Philanthropy and Secularism: Two

Adam and Amanda Brown fam picAdam and Amanda Brown are one of the most charismatic couples in the atheist movement. They are seated together taking turns describing how life was growing up as an Evangelical Christian and a Restoration Mormon [respectively]. Two very different paths brought these two together and as a result some very important things are happening, not just to the community but to the role of atheists as a whole.

After researching questions that his faith brought forward in his mind while attending college, Adam compiled all of his information into a website that is now a widely used resource for those who are seeking answers of their own. The Atheism Resource states that it’s “designed to give easy access to loads of information on the subject of atheism from a historical, cultural, political, psychological, sociological, and scientific perspective.” It does exactly that, and much more. It gives people a place to reach out to other atheists and read blogs written on a myriad of topics.

Adam is also the co-owner and creative director of Voss Visuals, which offers vehicle wraps, marketing and printing services. As such he offers a discount to companies that use their services for atheist, secular or humanist needs. That’s not to say that they will not accept business from other companies or organizations, but for projects that some companies will not touch based on who they represent, Voss Visuals welcomes the opportunity with open arms.

Amanda meanwhile, was busy paving her own path. Focusing on hot-button topics like education, LGBT and women’s rights, she became more active fighting not just equality but in the separation of church and state. Soon, it became apparent that being and fighting as an atheist wasn’t enough. People needed a way to reach out to others and let people know they were atheists at the same time. We Are Atheism was the brainchild of that need with Amanda the driving force behind it. The website is a place to read stories about how others came to understand their beliefs and tell their own stories that will hopefully help those who might not otherwise have the courage on their own. Mostly however, it lets people know that they aren’t alone by sharing those essays and  videos.AGA_Logo

Adam and Amanda then pulled their ambitions together and set their sights one step higher. They created a movement called “Atheists Giving Aid” which is exactly what it sounds like. Funds are raised for various campaigns and the money goes directly to those in need, rather than lining another pocket of another corporate organization. How do they ensure this happens? By working with local organizations they ensure that it’s distributed where it’s supposed to be. Currently they have two separate collections in action on the website.

The first, for the Boston Marathon Tragedy is working in conjunction with Boston Atheists and the Secular Coalition for America (Massachusetts Chapter) is raising money to benefit the victims [and their families] of the bombing that occurred there last Monday, April 15. As of Thursday they have successfully raised over $28,000. The second fund running right now is for those who are suffering as a result of the plant explosion in West, Texas that occurred while the country was still reeling from the Boston tragedy. Currently the amount raised there is building toward the $1,000 mark. This isn’t the first time the Brown’s have pulled fund for those in need either. They also raised roughly $25,000 for the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy as well.

Amanda Brown on stageAmanda is also one of the primary organizers for ReasonFest in Kansas, which took place this last weekend. Ordinarily she prepares a speech and presents with the other speakers however this year she has devoted part of her time in a different way. Working with Society of Open Minded Atheists and Agnostics, they took donations in the form of non-perishable items . The items collected are then to be delivered to both Harvesters and the Lawrence Community Shelter. Donations requested ranged from non-perishable foods and toiletries to guest needs and linens for the shelter.

When asked what their ultimate goal for all their activism the answer was “tolerance.” They want to help put faces to atheism so that when people hear the term they think of someone close to them. Or perhaps a stranger that helped them out when they were in need. Recently the Brown’s helped a homeless man outside of a chain restaurant near Austin Texas. He was hungry and asking for money. The couple bought him some food, gave him some money, and then did what most wouldn’t think to do. They had a conversation with him. During that talk it came out that the couple were atheist which surprised the man. Everything he had heard before meeting them painted a very unfriendly picture about people who choose not to have faith. He walked away knowing that not only had everything he had heard been wrong, but that in fact the exact opposite is true. Regardless of whatever he believed they were willing to help him in his time of need. That’s their message, at it’s core. People are people, no matter what path they follow or whether having faith is the lamp that lights that path. Adam Brown's painting


Philanthropy and Secularism

Kansas City Atheist Coalition’s mission to advance atheism

through activism, philanthropy and education.

Sarah Hargreaves2 NAPTwo years ago, Sarah Hargreaves started an organization to help bring light to the positive side of what being an atheist means that gets vastly ignored and forgotten. But Sarah wasn’t always an atheist. After teaching at Sunday school, during vacation bible school and even helping to organize a church summer camp, Sarah ended up moving away from her hometown. The church that had been like a second home became hard to get to and unable to choose one that felt right, she became a “Christian without a church.” Right around the same time the “marriage equality” fight was really coming into the spotlight.

Sarah’s morals got the better of her and she really began to question her own faith.  “There were several steps along the way that opened me up to realizing that the answers I was given as a child really weren’t doing the trick any more.  There were better explanations and answers for how the world works, even how morality works and all these things. I became much more satisfied morally and ethically as an atheist. Certainly more scientifically satisfied as a person as an atheist than I ever was as a Christian.”

So after searching around, testing out several other organizations and outreach attempts she started becoming acquainted with other like-minded people. Using connections made at, attending  conferences like Skepticon and ReasonFest she finally started to feel like she was a part of something real, she was “plugged in” to a comfortable community.

There were lots of opportunities for her and other atheists to get together for various “Skeptics in the Pub” type hangouts or educational speakers to listen to but she missed being able to help people, really reach out into the community at large and be able to really help people but without the umbrella of a church. So taking what she learned and adding it to what she was missing from her  days within the church, the idea for the Kansas City Atheist Coalition was born.

The mission for the KCAC is to “advance atheism through activism, philanthropy, education and the cultivation of a positive secular community.” Sarah breaks it down like this; as activists they stand and fight for not just their own rights but the rights of those who could be considered allies. A good example of this is marriage equality, fighting churches and groups that don’t just display homophobic behavior but are outright gay-bashing in nature.

As for the philanthropy, Sarah feels that it “meets the needs for atheists to provide charitably because I think atheists are a humanistic people that care and have love for their fellow human being. There aren’t a lot of outlets for atheists to do that as an ‘out’ atheist. It’s also to let the larger community know that atheists are good without God.” This organization allows them to do just that.

Sarah Hargreaves3 NAPShe goes on to say “We do one charitable thing a month like we will volunteer with Harvesters Food Network or we’ll do a blood drive with the Community Blood Center of Kansas City but the AIDS Walk is a great opportunity because we are out in the community mixed in with a bunch of other groups in Kansas City and we are all working towards the shared purpose to raise money to help raise money to fight the disease of AIDS and we get to participate in this march where we can wear our KCAC t-shirt and it’s a great opportunity to be this very ‘out’ atheist doing good for goodness sake. That kind of captures the spirit that we are wanting to get at with the whole part of us doing good works n Kansas City. Letting atheists do good things out of the goodness of their hearts and also showing our community that we are good people.”

Lastly, it’s education. “It is educating ourselves; we are interested in learning more about science, biology, and cosmology; psychology, sociology, society and people in general, the world around us; understanding our own minds and how they work and how we function as a society; other religions and cultures. A lot of freethinkers find the study of religion totally fascinating, I myself find the study of religions interesting. Of course, educating others. Educating the community at large about what it means to be an atheist.”

So far KCAC has been fairly well accepted by the members of the community. People recognize that, even with the title, atheists are generally good people. With the exception of the incident last month with the Kansas City St. Patrick’s Day Parade they haven’t really had issue with being accepted either. Once in a while they come across a group that isn’t thrilled about them being so up front about their lack of belief but outside of a preference that they don’t display their shirts or banner they haven’t been turned away from helping.

When asked about the ultimate goal for her organization, like most secular activists she hopes to one day be put out of a job. “At the end of the day if people aren’t feeling ostracized, made to feel like the “other” or different…then they don’t need a support system because their friends, family and neighbors all accept them for who they are then I’ll be happy.”

For more informaSarah Hargreaves NAPtion about Sarah and her organization you can visit their website, check out their Facebook page or stop anytime you see a group of people holding signs like these shown at the right. They host “Ask an Atheist” possibilities at events all over the city and have no problem taking up a healthy discourse about who they are and what exactly they are up to.

“Why Should I Press ‘1’ for English?”

Recently I was driving back from the store when notice that the redneck in the truck in front of me has labeled himself so that no one will confuse him with, say a person with a modicum of intelligence. The NRA member sticker was the first indicator, which might sound judgmental. For an organisation that carries the likes of a draft-dodging douchebag like Ted Nugent I’m not sure that I care whether it offends anyone or not.

The sticker that stood out the most this time however was one I had seen numerous times before that apparently indicated some difficulty in pressing a number on a telephone’s keypad. “Why Should I Have to Press 1 for English?”  It seems that this particular redneck (and he’s not alone in this thought) feels that since this is America all “phone trees” should only be available in English. What a great idea, after all this country is not a “melting pot” of varying ethnic backgrounds from varying corners of the world attempting to live freely and equally under the banner of “Old Glory”…oh, wait.

The problem I have with this sort of, well Aryan mentality is that it’s ignorant. It implies that the United States is only host to “English” speaking peoples. The fact is that it’s not really English that we speak, but a bastardised version. We have altered the language enough that what we now speak and write is no longer what those across the pond speak but another separate dialect all it’s own. You can compare it to the difference between the language spoke in France and Canadian French; similar but each unique. We should be calling it “American English” instead.

Also, I’m a little tired of this feeling of entitlement that is so common in this country. Europeans invaded and took over this country, enslaving or killing anyone that tried to stand in their way. When they ran short of people to push around, they then went to other less developed countries and stole (even if only figuratively in some cases) members of different races of people to bring back and put to work.

When slavery was abolished immigration increased, exponentially. More people flooded into the United States seeking better opportunity and less oppression that what was offered in their homeland. With the arrival of those immigrants came their culture, their heritage, and yes even their language. These are all components of what makes up an individual and asking any person to let go of any of that is not just arrogant, it’s also extremely disrespectful and insulting. However that is the attitude that Americans carry, that ours is the proper way for this country and the only one that should be allowed outside of the privacy of one’s home. Too bad they don’t share the same opinion with the religion they try to use to dictate how everyone lives.

The fact is that, rather than pressing 1 for “English”, technically we should be pressing 1 for “American Indian” (followed by a menu of various tribe dialects) then 2 for “American English”, followed by the other languages that are spoken in this country. Unfortunately, most of the original tribal dialects have been all but been removed, even among their own tribes. Rather than everyone else trying to assimilate to what a select group (that is rapidly losing it’s place as the majority) wants, we should be accommodating everyone that shares this country.

The fact is that we are a great “Melting Pot” of a country, as are most developed countries. We, as a country need to learn that our arrogance is unfounded and our sense of entitlement is misguided, at best. This issue with having to “press 1″ is insignificant to be sure, but it speaks volumes about us as we try to take our place in the world. We want to be taken seriously as a country by the other kids on the playground when in truth what they see is equivalent of a school-yard bully. Relatively uneducated and arrogant, we try to shove the kids that are different to the ground and then take their lunch money. The problem with bullies is that eventually, those who are being bullied usually ending up uniting together and reclaiming the playground.

Cold, Dead Hands

There are stark differences when it comes to the right to bear arms and those most vocal in the fight. On the one hand, to the far left are the extreme Liberals, who want complete removal of guns from the hands of the citizens. They hold absolute faith in the law enforcement and the military to protect us should we need it. Those on the other side of the argument are accused of trying to start a war, building their own “army” of sorts and stockpiling weapons to support such a move.

On the other hand, to the far right are the extreme Conservatives, who want the freedom to collect as many weapons as they see fit without limits or restrictions. They accuse the other side of trying to infringe on their “Constitutional right to bear arms”. They often accuse the government of wanting to enforce a state of Martial Law, therefore granting the current POTUS position and power for as long as he sees fit.

Then there is everyone else. Seated somewhere in between the two extremes, not wanting to lose the right to bear arms but not really agreeing that a weapon that can spray 100 bullets per second is really necessary for the average citizen to own. Considering the increasing number of incidences with either mentally-unstable or drug-influenced gun toting people showing up in public places armed to the teeth with various types of rapidly firing weapons taking the lives of innocents, those in the middle feel that something has to be done to put an end to it…or at least direct the country the right way to putting an end to it.

Gun Control blog photoThe fact is that MORE guns is not going to help. Regulating the guns we DO have and, more importantly the people who have them IS going to help. Drug testing, more thorough background checks (especially at gun shows), limiting private sales and restricting or tracking those sales, etc. All things that are not unreasonable. Certainly not as unreasonable as putting guns in schools (when prison guards don’t carry them…around violent offenders).

Personally I don’t see the need for anyone to keep a weapon that is not used or hunting. Period. Does that mean that I think that we should get rid of them? Of course not. This is something my liberal friends and I disagree on. I do, however think that if you are going to keep something in your possession that can be used to kill another human being as easily as one can with a gun then you should be responsible enough to follow certain regulations to keep them.

No, there wasn’t anything written into the Constitution about drug-testing before bearing those arms. However at that time what we consider illegal drugs (cocaine, for example) were sold legally and often prescribed to cure certain ailments. Something we now know to be ridiculous. The weapons people had access to were NOT something that could be used to stop a truck either.

My point is this: As we as a people evolve, as our understanding of other cultures and peoples changes, as our weapons become bigger and more dangerous…hell, as more and more psychoactive drugs get handed out to counter supposed mental and psychological issues we need to evolve our policies to change with them. Before it becomes too late. Before we have another tragedy killing that could have been avoided by a simple urine test and a conversation with someone with a PhD and a couch.

College LGBT Centers Lead to High-Risk Behaviours

Bill Zedler Texas RepTexas Legislature is about to pass their General Appropriations Bill (SB1).  For most of Texas this isn’t really newsworthy, and for the rest of the country it means even less. What has caught the attention of some Texas residents is what State Rep. Bill Zedler (R-Arlington) did next. An amendment, being called the Zedler Amendment (or Zedler-1) was filed regarding the funding of gender and sexuality related student centers. According to the document, colleges and universities will no longer be able to use any higher education facility, property or funding obtained under this act to “support, promote or encourage any behavior that would lead to high risk behavior for AIDS, HIV, Hepatitis B, or any sexually transmitted disease.”

Yes, you read that correctly. When this bill goes through all centers dedicated to supporting students within the LGBT community through housing or funding will no longer be able to use appropriated money to do so. Rep. Zedler seems to think that giving aid to those students will promote risky lifestyle and spread disease. It seems he’s not alone in that thinking either.

Two weeks ago, Texas A&M’s student Senate introduced a bill on campus that would allow students to decide not to fund the LGBT Resource Center should they have religious objections. It seems its not the first time they have set their sights on the Center either. Two years prior they passed a similar bill that was to require allocated funding for the Center to be split equally with a center for “traditional and family values” but it was vetoed by the student body president.

Camden Breeding, an LGBT activist at A&M said he expects the student senate to pass the bill when it’s voted on but  he also says the bill is illegal. He says it would violate a 2000 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said public universities can assist university groups without being in violation of the First Amendment. Texas, it seems has a long way to go before accepting the LGBT students that make up part of the population of their schools.

It’s not too late to stop Zedler-1 from becoming enacted. If enough people step in and object it could be dropped. These outdated and offensive views aren’t acceptable, by any standards. The idea that homosexuals, bisexuals or transsexuals are responsible for the spread of sexually transmitted diseases is a disgusting and bigoted view held on to by anti-gay members of the community. Zedler’s reasoning for filing this amendment on is ridiculous and baseless. Members and supporters of the LGBT community can still contact their representatives to prevent the amendment from coming to fruition.

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