While writing and researching Parenting Beyond Belief in 2006, I went searching for secular parenting groups in the U.S. and found precisely one.
I certainly might have missed some, but the fact that a diligent search didn’t turn up more than one is a pretty clear indication of how few and far between they were.
Zip forward four years, and though we’re still a tad short of Starbucks-level saturation, the landscape has changed pretty dramatically. I’m currently aware of more than forty groups in North America ranging in age from three weeks to three years and in size from half a dozen to nearly 150 members.
As I’ve tracked the activities and growth of these groups, I’ve come to realize how isolated most of them are from each other. Most start from scratch, finding members and planning activities by trial and error. Wheels are reinvented — and they’re occasionally square. While some groups thrive, others disappear within a few months.
One of the original purposes of Foundation Beyond Belief was to provide a central source of information and support for these groups. We did some good work along those lines early in the year, conducting a large-scale secular parent survey and helping to birth about a half dozen new groups. But we kept running into a problem.
The IRS had expressed reasonable concern that a firewall be maintained between the non-profit Foundation and the for-a-wee-smidge-of-profit world of Parenting Beyond Belief. To demonstrate their seriousness, they brought the tax exemption process for FBB to a screaming halt when a staff blog entry on the Foundation website linked to a site that in turn included a sidebar link to buy my book.
That delayed our approval by six weeks.
So we were understandably skittish about ever so much as mentioning Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, the PBB Channel on YouTube, the PBB Forum, this blog, etc. in Foundation communications. In other words, we could support secular parents as long as we avoided mentioning 75 percent of the resources for secular parents.
It eventually became crystal clear that this just wasn’t going to work. I am now in the process of building deeper support resources for secular parenting groups on this very website. And the first effort in that direction is a new blog called Parents Beyond Belief.
The blog is a space for secular parenting groups to help each other create effective communities for nontheistic parents by exchanging ideas and stories. If all goes well, you’ll hear precious little from me and tons from people who know what they’re talking about — the actual leaders and members of secular parenting groups. The first post is already up, and six others are on the way.
Don’t wait for an invitation! If you are currently in a secular parenting group and would like to submit a post about anything related to your group — finding members, naming the group, childcare issues, what to do at meetings, field trips, book clubs, play groups, food, dues, online presence, community service, resolving disagreements, you name it — just write up a brief description of your intended piece and send it to me for consideration. If it looks like a good fit, I’ll invite you to write the piece.
Guidelines for posts: Submissions must be relevant to the blog’s purpose, under 700 words, well-written and engaging.
A small group of reviewers will help me select entries in the early going. Contributors who have a few pieces accepted will be considered for a position as blog administrator. And once we have a few of those, I intend to step quietly aside and let y’all run with it.