Today, the leaders of several national non-theistic organizations got together for an annual meeting to discuss strategy, future plans, and bounce ideas off each other. The Unity Convention was one of the agenda items.
First, the bad news, then the good.
Here’s where we’re at:
There are some very important reasons not to go forward with this idea.
Money is a big one. For example: How would we raise the necessary funding to rent space? Would we rely on internet fundraising? Ask national organizations to invest (quite a bit of) money? What if no one came and we couldn’t recoup the costs? How much should that registration cost be? Let’s say after registration fees were taken in, and groups were paid back what they invested into this, there was a profit. What would happen with the extra money? None of this is a trivial matter.
Who would take charge of such a convention? One person? A committee? A national group or two? There needs to be a leader or three… and when that’s the case, how do we make sure this doesn’t turn into something that’s all about them or their groups?
Would groups have to give up their annual conventions that year to make this happen? If they hold their conference that year, would the existence of the Unity conference dilute the experience of the first one?
Where would it be held?
When would it be held?
Would it be called an “Atheist convention”? Or a “Humanist convention”? Or a “Unity convention” (which is pretty vague)?
Should the tone be anti-religious or “we just want the same respect religion gets” or something else? Or all of the above?
I’ll be the first to admit there are some easy answers to some of those questions. But some of the questions are tough.
We’ve known about all these issues for quite some time. These weren’t just new issues that were brought up today at the meeting for the first time, but they get to the heart of why some organizations’ leaders (who admit to liking the idea of a Unity convention) are hesitant about signing on to it.
That said, there’s some good news.
A vote was taken on whether we should proceed with the idea of a Unity Convention. The “yes” votes won (by a relatively slim margin).
It was a secret ballot, for what it’s worth. So there’s no calling out one organization or another for “voting the wrong way.”
Here’s what will happen now: A committee will form with the task of coming up with a proposal about how to handle some of these major issues (the money, the multiple convention scenario, etc). They’ll send that proposal to the leaders of the various national organizations. Those groups’ boards will have to decide whether or not to sign on to the proposal.
We’ll go from there.
As for the time frame for all this happening, I don’t know. But I think most of us who support the idea want this all coming together sooner rather than later.
I have to say: This is the third year in a row I’ve heard Margaret Downey talking about this idea. This is the first time we’re making serious progress toward making it happen.
It may not sound like serious progress to you (“That’s all they did? They formed a committee?”) but I assure you it’s a big step. Before the vote was taken, I wasn’t sure that most of the groups would even want to proceed. It was a pleasant surprise to hear the results.
So to all those who like the idea: Remain optimistic. There’s a lot of work for the committee to do, but they all want this to happen and they’ll make decisions that will be in the best interests of the people who would attend and the groups that would be involved. Hopefully, after the committee’s work is done, the national organizations will say they want to be involved.