Tucson has had its freethinking community for quite some time but it consisted of small disassociated groups with small memberships.
Prior to January 2000, small Atheist groups met for Sunday morning breakfasts. There was a used bookstore owned and operated by Conrad Goeringer that hosted meetings in his store. You can still find some of his articles archived on the Tucson Citizen website. Conrad’s bookstore and most of the folks that met for Sunday breakfasts are gone but there is a rapidly growing group of Tucson Atheists with a wide variety of activities.
There was the Tucson Skeptics composed of 4 or 5 members that met occasionally. Its membership consisted of “mature” white men that were interested in investigating claims of the paranormal. Technically the “group” still exists and listed with CSI (Committee for Skeptical Investigation formerly called CSIOP—Committee for Scientific Investigation of the Paranormal) but there is only one member. However, there was an active Skeptical community in Tucson in the past as evidenced by the newsletters that you can find HERE. We owe much of the written history of the activities to Jim Lippard who still writes a blog that can be found HERE. Currently, the most active group in Tucson that deals specifically with Skepticism is the Skeptics of Tucson Meetup.com Group. We meet once a month and discuss various topics associated with Skepticism. The purpose of the group is to create a skeptical environment where it is safe to take on the superstitious, the frauds, and the willfully ignorant. Our meeting on October 13th was on Superstition.
A Humanist group was also in operation. It was a Tucson Community of the Center for Inquiry. This mature group was composed of well-seasoned veterans of the secular community. Their meetings were monthly and on occasion brought in noted speakers such as Paul Kurtz. They’re still around but now go by the name of FreeThought Arizona.
Atheism, Skepticism, and Humanism are the three basic elements of any freethinking community. It seemed that Tucson had it all but the in truth there was no community. The small groups kept to themselves. It was the exact opposite of synergy where the community was NOT greater than the sum of its parts. The parts were still parts. The older folks stayed with older folks. The Skeptics did their “sciency” thing all by themselves and the Atheists enjoyed a nice conversation on Sunday mornings.
The situation is changing. The community is stronger and we’ve come a long way but there is resistance to the change. In future postings, I’ll talk about what is working and what is not and strategies that should have worked but didn’t. I’ll cover the differences between management styles and how they should be applied when dealing with volunteers.
I’ll cover the differences between two organization management styles—the board and the benevolent dictator. There are advantages to each and a tendency to both. Finally, I’ll talk about the development of a third option, the one we are now using in the Tucson Atheists.