A Freethinking Maties General Assembly took place last night. There were nine new faces (more than half of those attending), and the direction the discussion took pleased me tremendously. Below I share some thoughts about the society, and mention some other groups, including Stellenbosch Humanists.
Some of my friends and I were concerned that the Freethinking Maties society would really just be a front for anti-religion sentiments, an “atheists anonymous” if you will. There were some angry atheist memes running rampant in previous meetings. This meeting was different. Possibly because two of the more vocal a(nti)theists were not present, but hopefully because the executive committee is discovering that there is a need for a Freethinking society that is not anti-theistic. Anti-theism is not how you de-stigmatise a post-theistic world-view.
A number of the new people were wonderfully vocal, and in my perception quite clearly anti-anti-theistic. I felt no need for me to play devil’s (God’s?) advocate, it felt as if there were people there walking with me, helping me carry the weight I had on my shoulder… even if they were unaware of it. This is all just my subjective experience. A friend that attended with me, also agreed he felt hope, where he previously felt none. (Previously he felt there was no hope of influencing the strong atheistic direction the organisation was taking.) There is hope.
It could possibly all come down to the fact that two of the more vocal atheists (or even anti-theists) were unable to attend. However, hopefully it is a case of the committee at last discovering that there is a need for a group of Freethinkers that are not necessarily anti-theistic. The majority of the non-theists, post-theists, agnostics and Freethinkers out there, are not interested in joining a society of angry militant atheists. If that is the direction the society takes, they want to remain uninvolved.
Either way, if you are interested in joining Freethinking Maties, take a look at the current constitution. Bear in mind constitutions can be amended. You can join the Freethinking Maties Facebook group. For information on formal membership, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If push comes to shove, and Freethinking Maties turns out to not be what you are looking for, there is also a Stellenbosch Humanists Facebook group. This group is explicitly meant for all humanists, including secular humanists, religious humanists, Christian humanists, whatever. Metaphysics is not important in this group. Please join if this appeals to you. See the quote in On Labelling Myself a Humanist for a good explanation of humanism.
An acquaintance brought to my attention another website that may be of interest to you: South African Skeptics.
Modern skepticism is the method of using scientific principles to evaluate claims or ideas. This is a positive action, to separate sense from nonsense. Skepticism is therefore not to be confused with cynicism.
If Freethinking Maties is not quite your cup of tea, you should hopefully be able to find what you are looking for, somewhere between a skeptic organisation and a humanist organisation. Or hey, who knows, maybe even Stellenbosch Gemeente. Keep an eye on this blog through December/January…