LAAG / MoR

London Atheist Activist Group (LAAGare ‘a warm, frank & constructive atheist activist community’. LAAG meet weekly at Speakers Corner. They support Sense in Science ‘Ask for Evidence’ (Faith is a vice, not a virtue!) and Peter Boghossian’s “Street Epistemology” campaigns.

LAAG organise the Ministry of Reason (MoR) – helping people to leave religion. MoR describe it as ‘firebrand’ activism.

About LAAG, Peter Boghossian author of “A Manual for creating atheists” said “Thanks for doing what you’re doing. Together we can make significant progress toward eradicating the faith virus”.

London Atheist Activist Group (LAAG) announce Ministry of Reason (MoR).

LAAG say “Why do we need MoR? The UK has a ‘Ministry for Faith & Communities’. We wondered why these necessarily go together! And what about REASON? i.e. evidence-based thinking. Let’s use MoR as a fun and flexible name, to highlight the disparity and inequality.” (source: Meetup)

MoR remit is “To enact positive change through a peaceful, civil & forthright approach. In order to stop harm, it will challenge faith as a whole (non-evidence-based thinking of every description) – not just religion but also official ratification of non-evidence based practices in medicine, law, education etc. It’s aims are to reaching those who are being let down, to help to bring about a more reasoned, fair, harmonious society through frank and adult discussion. With the same laws for all. Will you be part of it ?” (source: Meetup)

Mihai Milan (August 22nd 2014)  said:-

“we [MoR] would like to try and be the people who protect the non-religious, or those who are struggling with their faith.”

“MoR will be very upfront about its atheist roots and the fact that it is antitheist, but considering the very large percentage of the UK population who are non-religious, we would only be tapping into a huge demographic”

“This new organization [MoR] would start with smallish events and festivals in London, some designed for the atheist community, some for the religious and others for both.”

“Right now atheist are only people you see every once in a while on TV or on YouTube, being mean and nasty to some poor religious shmuck.”

“[MoR will have] a community centre for atheist and non-religious people, with a strong emphasis on helping and supporting those who are struggling with their faith, would want to leave their faith or are facing isolation or abuse from their communities and families because of their ideas. This type of work is crucial for the process of turning atheism into something positive and atheists into protectors rather than attackers. Not to mention the fact that we would be involved in something that is doing some real palpable good.”

“For this type of thing to work we need to keep in mind that we have to be the nice ones. Sure, we can still afford to be controversial every once in a while, but mostly we need to be squeaky clean and as non-hostile as possible.”

“We will have to partner up and work with others we may not like, others we may disagree with and some that will be regarded as our very enemies. By doing this we show that we are the open minded ones and always receptive to the ideas of others, and those tired arguments can no longer be used against us.”

Georgi L (August 26th 2014) expanded on the above post saying:-

“We will be setting it up as a formal entity .. e.g. Charity status, limited company etc.”

“The team is Skyping/meeting every week”

“MoR [will be] a new organization that would be a new approach to atheism (naturalism/rationalism, scepticism etc) and the perception of it in the public eye.”

“A key remit is to ‘normalise’ atheism into society (50.6% of Britons are non religious after all!). To change the portrayed image of atheism and atheist from the mean and the arrogant, from the ones who “attack religion and say religious people are stupid”, we would like to show that actually there is a great need to protect the non-religious, or those who are struggling with their faith. It is religion and faith that are the aggressors, not atheists. The victims of religion/faith are hardly ever shown!”

“Of course the organization will be very upfront about its atheist roots and the fact that it is anti-theism (or more correctly, anti-faith), but considering the very large percentage of the UK population who are non-religious, we should be tapping into a huge demographic that not enough people are talking about. (Though many of these non-religious people are apologists/accommodationists and also need education on the truth of faith’s reach within politics, its privileges , tax and other law exemptions, and the harm it does in general)”

“We hope eventually to create a community centre for atheist and non-religious people, with a strong emphasis on helping and supporting those who are struggling with their faith, would want to leave their faith or are facing isolation or abuse from their communities and families because of their ideas. No other organisation does this at the moment, and from the two years of running LAAG. we know there is a need – that need may be much larger than we anticipate… But it will be a vital role for the new organisation ( and as a side effect, will serve to show religions true colours as the cause of great suffering on people, who have been forced into it as children, with atheists as the only protectors of these vulnerable people (government etc surely isn’t helping them!), rather than shown only as ‘attackers’ of religion)”

“For this type of thing to work we need to keep in mind that we have to be careful that we are nor portrayed inaccurately as being against the religious, but rather (the truth!) that we’re against all aspects of faith as a concept, and idea – whether that be homeopathy, astrology or religion. Sure, we can still afford to be ‘controversial’ every once in a while, and we need to be careful to be portrayed as we actually are i.e. non-hostile to people (though tough on the ideas) – hence Boghossian approach. However this is not about retreating into safe territory – we will surely be challenging the whole root and gamut of faith; the faulty thinking – rather than just individual symptoms of religion such as MGM i.e. think more a combination of Dawkins and Bohossian, rather than overly ‘PC’ snail’s pace “interfaith” promoting organisations)”

“We may have to partner up and work with others whose approaches we may not generally like, others we may disagree with, and some that could be regarded as our very “enemies”. Pragmatism to get the job done is often needed, and in fact sometimes some religious groups do see the very real benefits to them of secularist policies. It doesn’t mean we condone religion, but that we are open minded and receptive to others’ ideas (when deserving!), and those tired arguments can no longer be used against us.”

“In the future, through our various community projects and a high level of activity on social media we can bring entire communities on our side, whether they agree with our views or not, just because we listened to their needs and gave a helping hand regardless of their personal beliefs, but simply because they needed it.”

“Yes all this sounds very ambitious, but if we care about this civil rights cause and truly care about our fellow human beings, then our high expectations should not be focused on the religious, but on ourselves. If we don’t do it, who will? We can’t expect others to do it for us. Any movement has to start somewhere, and we feel that you as a group are amongst the most ‘qualified’ to be the start of this movement in the UK.”

On 6th September 2014 Mihai Milan said:-

“Our new organization is well and truly underway; a working title and secured domains as ‘Ministry of Reason’. (Well done to Alexandra for sparking the name!). We feel it has the great advantage of flexibility; can be formal or informal, appeals to wide age groups, can carry either ‘gravitas’, or a playful element as required. We can cover a wide range of activities as the direction evolves, without sounding pompous or too grand to start with (though we may umbrella it under a more formal and ‘National’ name).”

“MoR remit will be ‘To normalise (make it an everyday, ‘normal’ label rather than a taboo) and change the perception of atheism/naturalism from “cold, hard, loners” to “supportive, warm, Community”‘

“For it be be rewarding, and fun (where possible!). This applies for us all who will be involved, and for those we hope to embrace, help and educate. Think in terms of ‘Edu-tainment”!”

On 1st October 2014 Georgi L. on behalf of ‘Jason’ posted FAQ, reproduced here in full:-

QUOTE “These are by Jason:

What is the Ministry of Reason?
We are a community of people that want to help everyone make better use of reason and evidence in our lives and be less influenced by all forms of magical thinking.

But why Ministry?
The UK Government has a Ministry of Faith and Communities and we wondered why those things necessarily went together. Faith is promoted officially, yet the majority in the UK are non-religious (British Attitudes Survey2013 shows “non-religious” at 50.6% and rising) – why isn’t there a Ministry for Reason? So we thought it was a fun name that would also highlight the disparity.

What sort of people are in your community?
Our community members come from all backgrounds and walks of life. Diversity is a strength of our community and all who are willing to engage sincerely and constructively are welcome. Typically members are non-religious and seeking a warm, frank community with which to socialise, to learn, to teach, and also to help enact positive change. We also have some religious and deist members.

What is it that you actually do?
Right now we host talks and social events, but we have lots of ideas for other things that we think are important, like offering support to people that have found themselves doubting their belief in the supernatural, something which they may find troubling and leave them feeling isolated from their community.

So you want everyone to be completely rational like Mr Spock?
Negative. Fictional aliens can be exclusively rational, real human beings can’t and we wouldn’t want to be. Everyone should aspire to have a rich emotional life but its also important to understand how the world actually works. That means also taking account of evidence and using reason.

So what is your attitude to religion then?
We can now be sure, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the supernatural realm that all religions look to simply doesn’t exist. That may be unwelcome news for anyone that
draws comfort and a sense of meaning from beliefs in the supernatural but this concern is misplaced. Reality has much more to offer than the false comforts of wishful thinking.

But isn’t religion a positive force in the world?
To think this is to ignore the harm done in the name of religion and the dark side of the supernatural (i.e. ghosts, demons, witches, eternal torments etc.). But whatever the consequences of believing in the supernatural, this has no bearing on whether those beliefs are true. All of the available evidence shows that it isn’t and we think that’s something to be grateful for.

So you think people of faith are stupid?
Absolutely not. Evolution has left us all with an intuitive sense of a supernatural dimension to reality and we now understand why this is, but history has taught us time and again that our intuitions often mislead us. Many different lines of evidence are now telling us that our intuitive sense of the supernatural is mistaken and even geniuses make mistakes.

Shouldn’t people be free to believe what they want?
Of course. We are 100% for everyone having as much freedom as possible but no-one’s freedom is limited by having someone suggest that they have made a mistake. Freedom doesn’t mean never having to hear that you might be wrong, particularly if being wrong causes harm to others.

Aren’t there other groups doing this sort of thing?
There are some important areas that are not being covered as well as they might be and that we can add something by doing things in our own particular way – being civil, forthright, and unapologetic about promoting the joy and sense of evidence-based thinking, and challenging the reverse, especially when it comes in an official capacity.

So you’re another one of these atheist churches then?
Er, no. There is nothing church, temple, mosque or synagogue like about us.

Why do you hate God?
Sorry, we aren’t into having those kinds of conversations. Life is too short and we only get one. But there are plenty of people on the internet that will be happy to argue with you if you really want to go down that road. (You can’t hate something you don’t believe in)” END QUOTE

Georgi L commented (‘me:’) on 22nd August 2014 about a long Daniel Finke post ‘Why I’m not shutting up about atheism’ on RichardDawkins.net

James (9th September 2014) instead of Ministry of Reason suggested the name ‘Ministry of Atheism’ or ‘Ministry of Non-Religion’. Georgi L. replied:-

“MoR doesn’t say religion anywhere, because it will be about challenging faith of every description. So it is really much more about Naturalism as a whole, rather than only atheism – but you’re right that the word Atheism is the most easily identified one, and we need to own it.”

“one of the remits – to ‘normalise’ the term atheism. We are looking for ways to make the branding more obviously atheist (e.g. having the re[ason] A in the ‘official’ atheist font and bigger then the other letters)”

 

 MoR is a ‘National Platform‘: LAAG intend MoR to go nationwide, not stay in the capital.

Atheism UK members will assist LAAG in their MoR nationwide rollout.

 

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