Make life better for non-religious people in the US
August 4, 2013 11:03 AM   Subscribe

I want to become a regular donor to an organization that is working to make being nonreligious more acceptable in society. Can you suggest one? Details inside.

I'm looking for an organization that is working to make it more acceptable for someone to be nonreligious / agnostic / atheist. I'm in the US so that's my focus, but suggestions with an international bent would be fine too. I'm an agnostic, and I have no idea whether in the future I'll remain agnostic, rediscover my faith, or become more atheistic. But regardless of where I land, I think the right be be nonreligious is an important component of religious freedom, and even if I become more religious then I want my friends and family to have the freedom to make up their own minds without being immediately shunned and distrusted by society at large. I'm dismayed by the finding that Americans consider atheists less trustworthy than rapists.

On the other hand, I don't want to donate to an explicitly atheist organization. Part of that is I'm not sure where I'll end up on the spectrum. But frankly, part of it is I'd like to avoid a backlash if my family finds out, so something that isn't stridently atheistic is helpful in that regard - it's easier to explain it as a "separation of church and state" or "expanding religious freedom" donation, while something that sounds explicitly anti-religious is tough to explain in that way. The American Humanist Association seems like an obvious one, but even their motto "Good Without A God" makes me a little uneasy. Answers like "don't let what others think affect you" are not helpful, finding an organization whose message I'm comfortable with explaining to religious people is an absolute requirement for me. And "donate anonymously" doesn't alleviate my concerns. (After all, this stuff will go on my bank statements. There's always a paper trail.)

I already donate to the ACLU partly thanks to their work on church/state separation, which I value greatly. But I want to go beyond legal separation and donate towards making it acceptable.
posted by Tehhund to Religion & Philosophy (9 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Americans United for Separation of Church and State
posted by djb at 11:11 AM on August 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

The Freedom from Religion Foundation, but they might be a little more aggressive and "noisy" than you would like.
posted by kiltedtaco at 11:16 AM on August 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Americans United looks good. But they seem very focused on legal church-state separation. I'm looking for something more focused on outreach.

Trying to have my cake and eat it too: the FFRF does the kind of outreach I would like. But they're too fighty. Even the name is too much. I like them and what they do, and some day I would like to support them, but right now I'm just not at a place where I can be associated with them. So I'm basically looking for them, but slightly easier to explain away. That's why this is a tough question!
posted by Tehhund at 11:30 AM on August 4, 2013

I was going to suggest the ACLU, but then saw your edit re legal issues not being the focus.

Without being too 'fighty' or 'legal' you're basically left with non-theistic organizations that do good works. Housing Works (vs Salvation Army), SOS (vs AA), maybe an ethical culture group, like the NY Society for Ethical Culture. Maybe a bridge the gap group like Practice What You Preach.

Another good choice is the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

I will say though, that a huge part of being respected by society at large is for your views to be accepted legally (which means that other views are not codified as the legal default). So, don't discount the impact of the legal organizations.
posted by melissasaurus at 12:01 PM on August 4, 2013

Response by poster: I will say though, that a huge part of being respected by society at large is for your views to be accepted legally (which means that other views are not codified as the legal default). So, don't discount the impact of the legal organizations.

I absolutely agree, and that's priority #1. But I'm already contributing to that and now I'm looking for an organization that goes beyond that.

(I'll try to stop responding now)
posted by Tehhund at 12:07 PM on August 4, 2013


Promotes faith choice and social justice. It is religious so this might address the issue of financial statements. You need not attend services in order to donate.
posted by Feisty at 12:10 PM on August 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Secular Student Alliance has just started a Rapid Response Organizer search. The organizer will direct a project that intervenes locally in cases of anti-atheist discrimination at high schools, colleges, etc.

The Organizer search page has a link to donate funds specifically to pay for the Organizer hire, but you may want to look around the SSA website as well to see if their wider work would fit your needs. Their mission is:
The mission of the Secular Student Alliance is to organize, unite, educate, and serve students and student communities that promote the ideals of scientific and critical inquiry, democracy, secularism, and human-based ethics. We envision a future in which nontheistic students are respected voices in public discourse and vital partners in the secular movement's charge against irrationality and dogma.
They are very much oriented along the goals described in your question (equal rights and anti-discrimination), demonstrating that the non-religious are not as the prejudiced beliefs of many Americans see them. Their umbrella terms are nonreligious and nontheistic, not explicitly atheist, but those terms may be too close for comfort.

Something to keep in mind is that in the history of minorities agitating against prejudice in the US, they have all faced criticism for being too strident or fighty just for asking for equal treatment. If "Good without God" is a cause for concern, I'm not sure you'll find an organization that directly targets anti-atheist prejudice without also being too much of an outspoken advocate for atheism for your purposes. There are some groups that work more on generalized religious tolerance, but even among traditionally progressive religious and multi-faith groups there can be strains of anti-atheist sentiment. hal_c_on's comment above also demonstrates that there'll be those who cast doubt on the extent of anti-atheist prejudice. Here's an article by American researchers with a decent but by no means comprehensive literature review on anti-atheist attitudes. Pitzer College has recently started a Secular Studies program for the study of non-religious people. You might be able to donate to the program with the goal of improving the lives of the non-religious by improving our understanding of them and their place in society.

In the chance that no organizations will fit your bill, I would also suggest something like the Foundation Beyond Belief which doesn't do outreach directly. Rather, it gathers its members' donations and contributes them to a variety of charities each quarter, indirectly addressing anti-atheist sentiment by demonstrating that atheists are just as charitable and trustworthy folks of good will as other Americans.
posted by audi alteram partem at 3:54 PM on August 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have to say that I'm not super-familiar with the landscape of atheist/etc advocacy groups, but for those who are, it might be helpful if you tell us what about FFRF is too "fighty" besides their name.

That said, People for the American Way does a lot of work, both legal and organizing, on preserving freedoms and fighting discrimination. Here's their page on religious liberty.
posted by lunasol at 5:20 PM on August 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

How about the American Humanist Association? I like the way they frame non-theistic belief in an affirmative, as opposed to exclusive manner. They're less concerned with asserting the nonexistence of gods as much as the need to be good and humane regardless of any supernatural factors. Their slogan is "Good Without God", which is a direct answer to the notion that rapists, for example, could be more trustworthy than those who don't believe in the divine. Here is their page on how to support humanism.
posted by Quizicalcoatl at 6:58 PM on August 4, 2013

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