Fellow RNA members,
Internet technology is shaping the world we live in and has been for some time. It has been one of our most transformative and fast-growing technologies. Globally the number of internet users increased from only 413 million in 2000 to over 3.4 billion in 2016. In the US there are over 84 million internet users, numbers that continue to increase rapidly. These internet technologies are powerful tools for the distribution of information and can be leveraged to further almost any agenda. Wonderful things are being accomplished that would not have been possible before. Funds are being raised for worthy causes, attention is being drawn to the work of charities, and solutions to problems are being found through the global collaboration that internet technologies allow. But, unfortunately, these technologies can just as easily be applied to less noble agendas. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms can be exploited to spread false information, conspiracy theories, hate, racism, intolerance, etc. Extremist views have been spreading with the help of internet technology.
Sanctions by the big social media companies against those who spread falsehoods and hate are starting to be put in place, but this does not get at the root of the problem. The root of the problem runs deep and, I would say, has much to do with a general lack of understand regarding the place of human beings in nature. Many still fail to realize (a) that we are all part of a global ecosystem and (b) the implications of this situation are significant relative to our wellbeing. Addressing this lack of understanding is imperative if we are to move toward a more sustainable and compassionate society.
Fortunately, this is a cause to which our association can make a significant contribution. Those of us with a religious naturalist orientation understand the interconnectedness of all living things, including each other, and with our shared global environment. Sharing this understanding is something we can do to help counter the flood of misinformation that is currently spilling out over the internet.
Over the past several weeks some of us have been meeting on Zoom as what we are calling an Outreach Committee. This committee is tasked with coming up with recommendations to present to the RNA Board around strategies that we hope might be effective in spreading awareness of the religious naturalist orientation. Naturally our focus has largely been on leveraging the power of internet communication tools to meet this goal. Concepts like social media, webinars, viral information, streaming media, and video conferencing are not terms many of us grew up with. And yet here we are with the opportunity to take advantage of their power to do something life affirming; to spread a message of connectivity and interdependence at a time when this perspective is not simply an interesting idea but a worldview urgently needed if life on our planet is to continue.
The spread of false information and unfounded theories facilitated by internet technologies has served to intensify the forces that divide us. It is our hope in the Outreach Committee to identify and implement ways that RNA can contribute to the forces that connect us. At the moment we are drafting a list of recommendations to be presented to the board for approval. The next step will be to come up with ways to implement the recommendations. Once the specifics have been ironed out we will be sending out details to all RNA members. Stay tuned.
The following is a message from Jason Keune:
Our TennesseePlus RNA group has been meeting virtually for about 6 months – we have a member present for 20-30 min then have a 30 min discussion. We have had a pretty lively and engaging time, all around the best RN themes.
I wanted to grow our group a bit, though, so was wondering if anyone in the group would like to join us. We’d welcome it (and you don’t have to live anywhere near Tennessee!)
Our next meetup is February 10 at 4:30 PM CST. We’ll meet on Zoom. Ursula Goodenough will present “The Lichen as a Religious-Naturalist Metaphor.”