Response Letter to the "Open Letter to the Secular Community"
Dear Leaders of the Organizations who signed the Open Letter,
We are women and men that are part of a unique community. We are diverse in opinion, background, education, age, gender, race and sexual orientation.
We feel we should embrace, respect and celebrate the differences within this community. With our own individuality and experiences, we each have our own worldviews; views that have led us to our particular passions of activism and the labels by which we as individuals choose to define ourselves. This diversity brings a richness and strength to the organizations we choose to align ourselves with.
We acknowledge and thank all of you for everything you have done and continue to do. We thank you for stepping in and working toward helping all of us create a community in which all of our voices are heard. We thank you for the efforts you have made in trying to end infighting.
We are committed to our mutual cause and to strengthening a community we can be proud of.
Out of respect for each individual, this letter will not contain one specific opinion. There is space below offering each signatory the opportunity to add their own respective thoughts about the community as a whole, their personal experiences and observations, as well as a place for them to offer possible solutions to the infighting plaguing our community.
We do not condone harassment. We are committed to handling disagreements with compassion and practicing forgiveness. We all learn and grow at our own pace. We choose to encourage others instead of making demands on them.
The points raised in the open letter are substantially encouraging. We agree that face-to-face communication is better than online flaming or messages limited to 140 characters; we agree that patience will be required to reverse the divisions that have been growing; and we agree that religion is the origin of much of the oppression of all humankind. Standing together, not as a fractured and divided community, will strengthen our fight. As secularists, we seek equality for all people. We believe you have the same goal.
Convention organizers are hard at work addressing the needs of the community. JREF's undertaking of surveys; American Atheists and JREF making sure to include an equal ratio of female and male speakers; CFI supporting Women in Secularism; and Richard Dawkins Foundation and Camp Quest showing a commitment towards families by providing child care. You have shown us you are working with us and not against us to help make our community welcome for all.
We cannot control the behavior of others, however, we are in control of our own. By setting examples and not engaging in feuds and flame wars, we can have a positive effect on our community; we can find and expand on issues that we agree upon. But we are all human. To claim that one is perfect, or to claim uncritically that we agree or disagree with a person rather than a position is rather dogmatic.
Self-examination of our positions on issues is vital to furthering our growth. In that sense, we must remember that everyone makes mistakes, online and off, and not every step will be the "right" one. We believe that rational discourse is a goal worth striving for to resolve any and all issues. We hope to reflect the example in your open letter and show that the movement encourages healthy and respectful discussion.
We hope the movement can get behind this call for unity and reason.
Members of the secular community
Bernard (Flash) Kellish, VP of PR & Marketing, National Atheist Party
Brian Fields, President, PA Nonbelievers
Cat Burns, Assistant Director, Rock Beyond Belief
EllenBeth Wachs, Founder, Atheists & Humanists of Florida
Lee Moore, Founder and Lead Anchor, of A-News
Paul Loebe, Executive Director, Rock Beyond Belief
Wendy Hughes, Skepticism Activist
Additional Contributions By:
Erin Fortes, DVP of PR & Marketing, National Atheist Party
Greg Brahe, Founder and Director, Inspiring Doubt
Heather Henderson, Ardent Atheist and Skeptically Yours Podcasts
Shayrah Akers, President, Secular View
Sheila Blackadder; DVP of Operations, National Atheist Party
Travis Roy, Co-organizer, Granite State Skeptics
Leaders of the Organizations
David Silverman, President, American Atheists
Rebecca Hale, President, American Humanist Association
Roy Speckhardt, Executive Director, American Humanist Association
Chuck VonDerAhe, President, Atheist Alliance of America
Richard Haynes, President, Atheist Nexus
Ayanna Watson, CEO, Black Atheists of America, Inc.
Mandisa L. Thomas, President, Black Nonbelievers, Inc.
Mynga Futrell, for Brights Central, at The Brights' Net
Amanda Metskas, Executive Director, Camp Quest
Ronald Lindsay, President and CEO, Center for Inquiry
Tom Flynn, Executive Director, The Council for Secular Humanism
Jan Meshon, President, FreeThoughtAction
Joseph McDaniel Stewart, Vice President, FreeThoughtAction
Margaret Downey, Founder and President, Freethought Society
D.J. Grothe, President, James Randi Educational Foundation
Stuart Jordan, President, Institute for Science and Human Values
Jason Torpy, President, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers
R. Elisabeth Cornwell, Executive Director, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science
Edwina Rogers, Executive Director, Secular Coalition for America
August E. Brunsman IV, Executive Director, Secular Student Alliance
Todd Stiefel, President, Stiefel Freethought Foundation
Fred Edwords, National Director, United Coalition of Reason
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