National Secular Service Day October 18, 2009

National Secular Service Day

Today is the first ever National Secular Service Day, a brainchild of the Harvard Secular Society.

A handful of organizations around the country are hosting events to mark the occasion, including hosting food drives, cleaning up highways, and donating blood. Good for them and I hope other groups will join in on the action.

The event is also tied into the release of Harvard Humanist Chaplain Greg Epstein‘s forthcoming book, Good Without God.

I hope the event is a success. But that success will not be judged on just what happens today. It depends on whether this event happens year after year and whether more events get scheduled. It has to have support well after the book has been released.

Without that, I fear it will be seen as much a promotional tool as it is a gesture of goodwill.

(Thanks to Kaleena for the link!)

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  • Crap – I completely missed this. I surely would have done something, considering I spent all day yesterday trying to get cocker spaniels adopted. Bummer.

    Can I count yesterday? lol

  • I’ll make sure to mention this when I attend my very first freethinkers meeting today. I don’t know if Canada has anything similar.

    Very cool idea.

  • Shannon

    I really like the idea but I wish they would make it a week instead of a day. Whenever anything is a day it feels too rushed and you get the feeling of “oh, I can’t do it today so I won’t bother”. I think a week would be better. Ironically, I did have some community service planned for today, lol! But it got postponed til next month (I’m assuming because of the rain we’re having here).

  • littlejohn

    Honestly, I don’t know what I could do differently. I already donate blood as often as they’ll let me, and I always mention that it’s atheist blood. I recycle. I even bought a hybrid car this weekend. Good god I’m smug. Forgive me.

  • Miko

    I’m more interested in what we do the other 364 days.

  • Miko

    @littlejohn: You could sell all of your possessions and give the money to charity. This includes the hybrid car; it’s better to just live within walking distance of the places you need to go.

    I’m not necessarily suggesting that you do this, but in a world where three billion people live on less that $1,000 a year, it’s absurd to think that driving a car that pollutes less is the epitome of service.

  • There was absolutely nothing published on California’s Central Coast for this and I found out too late to start something. If you live on California’s Central Coast email me.

  • muggle

    You know, I, like so many others, do what I can.

    But I have a huge problem with this on a couple of levels.

    First, service should be voluntarily and not ordered. I know that’s not what they’re attempting to do but they could do the same thing just by pointing out that so many nonbelievers give and volunteer.

    Secondly, we don’t have to prove a damned thing to anyone. Why do we have to go out of our way on a certain day to prove yes, see, we are willing to be nice. We don’t maim, and steal, and have orgies and eat babies…

    I know there’s a lot of bigotry around but this does far more to support it than dispell it by acting as if we are going out of our way on one day of the year to make an effort as if we have something to prove instead of making an ungoing effort.

    Just get out there and do your thing day to day. It’s dealing with secularists who aren’t what they’re made out to be that will dispell the stereotypes. Not bullshit declarations. The numbers on the loan charity you linked earlier was better evidence than this could ever be in a million years.

  • TXatheist

    I thought I notified you of this last week but our group did get out there…

  • Tom


    You hit on a lot of concerns of atheists that those who are seeking to volunteer under the label of godlessness are doing so to appease others.

    That is a possibility, and perhaps you are right. But you may also be wrong, and here is why: nontheists are not as wealthy as nearly every other group when it comes to social capital. Those who are volunteering may be looking to leverage social change, but to do that with little capital is futile. This is different from appeasement in that secular, social entrepreneurs endeavor to gain compromises and concessions with capital gained from socially valued action. In other words, trade and diplomacy.

    How have historically antagonistic groups, like the USSR and USA for instance, drawn closer together? Trade and dialog. We already dialog with the “other side,” but we are lacking in trade. We can trade social capital, but we need to have some in the first place.

    Well, why be part of “their” system, you might say? Isn’t that appeasement? I want to know what other system there is other than human relations. This is it. You must engage with your peers in order to gain power and respect. If you do not have respect, what reason would others have to protect your rights?

    This is more complicated than many make it out to be. Atheists are not really humanized in the world’s eye, we would benefit from it being different.

    Never compromise intellectually, but make concessions in a wise manner and profit from them.

  • muggle

    Okay, Tom, good points. But, likewise, it’s also good to go ahead and do whatever you do to help out and just be “out” as an Atheist in the same vein and will probably go further in the long run. Short run, you have a point.

  • My group didn’t find out about it until a couple of days before, so we didn’t have much planning time, but one of our Assistant Organizers baked cookies and took them to local firehouses. The firefighters seemed genuinely grateful and intrigued when they were told what it was for.

    We plan to do much more next year since we’ll have much more lead time for planning.

    Jeremy Mullins
    Montgomery Area Freethought Association

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