Last week I blogged about the Oasis groups in Houston and Kansas City. These are non-theistic organizations whose members and friends gather in a church-like fashion and also engage in service to the community. In the past I’ve also blogged extensively about Sunday Assembly. You can see the bottom of this post for links to some of what I’ve had to say so far about various non-theistic alternatives to churches.
It was in response to a Tweet about my post last week that Zachary Moore brought Fellowship of Freethought Dallas to my attention.
//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsDigging around online I found the information about Fellowship of Freethought rather limited, so I reached out to Zach. He was kind enough to answer a series of questions about the group, which I include in its entirety here. Other than inclusion of links where it seemed appropriate and the addition of our names in bold to distinguish who is speaking, I have left the text intact.
Many thanks to Zach for his willingness to take the time and provide such great answers.
Adam: How long has FoF Dallas been in existence?
Zach: The FoFD came into existence in January of 2010, and had its first official event on Saturday, January 30th of that year. It’s first major public event (called a “Gathering”) was held on February 21st, and it has been an active organization ever since.
Adam: Is it affiliated with any other groups?
Zach: The FoFD is a member group of the Dallas–Fort Worth Coalition of Reason, an umbrella organization that unites secular groups in the DFW metroplex for increased visibility and shared projects. The DFWCoR is affiliated with the United Coalition of Reason, which is closely allied with the American Humanist Association.
Adam: How did it come about? What was the inspiration/impetus? Who was involved?
Zach: I and about twenty other members of the North Texas Church of Freethought were dissatisfied with its leadership structure, and we decided to create a similar organization that was organized more democratically, and with more emphasis on the membership. We gathered in my living room for the first organizational meeting, and hammered out our new name and basic values. Over the next couple week, we developed a mission statement and a logo, as well as appointed a provisional board of directors. I was selected to be the first Executive Director. We all shared the common vision of a community of freethinkers and Humanists in the Dallas area that focused on educational activities, social events, and charitable outreach. We wanted to demonstrate to ourselves, our children, and our friends and neighbors that we could be a positive force in our community.
Adam: Are there any stated shared values? For example, Sunday Assembly has “Live better, help often, wonder more.”
Zach: Freethought, Fellowship, Friendship, and Family! These represent the four petals of the pansy on our logo.
Adam: What is a typical gathering like? Format?
Zach: The “Gathering” is our flagship event, and takes place on the third Sunday of each month. We meet at a recreational center in Dallas, which is rented for the day. Members and guests typically arrive an hour to thirty minutes early for coffee, and to reconnect with their friends. There is a presentation agenda that typically runs for about an hour, and combines TED-style talks about philosophy, science, or current events, with music, poetry, and sometimes even workshop activities. Our children meet in separate rooms and participate in age-appropriate educational activities, games, and discussions. Immediately following the presentation agenda, we reconfigure the room for a massive potluck lunch, where all our members eat and talk for one to two more hours, before cleaning up and going home for the afternoon.
Adam: What type of topics are generally discussed at gatherings?
Zach: We’ve had presentations on the intersection of neuroscience and perception, artistic expression, Wonder Woman and science, privilege and inequality, the cognitive science of religion, the development of secular traditions, expressions of gratitude, analysis of environmentalism, and literary analysis of Edgar Allen Poe. We’ve also had fantastic guest speakers, including Seth Andrews, Aron Ra, Matt Dillahunty, Jerry DeWitt, and Bridget Gaudette.
Adam: How often does FoF meet?
Zach: Our Gathering happens once a month. Other activities continue throughout the month, predominantly on the weekends, and frequently during the week as well. There are no weeks in the month without an activity.
Adam: Are there children/youth activities?
Zach: Yes. During the Gathering, we have age-appropriate education and activities for our children, and we have a dedicated Youth Director who creates and manages events for kids throughout the month.
Adam: Are there small groups or something similar? Addiction recovery, hobby groups or other?
Zach: We have sponsored secular addiction recovery groups, a philosophy club, a women’s group, and a Recovering from Religion group. We also have small groups who participate in star parties, organize board game tournaments, and come out regularly for nights at the pub.
Adam: Is the group overtly atheistic/anti-theistic, or simply non-theistic?
Zach: We don’t attack religion or the religious, and aren’t even explicitly atheistic. But most of our members are freethinking atheists or secular Humanists, or at least nonreligious. Our goal is to represent our values in a positive way.
Adam: How does someone join FoF?
Zach: To join our activities, all you have to do is show up. If you want to become a Voting Member, there are simple applications available at all Gatherings. Voting Members are expected to participate actively in the FoFD, donate their time and resources as they are able, and are then responsible for the annual election of the board of directors.
Adam: How is FoF supported financially?
Zach: The FoFD is supported entirely on the voluntary donations of its membership. Everyone is encouraged to donate at least $30 per month, more or less as they are able.
Adam: Is there an introduction video that you would recommend including in a blog post?
Zach: Here’s an introduction to one of our Gatherings that touches on charitable giving:Update from Zach:
Two things I neglected to mention:
1) The Fellowship of Freethought Dallas is also a member organization of the Foundation Beyond Belief’s Beyond Belief Network of volunteer organizations.
2) The FoFD is also designed to be copied by other groups who want to replicate its model in their area. The logo and content is a shareable Creative Commons copyright, and the organizational structure is intended to be bottom-up, not top-down. Any interested persons can contact me for more information.