Free Inquiry
Appeared in Secular Humanist Bulletin, vol 11 issue 4

Executive Director's Corner

by Matt Cherry

The following article is from the Secular Humanist Bulletin, Volume 11, Number 4.

The Challenge and the Opportunity

CODESH has a new Executive Director: Matthew Cherry. Aged 28, Cherry has wide experience both in public and media relations and in the development of humanist organizations. He has been working in the humanist movement since 1990, first at the British Humanist Association, followed by nearly two years in The Netherlands at the International Humanist and Ethical Union. He was responsible for PR and development at both organizations.

Working for CODESH at this time provides a tremendously exciting and challenging opportunity. The supporters and staff of CODESH have built an impressive organization over the past few years, symbolized by the new Center for Inquiry. We must now use the structure that has been built up as a springboard for the development of the secular humanist movement into a nationally recognized mass-membership organization.

Two of the ways in which I hope to contribute to this development are by improving the promotion of secular humanism and by increasing participation of individuals. We must ensure that more people learn about the humanist viewpoint, and we must increase the proportion of these people who go on to join and contribute to the humanist movement. The future of our movement rests in the hands of the committed supporters and activists we already have and the potential ones we need to reach.

I therefore believe that CODESH must provide more support and guidance to activists and local groups in order to make full use of the enthusiasm of current members. One element I am already working on is the production of resources for local groups, including guidelines for running a group and promotional literature that can be used for local publicity. Another element being developed is the CODESH Mentors program, which aims to build a cadre of dedicated and skilled leaders around the country.

Increasing the participation of secular humanists around the country requires a partnership between CODESH staff and members. The Secular Humanist Bulletin can play a vital role in this by acting as a forum for ideas and initiatives relating to CODESH and local groups. For my own part I hope to be able to air a few ideas in these columns, starting with a look at secular humanist celebrations and ceremonies in the next issue.

The secular humanist movement can gain far more media coverage than it has to date. This would certainly increase membership, and it is an area I will be working on. But we must also recognize that there are many positive non-religious people who would agree with our aims but who, at our present stage of organizational development, would feel no need to join or wouldn't find membership personally rewarding. I believe that we can attract a significantly larger proportion of our natural constituency through the development of new activities. Humanists accept in theory that we have to find meaning and value in life ourselves, out of our own human resources. But it is quite another matter to create a group or environment that helps people add value and significance to their lives. I suspect that most humanist groups have never conceived of their mission in these terms, and yet this is surely what we should aim to do if we are serious about our humanism, and it is what we must achieve if we are to attract mass support.

There is scope for further development of activities that appeal to people's intellectual interests, for example evening classes in critical thinking or moral issues. But we must also develop activities that meet people's social, emotional and aesthetic needs. Eupraxia as well as sophia. The secular humanist movement can do much more to engage and satisfy the emotional and social drives of non-religious people, without weakening its intellectual and secularist aspects. Possible examples of such activities include festivals celebrating the arts and nature, fund drives for international relief efforts, rites of passage celebrations, parties, poetry readings, music nights, self-help groups (such as SOS), family events, et cetera.

I look forward to developing these ideas in future issues and meetings, and I hope that CODESH supporters will not hesitate to contact me with any ideas or questions regarding grass-roots development. More than anything, I am delighted that I have the opportunity to do something about these ideas: to translate them into practical activities and assistance.

Contact Matt at the CODESH office:

Matt Cherry
POB 664
Amherst, NY 14226-0664

VOICE: (716) 636-7571
FAX: (716) 636-1733

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