Christians in Houston have a huge variety of communities to join, but until recently, atheists could only meet in dark alleys in the bad part of town. Well, it hasn't been that bad, but we've been a scattered bunch, subsisting on nothing but the logic of our position regarding the existence of gods, until the creation of two organizations; the Houston Church of Freethought and Houston Oasis.
I attended a meeting of Houston Oasis yesterday, and I certainly found it to be a breath of fresh air compared to the catholic church I attended as a child and teenager.
My girlfriend and I were a bit late to the meeting, but when we got there, the musical guest, Jack Saunders, was playing a song from his latest CD. He played one or two others, and though it wasn't quite to my taste, I could tell that he played with great skill and feeling, and I certainly wish him the best in his musical career.
The guest speaker, Fred Thompson, regaled us with his vision of Houston Oasis 20 years in the future and then gave us some very wise words about respecting people of faith. He spoke idealistically with great confidence, and the audience was left inspired. If anybody entered with the idea that nonbelievers are all angry and intolerant of religious followers, they would have been surprised at the goodwill and compassion that Fred displayed. In fact, he sounded a bit like Mr. Rogers. Believe me, that is a high compliment.
During his speech, Fred, who coincidentally shares a first name with the late, great Mr. Rogers, stated that Houston Oasis welcomes theists and spiritualists as well as nonbelievers of every label (atheists, agnostics, agnostic atheists, polyatheists, whatever you call yourself). Oasis is not a meeting of religious deconverts. It is an alternative to repressive, dogmatic, stuffy, snooty, overencumberingly tradition-based religious institutions that turn so many people away from their faiths these days. Don't get me wrong. Religious faith is, in my opinion, an intellectual disease. But it's nice that Oasis does not exclude people based on what they believe or disbelieve. It is a place for open minded people to come and share their stories with other open minded people.
The central tenets of the Oasis philosophy are written on the home page of their website, and they read as follows:
- People are more important than beliefs.
- Only human hands can solve human problems.
- Reality is known through reason, not revelation.
- Meaning comes from making a difference.
- Labels are unimportant.
- Everyone should be accepted wherever they are as long as they are accepting in turn.
It is the hope of the group's organizers that this movement can continue to grow and spread because never before in human history have people gotten together en masse to make things better for everyone without cosmic rewards and punishments over their heads. Houston Oasis is a secular humanist movement that we all hope can make a bigger difference than religion ever has while not fostering a spirit of separation that has so often caused wars in the past (not to mention the present).
If you are interested in being a part of the movement, join them at the Norris Conference Center at 10:30 am on Sunday. They meet every week. You might even see me there. I'll be the guy with the big camera around my shoulder.