Hello friends! Today (September 18, 2013) marks one year since the Spiritual Naturalist Society officially launched. We have come a long way in a short time and I am so thankful for the many people who have given their enthusiastic support to the Society; either with their involvement on the Advisory Board, their presence on the staff, their work as local organizers, their writing, their contributions to the Society archives, or of course, with their supporting membership.
It was about a year before our launch, in 2011, that preparations began on forming the Society. The growing number of people looking for a spiritual practice that was consistent with a rational naturalistic view of the world was undeniable. There seemed to be no other organization and community that focused on compassion, practice, ritual, and inner development while at the same time maintaining a clear standard of humility in our approach to knowledge and claims. Some existing groups were either so open that supernaturalism, the paranormal, pseudoscience, and faith-based approaches were also included. Other groups held to rational, empirical, and naturalistic standards, but were focused more on academic or technical materials, or they were focused on the culture wars and politics. What was needed was a community support and resource organization that was specifically for naturalists and specifically aimed at positive, compassionate, uplifting, and informative content for daily living and personal practice as a naturalist.
Over that year of preparation, the general mission and structure of the Society was designed, along with the extensive work needed to establish the website and its functions. We reached out to just about every prominent name in Spiritual Naturalism and Religious Naturalism – getting moral support and participation. By September we were ready to launch with a good enthusiastic response from many people. Our connections on social networks grew and I met so many wonderful people with talents and ideas and a willingness to lend a hand.
Just one month after launch and we already had a second local chapter getting started. Our member archives already consisted of more than 100,000 words (about the equivalent of a 400 page book), and we were adding more material to them each month. We also started syndicating our articles on Patheos.com and had a member text chat up and running. Two more local chapters formed the following month. In January we got a new tool – our own internal private social network for members. We founded yet another local chapter and we established our Compassion Fund, which is still helping those in need today.
February marked the first month the Society was able to pay all of its own bills. We added another local chapter and a new multimedia page. In March we got our first ad in the Shambhala Sun, and in April we partnered with the Charter for Compassion and offered our first discount to members for a Humanist course by Jennifer Hancock. In May we gained our first local chapter outside the United States, and in June our 501(c)3 status was finally approved and back-dated to March of 2012. In July we published our Statement on Principles, outlining the principles by which we operate as an organization, and for which we stand. While many volunteers had been contributing in various spontaneous ways, in August we established a full regular volunteer staff with several key positions filled. This will allow the Society to do even more simultaneously going forward.
Over this first year, we have also added over 50 additional articles, videos, podcasts, poems, and artworks to our educational and inspirational archives for members. Over 65,500 people have come to our website, with 3,000 more visiting us each month. We have over 3,700 Facebook fans which allow our articles and posts to often reach as many as 50,000 more people. We also have over 460 people signed up to our 7 local chapters and all of these figures continue to grow. And soon we will be expanding our membership concept to include a free membership option, which will invite even more people to become a part of our community.
But what is more important than the numbers is how this has helped us to fulfill our mission of making more people aware of a viable path toward greater happiness in a naturalistic spirituality – and, how many people I have heard from who have been helped or inspired by our messages. We are also starting to see new friendships form as our member community grows! That is why I’m also happy to announce that we will soon be getting a new video chat tool that will allow for greater interaction among members, better staff coordination, and be a better tool for a Spiritual Naturalism course we are currently designing.
And this month, in celebration of our anniversary, we will be publishing an anthology of our articles over the past year. It will be available in paperback or e-book format through amazon.com and our own website, so keep an eye out for that!
If you are not yet a member of the Society, I ask you to consider membership. You can learn more at this link. You can also subscribe to our articles and let others know about us. Thanks for your kind support of the Society over this year. With your help it will be exciting to see what the next year in Spiritual Naturalism brings!
The Spiritual Naturalist Society works to spread awareness of spiritual naturalism as a way of life, develop its thought and practice, and help bring together like-minded practitioners in fellowship.