Friends, I’m excited about this newsletter, because I finally found time to do something I’ve wanted to do since we got started, namely analyze our occupational range.  I knew we were diverse, but each effort to tease out categories was so confusing and time-consuming that it took awhile to get it done.  I hope you’ll find the resulting analysis interesting, and indeed I hope you’ll see that this rather rough listing reveals our amazing breadth, and inspires you to feel connected with others both similar to you and different from you.

To be sure, the analysis below is anything but precise, and there are several reasons for that.  For one thing I asked you to self-describe what occupies your time, regardless of traditional labels.  It is also because 1) many of you have more than one occupation, and I did not divide you into parts; 2) there are many ways to describe a given occupation; 3) the same occupation can involve very different tasks and mind-sets; and above all because 4) there are so many interesting occupations in the world, many of which you hold.

I’ll start with an overview of 5 categories in paragraph 1, but after that I won’t attempt to tease out category by category.  Instead paragraphs 2-11 will explore various sub-sortings that are already included in the overview paragraph, but which present various groupings that I hope you’ll find intriguing.

So with those caveats and methodological confessions, here are some tentative but exciting findings:

1. The broad categories I broke us into and the numbers in each category are:

Humanities (145);
Science (123);
Business, Government and Non-profits (50);
Activists (15); and what I called
Traditional Trades and Occupations and Occupations that don’t fit  neatly in Other Categories” (21).

2. Of course there are nuances.  For instance the category “Non-profits” above has 5 people who really should be added to “Activists.”  Indeed many of you qualify as activists, to the extent I could easily imagine a 50/50 split if we were divided into activists and non-activists, which I didn’t attempt to do.  Moreover the “extra” occupation many of you pursue are quite often activist or semi-activist.

3. A large group of you call yourself writers or authors, and often this is an “extra” occupation.  There are 20 of you in this category, plus two science writers, a fiction writer, an essayist, and a freelance writer.  This isn’t to mention several editors and two or three publishers, including a person who owns a publishing company.

4. My own profession is well represented, with 10 lawyers plus an ombudsman, a paralegal, and a science advisor to a law firm.

5. The medical profession is also well-represented, with 6 people describing themselves as physician or M.D., plus an emergency room doc, a pediatrician, a surgeon, a psychiatrist/brain scientist, and a psychiatry resident.  In addition we have 4 registered nurses, a physician’s assistant, an acupuncturist, and two medical students.  Plus a physical therapy aide, a Speech pathologist, and a Veterinarian.  We also have a pharmacy coordinator and a neurobiologist working for a pharmaceutical company.

6. I couldn’t begin to calculate how many teachers and professors we have (or retired professors – in general I ignored the “retired” classification since I was especially interested in what we have done and are doing now, but overall I did note that 60 of you mentioned being retired).  I will say that a quick count of my total list would imply that we have at least 66 professors or teachers in our membership, though that largely depends on how you listed your own occupations.  Maybe 2/3 of those are college teachers, and the others high school or below, or independent teachers of some kind.

7. Mental-health counselors of all stripes (but not counting the psychiatrists) equals 19.  That includes any psychologists who mentioned their specific role (child psychologist or clinical psychology), but I put psychology professors in a different category.

8. OK, so how about religionists of various kinds?  I have a total of 62 in my category “Philosophy, Religion, and Morality,” and of those 22 are academics, 4 are directors of religious organizations (including a seminary president),  and 32 self-describe as ministers or clergy or chaplains or something like that (the traditional groups represented in alphabetical order are Buddhist, Catholic, Episcopal, Jewish, Presbyterian, and Unitarian, but we also have a Humanist Missionary, 2 Secular Chaplains, and a director of the Spiritual Naturalist Society.)   Of the ministers the largest single group is UU (13), and we have 4 members who list themselves as theologians.

9. The breakdown on scientists is: 9 in the category “Anthropology, Psychology, Sociology and Political Science;” 16 in the category “Biology, Botany and Zoology;” 16 in the category “Computers and Software” (Oops, I see one of these is a database administrator for a non-profit, and perhaps should have been included in non-profit or activist – this illustrates the difficulty of pigeon-holing you folks); Medical and Mental Health I already mentioned; 11 in the category “Math, Engineering and Technology;” 13 in the category “Physics and Earth Sciences;” plus a few in “Research and Administration.

10. I haven’t yet mentioned specific arts within the humanities.  Listed among you is a poet, 2 filmmakers, 2 sculptors, an architect, at least 11 performance musicians, a videographer; a psychodramatist, two composers, and teachers of some of these arts.  Anther 5 of you listed yourselves simply as “artist,” plus one who listed “fine artist (especially landscape).”

11. In the overview category called “Traditional Trades and Occupations and Occupations that don’t fit neatly in Other Categories” we have persons who listed their occupations as Mothers and Homemakers, a chef, a farmer, a magician, a puppeteer, a ski instructor, a warehouse worker, a bus driver and a truck driver, an automotive parts salesman, a journeyman carpenter and a home re-modeler, a handyman and a housecleaner, and variously described caregivers.  In other categories you might be interested in knowing we have an assortment of business owners, a ship naturalist, and a mayor.

12. Finally I should mention that these occupations are spread all over the world, but our geographic demographics will have to be the subject of a future newsletter, as this has already gotten too long.

I didn’t list every single occupation, and I am sure you’ll see many ways I could improve the categories.  At least two of you have professional expertise that would allow you to take my outline and re-organize it in more useful and accurate ways, so feel free to volunteer, and I’ll gladly send you my outline.

Before closing, I want to call your attention to one other thing.  Members Caitlin and Peter Adair make a beautiful nature-evocative calendar each year, and this year’s calendar is ready.  We don’t want to get in the business of giving commercial plugs, but if you need a good calendar for next year please go and check it out.  It would make a good gift.

But before gift-giving time we have another holiday in many parts of the world, and it is my favorite religious naturalist holiday, namely Thanksgiving.  I get downright misty-eyed with gratitude when I think about how fortunate we are to have the universe’s gift of life, and the opportunity to make it an abundant life for ourselves and the rest of earth’s creatures including our fellow humans in all cultures.  May we find ways to meet the challenges inherent in life and culture, and share our good fortune with one another and others.

Michael Cavanaugh, Secretary
Religious Naturalist Association