By Phillip Kalmanson
As our society becomes more enlightened the numbers of people who have shed or are in the process of shedding themselves from religion and superstitious thought have been increasing. We who have identified ourselves as atheist, agnostic, free-thinker, skeptic, or secular humanist are finding our communities growing. The umbrella covering atheists, agnostics, free-thinkers, skeptics, & secular humanists is large. Under it are many people with different priorities on life and what they want out of it, different values, different visions of the future, and different thoughts on how they want to interact within their own community. Before, many people who shared our thoughts were alone. Some lucky ones were able to join small communities of like minded individuals when those existed. Those groups were few in number and in many cases small in number. This is changing. Now there are more communities. When communities form, groups tend to form as well as a self emergent process. These groups can differ in the level of organization and direction based on the nuances of the community members. This increase in such groups is good. It helps to better serve the varied needs and wants people have. It allows the community at large to persist, grow, and evolve as time and conditions may dictate. Does a person have to involve themselves in only one group or another? Of course not. People have many dimensions to them and person’s needs and desires are dynamic. Any particular group may only fulfill one or a few aspects of person’s interest, but not all. And the few it can, not all the time. Since there can now be several groups for community of atheists, agnostics, a free-thinkers, skeptics, & secular humanists in a given location, what does the Washington Area Secular Humanist offer?
Our focus is on the Humanist aspect. While of critical importance, secularism is only one aspect. It defines what person does not believe in. When a person is free from religion and superstitions they can better explore the humanist aspect.
We hold regularly scheduled meetings every month at several locations, typically libraries or other places of learning where we try to bring in guest speakers notable within the local community and on occasion known within the national or international community. Humanist are trying to make the world a better place. Hear their story. If you are willing us yours.
WASH sponsors six local chapters, so it is possible to attend more than one event each month.
We offer the chance to interact with the guest speakers through discussions and question and answer sessions that follow their presentations.
Depending on the practices of the local WASH chapter discussions can take place in a restaurant or coffee shop before the meeting or after. The same people but in a different atmosphere can take on interesting changes.
If a meeting does not have a guest speaker then their will typically be a movie viewing on a topic of interest to the general humanist community. Just as with a guest speaker, there will be a discussion to follow with the subject either along the lines of the movie or flowing from topic to another.
WASH Sponsors Special Interest Groups (SIG) where you can speak your mind on a given topic, question the views of other members, have your own views questioned and challenged. If all works out at the end all the participants will grow intellectually from the discussion and have a greater appreciation for their fellow members.
Come Hiking with Humanist! Coordinated hikes several times a year on local trails with varying levels of difficulty. Spend a half a day or all day with smaller group of humanist while hiking through the woods. Sometimes a good discussion really takes time, space, and fresh air to form. Hiking is a great venue to allow this to occur.
Winter Banquet. Our big event held every year with more speakers, more topics, great food, great fun and all accessible to the DC area.
Because of the distributed nature of WASH’s leadership into a Board of Directors and six local chapters, there are plenty opportunities to get involved directly in the planning and activities that WASH offers.
Lastly, many of the items mentioned above are educational to one degree or another. I have heard it said that knowledge is the product of education and the ultimate purpose of knowledge is action. Whether that action takes the form of self growth or changing the world for the better, action is the end point. In that regard, WASH offers collaborations with National Groups. On many occasions WASH members will either work with or volunteer on behalf of WASH with organizations like the American Humanist Association, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, Atheist Alliance International, The Center For Inquiry, and The Secular Coalition of America. WASH humanist are trying to make the world a better place. You can be a part of it too!
Phil was a past Board Member of WASH. This article appeared in the WASHline.