A writer from the Citizen’s Voice [a local newspaper] recently contacted me to learn more about the NEPA Freethought Society – a local social, educational, activist, and philosophical group for secular individuals which I am the co-organizer of. A photographer came to one of our meetings and asked some questions in addition to a phone interview about a week or so before.
Justin Vacula, co-organizer of the NEPA Freethought Society, said the group founded about five years ago as a vehicle for secular discussion and community activism.
For this group, Meetup offers the opportunity to bring together like-minded individuals who share the same social and philosophical beliefs. The group’s mission statement on the website outlines their goals, from social aspects like providing fellowship and social enrichment to educating the public about atheism and free thought and refuting common myths about them, Vacula said.
The group provides a place for people whose ideals aren’t mainstream or commonly accepted to have positive intellectual discussions and debates, he added.
“People often don’t think of ideals when it comes to diversity,” Vacula said. “When people mention diversity, people usually mention skin color, sexual orientation… ideals are usually left out of that.”
The group typically arranges their regular meetings through Meetup, where they examine topics like morality, politics and faith from a secular point of view. Each month, a formal meeting is held, then complemented by what Vacula calls “drinking skeptically,” a more relaxed gathering.
“You can come whether you agree or not, we can still be respectful,” Vacula said, adding their aim is to foster open dialogues among those with differing beliefs. “It’s good to challenge ideas, it keeps you honest, and it keeps other people honest.”
Another slight issue I have is the phrase “share the same social and philosophical beliefs.” ‘Similar’ would be a better word here. Our group members have all sorts of different beliefs about different topics