Go figure

Freethinking Parents Meetup

Photo By D. Brian Burghart

Reno Freethinker Jennifer and her son. The group can be found at www.meetup.com/Reno-Freethinkers. More meetings will be scheduled from this site.

I have never fit in. I’m always the dumbest smart guy in the room, the uncoolest hipster in a crowd of coolios, the huffing guy in the weight room. It’s kind of like me going to church: I’m not superstitious enough to expect lightning bolts when I walk into a church, but sometimes a feeling comes over me as I observe the congregation.

I expected to find a sympathetic crowd when I attended the inaugural meeting of the Freethinking Parents Meetup group. But once again, I simply did not fit in.

The freethinking parents were more circumspect than any group of people I’ve encountered who were willing to call themselves a group. In other words, they’re confident enough in themselves to know they belong to the group, and they took an evening to participate with other people who identified themselves as belonging to the group, but they didn’t want to elucidate on their intellectual conclusions regarding religion, god or spirituality because their neighbors and family and co-workers might discover their association and discriminate against them. Go figure.

The website describes the group: “Reno Freethinkers is a discussion, support, and community group based out of Reno, Nevada that usually meets once a month to promote and discuss freethought, skeptic, atheist, agnostic, humanist, philosophical, and related topics. We welcome everyone to join us for our meetings, and recognize that above all else, our members have differing views on many things. Come with an open mind, put your ideas and beliefs on the table, and be fair and kind to one another; we’re not a group to criticize individuals, but rather to discuss ideas.”

Participating were three women, Zoe, Jennifer and Tracy; one guy, who, when I introduced myself, withheld his name; and a bunch of kids, some of whom I spoke to, not for attribution.

A couple of the moms were discussing the Pledge of Allegiance when Hunter and I entered Rocksport, which was where the meeting was held. I’ll be honest, Rocksport is not the place to carry on intellectual discussions regarding the nature of god, nationalism and childhood indoctrination. I couldn’t hear most of what was said.

Zoe asked her son to tell me about the bullying he suffered because of his atheism in a supposedly secular school setting: “There was this really mean guy, and he said, ‘I’m in second grade, and I can spell “Mississippi” and all that,’ and he said, ‘You’re going to hell, and blah, blah, blah,’ and they might pick on you to get a little higher on the pecking order.”

The moms returned to a discussion of the Pledge. Zoe says it’s authoritarian to swear a loyalty clause—antithetical to what this country stands for—and that the pledge is basically propaganda, mentioning in particular the “indivisibility clause,” since it was part of the original deal that states could leave the Republic if they wanted. “I used to think I supported the ‘liberty and justice for all’ part, but there are many criminals who I don’t think deserve liberty at all. I want them in jail.”

And it doesn’t take any freethinker to know that forcing children and non-god-believers to say, “under God,” is a violation of the idea of separation of church and state.

As we drove home, Hunter made the point that some of these people had simply exchanged one dogma for another.

None of this is to suggest that the Freethinkers Group was anything but nice to me and Hunter, and I think under other circumstances, particularly if I wasn’t a newspaper reporter at the group’s first meeting, I could expect a lot of sprightly discussions on just about any topic on god’s green Earth, or, rather, under the sun.