, I would open a theme coffeehouse and bookstore, rather than a center. Christians do this all the time, but since there is no shortage of Christianity anywhere, no need for these things, most of them don’t seem to survive for very long. Then again, Atheists, etc., are working against the fact that such people usually are the mind-your-own-business types, and tend not to organize very well. To your advantage in Atlanta is the fact that an atheistic voice is urgently needed there. In Portland, religion is not nearly as intrusive as it has been in San Diego or it probably is in Atlanta.
Basically, I think, where religion is very intrusive, organized Atheism tends to thrive; where it isn’t, organized Atheism is basically unneeded, and Atheists simply mind their own business and live their own lives. I would reckon that there is more organized Atheist activity in Atlanta than in the Portland metro area, even though there is a higher incidence of atheism in Portland than in any other city in America. We really don’t have that much to jump up and down about in Portland, because there is not as much of a need, here. As Christians would say, we are preaching to the choir in Portland.
We love our Center, though.
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