Before I go into this topic I will try to explain my secularism because I am very much an anti theist, some people may think the two don’t work together. I am maybe best described as a secular realist. More than anything in my life I am a realist and the idea of antitheism being a real end game scenario does not play well with the reality of my life and experiences. Antitheism, in my view, is at best a way to water down the influence of religion on society so it becomes the least important aspect of human decision making. Because of my realism I accept that secularism is the best outcome my antitheism will achieve, people it seems will always believe crazy shit. So though it may seem an odd, at this stage in my life I am an antitheist atheist with a secular vision. I thought it important to elaborate on this point so people understand as I write about a secular world view from an anti religion perspective.

I am sitting in a church hall writing this blog and realise that there are things we atheists and secularists need to achieve before religion can be retired from public service.

Though there are halls and rooms not owned by churches in my small town they are not in regular service to the general public. Clubs, masonic halls, government buildings simply don’t have the funding or commitment (official or volunteer) to be offered for public use. Insurance and management are two of the larger problems that need to be considered if we are to make halls and rooms available. Secular society doesn’t have the budgets, priests, ministers and a raft of indoctrinated volunteers waiting to open a door for public access. Even achieving a tax free status is harder for community organisations.

Community work and volunteering has long been part of my own life and I know from my experience serving with as many as 7 groups at a time that I have been part of a small group who sit on multiple committees stretching our abilities and time very thin. I myself ran our local cinema for a time having purchased the lease just to provide a public service (and a personal debit) I have that much passion for community. As a venue with great potential I tried to make it available to the public and community groups but slow uptake, uncooperative local government, lease limitations and finances didn’t allow for me to push on with this community plan. Having served on committees I finally tried on my own and yet again watched an opportunity vanish due to a lack of support, at least on my own there was nobody else to let me down. This is the advantage churches have that is often lacking in community organisations, that one person being paid to manage a group that will always produce willing volunteers (or employees).

Secular society can’t hope to compete with the religious organisations and their funding levels in small backwater towns like this one but what we are not doing it at this level makes us a good isolated example of what is happening at a large scale in cities. I have lived in cities, I was born in a state capital, my experiences in the city were very much the same. The strongest community group I ever participated in was a government funded community band, the secure and serious funding made a serious difference between group on the edge of collapse and thriving community activity.

Right now I am at a playgroup with my wife and baby son, that is why I am in a church hall. The support of a church with its venue means a small, low funded, community group can find a public space. In your community is it any different? My eldest was living in a smaller town when he was a baby and his playgroup was at a kindergarten, a secular option but not always available in large towns as they have more kids requiring of them to provide their services more days of the weeks. The range of secular venues and venue managers and funds able to support groups is simply not there in many places.

In this town, as in many others, the secular option for seminars and events can be clubs funded through alcohol and gambling. Sometimes this is not a problem but it is still not the same as the bare hall with an urn, kitchen, some folding seats and tables that is suitable for so many other activities.

This is where the secular world has to compete if it wants to be seem as a serious social option to religion. Venues, management and stable funding (not just project grants, the current problem with relying on government funds is the focus on short term projects).

Secular groups around the world are doing great things for people but we are not meeting the needs of everyone. We will never separate people from churches while we have these limitations, it is a strength churches have over us.

There is much to do working out how we resolve these problems. Without tithing and long established buildings we have a great deal of catching up to do if we want to offer a logical option to all people. Do we rely on government or like the churches of old do we seek benefactors who pour their own lives into the community for a plaque commemorating their life? Without the hope of buying eternal life we are short one selling point for benefactors. Do we tax the many and hope government comes up with a sound plan for community funding? I myself, on a quite low family income, have spent thousands and been thousand in debit supporting my community to little effect. Without long term funding and planning how do we hope to compete in a market flooded with churches and church halls. How do we achieve anything like a funded community?

For a secular society to ever exist we have so start thinking about how and where churches exist. Where is it they spend their grants and public project funds? How do they meet the social needs of so many people? Churches don’t spend their own money but public funding can be difficult to obtain for smaller less organised secular organisations, how do we get more public money for secular activity? If we can tap those funds and manage similar services in our communities we may be able to fully enact, not just envision, a secular society.

If anybody has an idea how to fund projects, I have some ideas I still want to make reality. Crowd source funding for our local community radio station failed miserably and I have spent every cent I myself can afford on the project. I don’t think I will bother push the community garden idea any time soon. Right now, having paid off my cinema debits and a few thousand more for a community group (just call me sucker, I have been accused of profiting from my volunteering, at least I won’t get angry about being called sucker) I have to go back to running my own business and looking after my family. I will have to simply be antitheist but not secular because my antitheism changes the world where my secularism seems impossible to fund and offers religion a continued place of privilege in society. I will for now have to accept that church halls and church groups offer what I have been unable to do on my own with my own funds and hate every minute our society remains under the influence of fairy tales.

May your gods remain fictional,

The Antitheocrat

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