Last week the Centre for Inquiry received an excellent and long coverage of our Living Without Religion Group in the Toronto Xtra, the major gay and lesbian newspaper. The front page of the paper has the word "Gaytheism!" and the article is titled " Gay without god: Atheist Kevin Smith helps people losing their religion. " We’ve been working for some time to achieve more notice for our secular humanistic social and community services within the very dynamic and large gay community of Toronto. This priority was recognized after CFI’s successful march under the "Atheist Pride" banner in the Toronto Gay Pride parade, one of the largest in North America.
The piece is really a profile of Kevin Smith, who runs the group, and I particularly like the way Kevin represented himself, and our organization.
Smith says the meetings are a lively mix of refugees from various faiths. “We have some Catholics, right-wing Pentecostals, Muslims, children of ministers. One woman was half an hour late because she stood outside, too scared to come into a roomful of non-believers. I guess she’d been told we were Satanists or baby-eaters or something!” he laughs.
This is the culmination of a great effort on the part of a number of our leaders. The CFI Living Without Religion Group began about 5 years ago as a small support group called Coping Without Religion. It’s now both a support and general purpose discussion group for those experiencing problems as a result of having left organized religion or living without religion but dealing with colleagues, family members, friends, or lovers, who may still be in a religious tradition. The group has grown steadily and now boasts a regular attendance of a dozen members.
As Kevin said, We’ve seen pretty much everyhing: muslims, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, Evangelical Christians, Pentecostals, you name it. Well, we’re still waiting for the first Scientologist to step through the door, but the way they’re flocking out of that cult, it shouldn’t be a long wait. Later this month the group is planning a special event to discuss issues related to dealing with the holiday season as a non-believer. The group’s success is premised on its open and non-judgemental atmosphere, and the way it frames discussion around themes that are general enough to get everyone talking. The group is led by two individuals – one of whom was raised in a religious environment, and the other being a "third generation atheist." This has allowed for a greater diversity of backgrounds to be brought to the leadership of the group.
Living Without Religion leader Kevin Smith is given the last word in the article, and I love the way it concludes:
“We’re not trying to convert anyone. You can be religious, deist, agnostic, whatever, and still attend our meetings. We’re just creating a space to discuss these things.” Now, with his volunteer work and photography career, he’s pretty busy. But he was able to find the time to build a log cabin next to a river up north. “It’s sort of like my church,” he says. “A sanctuary to get away to and chill out and meditate. I look at the stars. They’re incredible up north, but I don’t attribute them to god. The universe is amazing enough as it is, and when I sit amongst the trees by the river, I feel connected to everything. We are all connected, aren’t we?”