Volunteering Visibly is Vital

Author Emily Dietle

My focus is on state-church separation & social issues. I'm an avid reader, and feel that one of our most valuable tools is the free movement of information and ideas. | @emilyhasbooks

During a recent volunteer meeting for a local humanists group, we examined the importance of doing visible volunteerism. Donald Wright, initiator of the Day of Solidarity for Black Non-Believers and author of The Only Prayer I’ll Ever Pray, headed the meeting and read a fitting portion from the Humanist Manifesto III:

Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness. Progressive cultures have worked to free humanity from the brutalities of mere survival and to reduce suffering, improve society, and develop global community. We seek to minimize the inequities of circumstance and ability, and we support a just distribution of nature’s resources and the fruits of human effort so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life.

This reminds me of the IKEA vision “to create a better everyday life for the many people.” Across the world there are secular groups, organizations, and individuals volunteering regularly. We know what we aim to do, we and recognize why it’s important that we do it, but as noted by Donald Wright, “we haven’t yet moved our humanist philosophy to the community to allow them to appreciate our humanist values.”

Visibility is vital to our efforts. Sure, we can each go out and volunteer at shelters, soup kitchens, and community centers, but until we volunteer visibly as humanists, atheists, or secular persons, our efforts aren’t fully benefiting the communities we belong to. As Donald stated in the meeting, “It’s important for our community to see us doing good things as humanists.”

Look around your city, most volunteer programs you’ll find are religious, and many use their programs to proselytize to the people they are supposed to be helping. You’ll find this in homeless programs, food kitchens, and women’s shelters across the nation. Until we volunteer visibly as humanists (etc), that won’t change. So, get out there, start volunteering on your own, form a group, or sign up with Volunteers Beyond Belief -and most importantly- visibly represent your secular values.


How can you do this? Well, the Atheists, Humanists, & Agnostics (AHA!), in the above picture, are a great example of volunteering visibly. Wear a positive t-shirt or hat, have cards or pamphlets to hand out about humanism or your local group, get one of those giant car-door magnets, or just have a sign. However you do it, we need to represent ourselves boldly as humanists (etc) when volunteering.