New Secular Oasis Makes Boston Great(er)!

Greater Boston Oasis Logo

by J. Michael Spencer
Executive Director—Greater Boston Oasis
Cooperating Group of Boston Coalition of Reason

The Oasis launch on Sunday, October 18th is important because it opens up the availability of a secular community to a huge number of people for whom the existing communities may not have been an option, such as people who drive and can’t deal with parking hear the Humanist Hub or Sunday Assembly—Boston. People with kids also like the way Oasis does child care, or especially, people who may not be non-theists but who want a secular experience of community. We have members who are progressive Catholics who disagree with the church’s stances on LGBT rights. We have members who are in mixed-faith relationships where one partner is a theist and the other is a non-theist, and Oasis is a place where they can BOTH have their needs for a connected, compassionate, and welcoming community met without feeling like either one of them is being judged. Oasis’s first core value is “People are more important than beliefs”, and we say that—not just as an assertion of our own value in the face of a society which largely dismisses the viewpoint of a non-theistic minority—but as a reminder to ourselves that it is who someone is and what they do that matter, not what they believe.

Oasis is important because it addresses, at a level that no other group in the area does, the social fabric of community by bringing in all the great community building blocks that churches have been using for ages. It’s not a coincidence that the co-founders of the Oasis Network, Mike Aus (who is the guest speaker at the launch in Boston) and Helen Stringer, have backgrounds as pastors prior to becoming atheists. They understood what people were missing when they left church communities, what needs were going unmet, and the Oasis community model is designed to address those challenges by using the same tool kit, minus the spirituality.

We hope that the Greater Boston Oasis will become a destination for secular people who want to feel a part of the social network of a community that values reason and compassion. We hope that Oasis will become a regular part of secular family life in much the same way that churches used to be for many of us. We hope that Oasis will encourage people to come together to learn, to grow, to celebrate life, and to ultimately give back to the community. Another of our core values says, “Human hands solve human problems,” and we plan to dedicate time as a community to volunteering our time in our local communities.

We hope that Oasis will help children coming through our child care not to be better atheists or better Humanists, but better people: people who value each other; people who value compassion, reason, and acceptance. We hope that teenagers in our members’ families can come to an Oasis youth group and connect with their peers outside of a faith-based setting. We also hope that Oasis will allow those who feel disconnected because they don’t fit in with a church community to find that connection with us and make us a stronger community for their presence.

Oasis offers hope and a sense of purpose to non-theists and theists alike. It offers a connection to those who may only have known community through a church that they no longer believe in, or that they no longer fit in with for whatever reason (disagreements on women’s rights, LGBT rights, etc.). Through that connection, we find purpose. Through our shared values, not shared belief, we find reason to turn our hands to solving the problems in our communities and in the world. We learn that “meaning comes from making a difference”, and we become acutely aware of the difference that we make in the world by our own actions, and so we find ourselves driven to make sure that we have a positive impact.

Oasis tells people that they are worth more than what they believe or don’t believe. It tells people that OTHERS are worth more than what they believe or don’t believe and so encourages us to find common ground with those who disagree within and outside our community. More than anything, Oasis gives a reason-based social and intellectual community to those for whom our values resonate. Atheist or agnostic, freethinker or skeptic, deist or theist: people are more important than beliefs.

We’re very appreciative of the help that UnitedCoR has been giving us for many months to help us prepare for this launch!