It costs money to attend a conference. Hotels, travel, food, and then of course the tickets. But as Ashley Miller reminded us today, there is a great deal more about organized secularism and atheism that prevents participation for those without the means.
Miller discussed class as it relates to our movement, and talked about some uncomfortable truths about the community of those of us who can afford to take the time to attend lectures and meetings, and how we look at those who don’t. Many of us are lucky enough to have lifestyles that allow us the time and psychological space to think about things like secularist activism and arguments about theology, but others simply don’t.
“That doesn’t make them worse people,” said Miller, adding that our community might agree with that intellectually, but we don’t act as though we believe it. “That disdain we have for people who are not educated…undermines our ability to reach out.” She says that the scientific method and atheism are not in themselves a form of liberation or necessarily ethical on their own. We need to bring those things ourselves to this movement, and include in our outreach efforts not just women, people of color, and other marginalized groups, but also those of different socioeconomic backgrounds.
The central message of her talk was for us to muster more compassion with those with whom we disagree, people who have jobs that are alien to us, who support politics we don’t like, and with those who simply can’t afford to be a part of our movement as it currently exists. Right now, Miller says they don’t matter to us, or at least, “we don’t treat them like they do.”