Candidate Statement: Lex Maxwell, President

Seattle Atheists.org has had an exciting year with several highly successful events from authors and book groups to Flying Spaghetti Monsters and fairs. These events reached thousands of people and put the organization on on the verge of making a breakthrough to becoming much larger and better known. There are several ways I’d like to help make that happen as an officer on the board of directors.

Having spent the last year on the SA board, I’ve gotten to know active members of SA and talked face to face with Atheists and Theists alike from the Seattle area about what it means to be an Atheist organization. I have developed a strong sense of what people want from a local Atheist organization. They want an organization that is bold and aggressive enough to lead and stand for something, yet tactful and compassionate enough to put a good face on Atheism and make allies in the community across religious and social boundaries. They want an organization that fosters a sense of community and belonging but also has a purpose and a message. A group with room for everyone whether they just want to show up and chat, listen to a lecture, or become active in the club and promote equal rights for Atheist through outreach and education.

Most of the things I would like to do fall under 3 major synergistic areas:

1. I would like to significantly increase SA’s membership base through administrative streamlining of the membership application and renewal process as well as keeping membership dues low and actively inviting people join SA to support the activities that we bring to the community.

2. I would like to increase the number of activities that SA does by empowering and facilitating volunteers so that tasks can be efficiently delegated and the board of directors can concentrate on administrative tasks. This will allow the board to put their effort into things like finding the next event, the next speaker, the next volunteer opportunity and finding great people to help us run these events, instead of getting bogged down in the minor details of the events. With my experience of leading Columbia Basin College’s SciFi club for 2 years throwing 14 hour multi-event conventions 3 times yearly I know that, no matter how dedicated they are, a small group of people cannot do everything. With good communication and task-oriented delegation strategies I was able to host a convention with numerous simultaneous events and hundreds of participants without going crazy. I hope to bring that same strategy to the SA board so that we can host more events (and even simultaneous events as the summer season gets very busy) as I’d like to see SA have a presence at every community event we can possibly get into.

One of the fears people have of delegating activities out of the board’s immediate control is that someone might say or do something we wish they hadn’t with no one there to stop them. Sarcastic rude Atheists with no social skills?! Well, yes… they exist and I’m well aware of valid concerns about how an Atheist organization might be unfairly targeted with negative press and community sentiment over even a minor issue but this is not an issue that is unique to us. All organizations that deal with the public have this problem and we need to adopt strategies to ensure that we are well represented by our members in the public and well equipped to deal with the media should something unfortunate happen. To do more events to get more members takes more people, out in the public, talking to other people, risking our reputation. It’s an unavoidable risk if we want to grow and we’ll just have to deal with it. That brings me to the third area where I’d like to improve SA:

3. Clearly document SA’s position on various important topics and FAQs. If SA is going to be an organization that stands for something, it needs to say what that something is and isn’t in clear language and post it publicly. If we don’t say what SA stands for we invite speculation; we do not present a strong image which in turn places us at a greater risk for misunderstandings and misrepresentation. Of course if we do say what our position is we might offend some people but I feel that if we do not identify what our stance is and stand up for ourselves, we run a much higher risk of offending even more people who will then quietly decline to be involved (or not so quietly such as the case with Michel Aristidou who I thank for bringing this to the forefront of my attention so many months ago and recently did a brilliant lecture on logic and philosophy for us).

Crafting stances that do a good job of representing the views of the majority of atheists will be challenging. Wording them compassionately and fairly without compromising our integrity in a way that won’t offend sensible theists, whose support for atheists’ rights and secular society we need to ensure freedom for everyone, will be even harder. We might even offend some atheists in the process, but if any of you have been active in the SA forums you’ll know that’s not very hard to do. It will be hard and it will be risky, but SA is a now a well established and a fairly well known organization and can handle it and there is so much to gain from it! We can send our members out into the public to represent us and they’ll know what to say and what not to say. If they should say or do something the organization doesn’t condone, we can easily disown the statement as our position on the subject will be clear. Even if our position is that we have no position it would be clearly laid out in advance as a safety net. In pursuing this task we can engage ourselves in assessing what our common values really are instead of this tired rhetoric about how “Atheists have nothing in common but a negative” and that’s why they can’t stand for anything or do anything as a group. SA has over 100 members and we have over 1000 more standing in the wings through the Seattle Atheists Meetup Group and the Northwest Freethought Coalition. We are a group and we do stand for something. We’re all human. We all live in Seattle. And we all support equal rights atheists. We have so much in common and if we took the time to discover and discuss what it was we could unify around it not only with other atheists but with the whole community. SA is a tolerant organization that accepts freethinkers from all walks of life and seeks to work cooperatively with the community through education to ensure liberty for all. SA should have official positions that support that sentiment. I would like to see a cautious but firm shift from half-heartedly trying to represent, without offending anyone, 110% of all atheists, agnostics, ignostics, apatheists, freethinkers, materialists, realists, naturalists, secularists, the irreligious, non-theists, their sympathizers and etc. that ever existed or may exist to doing a fantastic of representing 90% of the people who simply don’t believe in god who are caring and enthusiastic people who want to be a functional part of society for the betterment of everyone and they are tired of being treated like second-class citizens with second-class values while religious bigotry and ignorance is given a free pass.

For a lot of people “atheist” is a bad word and I’d like to change that. I’d like people to be able to be proud to say “I’m an Atheist and I contribute to society”.

My name is Lex. I am currently a Member at Large on the Seattle Atheists board of directors and I am a candidate for President in the upcoming election on Sunday, September 21st 2008, 1:00 pm at the Greenwood Branch Library. If you aren’t already a member you can join for as little as $15 online ( http://seattleatheists.org/become_a_member.shtml ) or in person at the meeting to support me and the rights of nonbelievers in Seattle and the world.

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