Please note: This post has a somewhat different comment policy than the usual one here. It’s provided at the end of the piece.
If the atheist and skeptical movements focus on political and social justice issues, will that constitute mission drift?
So how, exactly, do we do this?
I’ve written about this topic before. I’ve pointed out that it’s certainly not mission drift for atheist and skeptical organizations to pay attention to social justice in internal matters — such as hiring, event pricing, event accessibility, etc. And I’ve pointed out that it’s not mission drift for atheist and skeptical organizations to actively work on social justice issues that overlap with their existing missions. I’ve pointed out that our organizations are already doing some of this — skeptics working on global warming denialism, atheists working on religious oppression of LGBT people, both kinds of organizations offering student pricing for conferences — without anyone complaining about mission drift. I’m not going to get into that debate again here. Instead, I want to crowdsource some answers to the question:
How, exactly, could we do this?
What exact social justice issues could atheist and skeptical organizations work on that would be consistent with their existing missions? What exact social justice issues would overlap with the missions of promoting critical thinking and rationality, seeking good evidence for testable claims, advocating church/state separation, opposing harm done by religion, creating communities and support systems for atheists and skeptics, etc.?
And when it comes to social justice issues in internal matters, what could atheist and skeptical organizations do that they aren’t already doing — or what could they be doing better?
I want to compile a list of specific, practical ideas, which interested organizations can consult if they want to expand their efforts in these areas. And frankly, I don’t want any of our organizations, interested or otherwise, to be able to claim, “We can’t do social justice stuff! Mission drift! Nooooooo!” When and if they do, I want us to be able to provide an extensive, detailed list of specific, practical, non-drifty options.
I’ll get the ball rolling with just a few specific examples of the kinds of things I mean.
Skeptical organizations could examine testable claims made by proponents of the drug war.
Skeptical organizations could do education about quackery and pseudoscience in the cosmetics industry.
Atheist organizations could fight abstinence-only sex education in the public schools, which is largely promoted by the Religious Right.
Atheist organizations could publicize and oppose the growing influence of the religious right on reproductive rights.
All our organizations could work towards scheduling meetings and events near public transportation.
All our organizations could work towards having sign language interpreters at events.
Please make your suggestions specific. “Making meetings more welcoming to women” isn’t hugely helpful. “Providing child care at meetings” is a lot more helpful. And to the extent that you can, please show your work: explain how, precisely, your suggestion overlaps with the existing missions of atheist and/or skeptical organizations.
If possible, please note whether your suggestion applies to skeptical organizations, atheist organizations, or both. And please note whether your suggestion applies to internal matters, the actual mission-specific work of the organizations, or both.
Comment policy for this post: I do not want this comment thread to turn into a debate about whether atheist and skeptic organizations should be focusing on social justice. If you want to get into that debate, please do so in the original post on mission drift. This comment thread is for people who are already on board with this basic idea, and who want to propose and discuss specific ways of carrying it out. Attempts to derail that conversation will be met with disemvoweling, being put into comment moderation, or, in extreme or persistent cases, outright banning. Thanks for understanding.
Your time starts… now!