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The Secular Coalition gets a new executive director, and (I think) gets it right May 3, 2012

Posted by shaunphilly in Skepticism and atheism.
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I have been a fan of the past executive directors of the SCA.  Lori Lipman Brown and Sean Faircloth are both smart, friendly, fun-loving people who I enjoyed getting to know.  When Sean left the position to be with the Richard Dawkins Foundation, there was the hanging question of who would be chosen to succeed him.

And today we have an answer from Hemant Mehta’s blog.  The choice is a former Republican lobbyist named Edwina Rogers.  I have never heard of her until today, but let me tell you, based on what I read from Hemant’s interview, why I think that the choice is a good one.

First, her answers to Hemant’s questions are encouraging.  She’s a nontheist (her preferred term), secularist, and she seems to be aware of the issues which the SCA is designed to confront.  In short, she’s one of us.

Second, the fact that she is a she is a plus in the sense that we do have some issues with gender inequality in the larger community of reason.  Not that hiring a man would have been a mistake, but this is an added bonus from an equality point of view. 

Third, she has inroads to Republicans.  This, I think, is the most important part.  For some time there has been an idea that there is a divide in our “culture wars” which divide along the lines of Democrat/liberal/secularist versus Republican/conservative/theocrat.  This divide is way too simplistic, and as Edwina Rogers states, its not true in the majority of cases.

Secularism is not a uniquely liberal value or cause.  Yes, there are many conservative voices who declare their opposition to the liberal and secularist agendas, but even those conservatives have much to gain, and maintain, in a secular government.  With Edwina speaking for us, perhaps some of those voices will be forced to allow their connected ears to get some exercise.  Seculaism has much to offer conservatives, especially the religious ones.

Yes, I have stark political and philosophical differences with conservative people (some who are family members) who view me as some crazed, brainwashed, confused elitist who has been fed the liberal lie of separation of church and state.  Perhaps Edwina’s voice can carry a little more weight with such people (perhaps not, in many), ot at least be able to frame them in ways those people will understand.

And there may in fact be a majority of conservative contituents who hold similar views about us elitist progressive secularists, but there are paths towards developing political alliances with secular conservatives who hold, or at least are near, levers of power and authority.

I would prefer to see America become more progressive as a whole.  I would like to see the Democratic party become truly progressive, fully secular, and deal with real social inequalities such as those brought up by the Occupy movement.  I would like to see the Republican party return to leaders such as Barry Goldwater, rather than the theocracy-downed idiocy that so often sways Republican constituents and legislation.

I would like to see real, substantive, argument about policy between people who intelligently disagree, rather than be distracted by Biblical proclamations and religiously-based anti-gay, anti-women, and anti-science ideologies which end up doing damage to the nation we all live in.  There is much to love about America, but sometimes those attributes become smudged with too much mud from religious contamination.

Theocratic tendencies in politics harm us all in ways which we often don’t even realize, unless we are paying close attention.  Having someone familiar with conservative lobbying circles assisting in our efforts to support secularism in America will be a boon for us all–liberal, conservative, etc–long-term.

I think that the SCA made a smart move in choosing Edwina Rogers.  Let’s see if I’m right.  In the mean time, let’s all welcome Edwina to her new position.

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Comments»

1. Staks Rosch (@DangerousTalk) - May 3, 2012

I think she is a good choice also. My thought is that because she is a Republican, she might be able to weaken the influence of the Religious Right. This could also force the Democrats to pay more attention to secular concerns since the secular community is now reaching out to the Republicans. The Democrats won’t be able to take our votes for granted any more, they will have to actually do something to earn out votes.

I’m also excited about she 50 state plan to expand the SCA.

2. shaunphilly - May 3, 2012

Yeah, because in Sean Faircloth’s book, he named that as a goal to achieve by 2020. I would like to see how she intends to pull that off. I have not heard anything through the grapevine myself.

3. Jim Lawler - May 3, 2012

While I support the SCA’s attempt to influence Republicans and others, I feel that it’s “too little, too late”. No one can influence ‘legislators’ who continually play on the fear and ignorance of the American people. With massive financial backing and a most effective communications empire, the republican fanatics now seem poised to win a senate majority this year, and probably the white house. The majority of them are in no mood for discussion of any sort. Still, trying to do something about this situation is better than nothing, I suppose.

4. shaunphilly - May 3, 2012

JIm,

I think that we have to have a long view here. Yes, the GOP is pretty infested right now, but the infestation is not absolute. But we have to think about getting our ideas in place so that there is at least a voice to hear for Republican secularists.

Drawing absolute lines between us and them will not allow the few that remain with us to feel like we have anything to talk about. So I allow the few Republicans who are with us to form a solid core which might influence their peers.

5. Staks Rosch (@DangerousTalk) - May 3, 2012

I agree with Jim that we aren’t really going to influence Republicans. I wish she could, but I am skeptical. But I do think her efforts to influence Republicans will help to influence Democrats. They will be less likely to take our vote for granted and as a result, they will have to pander to us more.

6. Timid Atheist (@TimidAtheist) - May 4, 2012

I’m always happy to see more women take a lead in any situation. That she’s not an ideal candidate (mostly due to her republican roots), in my opinion she deserves the benefit of the doubt.

I don’t believe there are many non-religious Republicans. Even if they aren’t actively going to church or spouting religious dogma, there are still many who at least believe in (a) god and are willing to put in legislation that favors the religious. (Especially christians.)

Until Edwina Rogers does something that isn’t inline with the SCA and most secular ideals, I have no problem with her or what she stands for. Diversity is a good thing and it’s quite possible she’ll bring things to the table that yet another liberal man could not.

7. Jim Lawler - May 8, 2012

Normally I would appreciate the value of a “long view”. What I fear now is that there is very little time for a long view. The radical right now appears headed for an election victory this fall. If that happens, there will be no more debate or discussion on virtually anything. Political power trumps everything. So I don’t think there will be enough time for even the most committed republican secularists to adequately influence others in their party. As I see it, the present republican and religious right represents a difference in kind, not just in degree. These people are committed to an extremeist program; it is not just rhetoric. I am accused of being a supreme pessimist; I hope that people who say that about me are right. But I do want to at least try to win some people away from what really is becoming, a totalitarian movement.

8. What I’ve Been Reading: May 10th (or, I really need to come up with a more creative name for these posts) | amandatheatheist - May 10, 2012

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