Thursday, July 01, 2010

Secular Community Resource Centers

I have one of them huge mega-churches going up about 2 blocks from where I live.

It truly is a massive complex - taking up about 6 city blocks (2/3 of that for parking). And I can not help but wonder what a great boon it would be if that type of money and energy could be devoted to useful purposes.

It has a large lecture hall, with large televisions and an excellent sound system where people can go to see entertaining speakers talk about current events and how they relate to the lives of the people in the community. They would be something like the TED talks. (In fact, I wonder if the people at TED would object to some of their talks being shown up on the screen during off hours.)

It would have a few smaller rooms - class rooms and meeting rooms - where there were weekly logic sessions. These groups would use one of the many logic textbooks (with interactive media) as a tool for studying the various principles of logic and sound reasoning. Yet, again, this would need to be made relevant to the lives of the participants. Attendees are invited to bring in social and political commentary - as well topics of personal importance - for an assessment of the logic about what is being claimed.

There would be other departments associated with other issues that attendees might have to deal with. For example, one department would be concerned with collecting the best and most recent peer-reviewed medical literature on drug and alcohol dependence. It would examine resources devoted to helping people with these types of problems, arrange for those who need help to get help, and set up systems within the organization itself to help anybody trying to deal with an addiction change the way they live. It can arrange for speakers to come in to talk about the best and most current information on some of these topics - educate the people on exactly what it is they are dealing with in scientific and naturalistic terms.

It can also collect and give out the best current information on other medical topics such as cancer, depression, Parkinson's disease, alzheimer's, epilepsy, and other issues that various community members might have to deal with.

Another department would be concerned with parenting. A third would be concerned with health issues - with collecting resources and providing assistance to members who have an elderly parent or a disabled child or family member to help care for.

A fourth group set up within this organization would monitor community events and address community concerns. It would provide outreach to the victims of crimes and disasters. If the community is prone to certain types of natural disasters, such as hurricanes or flooding, a portion of this community would research and help people prepare to respond to that type of disaster. If there is a chance that a call for volunteers would be made to help pile up sand-bags on a river bank, this group would have a telephone tree for summoning a cadre of volunteers.

In case an oil rig were to blow up off shore threatening the livelihood of several members of the community, another group would be in charge of identifying those who will be harmed by such an event and the resources available for help.

One of the things this organization could be trusted to NEVER DO is to exploit such an event to harvest anger and direct it at some target group. The disaster WOULD NOT be portrayed as punishment from God because the nation refused to give Israel its full backing or because it opted to allow homosexuals to marry.

Call it a "Secular Community Resource Center" - because that is what it is. It could even help somebody find a good plumber or electrician by going out and collecting information on plumbers and electricians and making their recommendations.

Its team of adolescent volunteers could go out and shovel snow for elderly people on cold winter days.

And, you know, it is not necessarily wrong that the organizers and directors of such an organization obtain a bit of personal wealth as a result of their efforts. If a high salary would help to attract people who have the skills necessary to run such an organization, then I suggest it is better to have such a person with a high salary, then to have no such organization at all.

It would not be a bad thing to identify such a person as a community leader, to develop contacts with government and business leaders and the leaders of other organizations, and to have some influence in shaping public policy.

One of those scientific facts that such a group should be willing to pay attention to is that there are few people well suited to do this type of work. Some incentive for them to do so, other than the "good feeling" of serving the community, would be wise.

Well, such are my dreams and fantasies today. If you would excuse me, it is time for me to go to work.


SS400 said...

Sounds wonderful; much less a waste of space/effort/money than a mega-church.

Not to completely jump off topic right away, but I'm a bit interested to see your take on this Copenhagan Declaration thing that came out of a Denmark atheistic meeting recently. I know you wrote a whole series on the Manhattan Declaration, so I'm intrigued to see how you think its godless counterpart stacks up.

Anonymous said...

I have wished for a secular community center near me. I would like to teach teens about how to budget money, meet others in my area, and encourage people to shop at local businesses. Perhaps business owners could get to know those who live in the area. Secular weddings could happen there.

Roy Sablosky said...

We already have institutions such as you are describing. They are not bundled together in one building, but they exist — science, medicine, education, charity — we do those things. Because we are a secular republic founded on humanistic values, we taxpayers give a significant portion of our incomes toward projects like Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, unemployment insurance and the National Institutes of Health. This is charity on a scale undreamed-of by any religion. See my recent article, The myth of Christian charity.

Shelley Mountjoy said...

District of Columbia Atheists, Inc. is working on securing the funding, etc. to open a secular community center in DC. It would be open to members of all local groups - for meetings, and more.