Carly Gardner is the State Director of American Atheists Nevada. Here we talk about her background, views, and work.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What was early life like for you? Did religion play a role in it?
Carly Gardner: I was born and raised in Salt Lake City Utah also known as Mormonville. This presented a mountain of problems as a child and as a teenager.
It was pretty common for me to get home from school in tears because yet another family wouldn’t allow their child to play with a non-Mormon. My Mormon cousins were especially awful around the holidays, fostering a sense of dread surrounding holidays that followed me into adulthood.
Jacobsen: If you reflect on pivotal people within the community relevant to personal philosophical development, who were they for you
Gardner: I spent several weekends a year with my Grandma Yukie a Buddhist. Many of the things she said still resonate with me such as “Karma is a self-fulfilling prophecy”. When you intentionally hurt others you self punish by saying the wrong thing or hesitating and missing opportunities.
Jacobsen: What about literature and film, and other artistic and humanities productions, of influence on personal philosophical worldview?
Gardner: When I was a teen, I would read my mother’s Book Club Books.
Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arab by Jean Sasson. Sasson describes female genital mutilation and hanging the marital sheets in the foyer of homes.
This taught me all I need to know about fundamentalists using holy books to justify treating women as property. Learning about the religious background of circumcision let me know men sometimes suffer at the hands of holy books
Jacobsen: How did you come to find the wider borderless online world of non-religious people?
Gardner: In 2012 a friend introduced me to Meetup.com. One of the meetup.com groups called Salt Lake City Post Mos (people who have left the Latter Day Saints) also had a facebook group.
Meetup.com was an EXCELLENT tool for helping me find community. One of the first events I created was “Flirtology – the Science of Flirting” Mishele Walker teaching SLC singles the art of communicating in a relationship. I actually met my husband Monte at the first Flirtology lesson, he likes to say he got an A.
Jacobsen: How did this lead to American Atheists Nevada?
Gardner: Monte and I moved to NV to be closer to the ocean and 10 of his 14 siblings. Once here we used Meetup.com to find our nonreligous folks in Las Vegas.
Jacobsen: Within the current position as the State Director for American Atheists Nevada, what tasks and responsibilities come with the position?
Gardner: Be the contact person for American Atheists.
Jacobsen: What are some of the provisions for the community there? How does this manifest in the online sphere as well?
Gardner: I am not sure I understand the question. Provisions? – Waffles at the event called Waffles Welcome Party? Do you mean what Atheist activities are available in Las Vegas?
If people want to meet other nonreligious individuals face to face the Center for Science and Wonder (CSAW) hosts 30+ events per month, including debates, lectures, community events, potlucks, plays, comedy nights, homeschooler events and dances.
CSAW strives to be the “We Welcome All Who Welcome All” venue. We are home to Agnostic and Atheist Alcohols Anonymous. We have had community partners such as Three Square and Caridad present at CSAW. The meetup.com group Las Vegas Atheists has a handful of events at other restaurants in town in addition to the CSAW events.
If people want to post memes and argue with people who join Facebook groups LV hosts several such groups. The LGBTQ community also has “The Center” in downtown Las Vegas.
My personal focus and the purpose of CSAW is to bring atheists out from behind their computer screens and into a physical space where they can interact with their fellow humans.
Jacobsen: What unique issues for secularism face Nevadan atheists? What specific inclusivity issues face atheists in Nevada? In particular, how do some of these reflect the larger national issues?
Gardner: The secular community has overcome many issues such as in the past in order to perform a wedding ceremony the officiant must be in good standing with a church or religious organization. https://www.reviewjournal.com/business/humanists-president-offers-custom-las-vegas-weddings/ Raul Martinez mentioned in the article is a supporter of CSAW. https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/2008/12/14/an-atheist-isnt-allowed-to-marry-anyone-even-in-las-vegas/
Michael Jacobsen also supported CSAW before he passed away in April 2018. Weddings are a big deal in Vegas “Clark County Clerk Lynn Goya said about 4 percent of Las Vegas’ annual visitor volume comes for weddings, and more than 10,000 jobs in Clark County depend on wedding tourism.” https://www.reviewjournal.com/business/las-vegas-wedding-industry-wants-to-boost-marriage-rate/.
Now that the Atheist wedding issue has been solved, Nevada is an atheist paradise compared to SLC.
Jacobsen: How can secular American citizens create an environment more conducive and welcoming to secular women, secular youth, secular people of color, secular poor people, and secular people with formal education less than or equal to – but not higher than – a high school education?
Gardner: Embrace “We Welcome All Who Welcome All” plan family-friendly events, have space, games, and toys for kiddos. Hold free events and purely entertaining events.
Welcoming and leaving room for people to believe and think in their own unique way, even includes some of our biggest supporters are actually theists. My best friend is quite active in the LDS church and she brings her kiddos to events at CSAW.
Strangely CSAW has more events for single moms to bring kiddos compared to her local LDS ward. I believe first and foremost secular Americans need to allow the people they interact with to keep their religious security blanket.
Only after proving through action and repetition can a secular individual show a theist that they won’t be left in the cold if they take off their religious security blanket.
Giving theists a place to run TOWARDS is MORE important than dragging them kicking and screaming out of the situation that brings them comfort.
Jacobsen: How can the secular community not only direct attention to ill-treatment of religious followers by fundamentalist religious leaders but also work to reduce and eventually eliminate the incidences of ill-treatment of some – in particular, the recent cases of women – within the secular community?
Gardner: Pointing out the faults of fundamentalist religious leaders, isn’t really the job of the secular community. Both atheist and theist journalists can report on the misdeeds of the fundamentalists.
When fundamentalist leaders break laws the justice system will punish them, the court of secular opinion won’t bring about change. How do we eliminate the ill-treatment of women and children – secular leaders shouldn’t have closed doors meetings with individuals of the opposite sex.
This should help avoid some of the problems the Catholic and LDS churches are experiencing. Thankfully secular community has built-in protections because we don’t believe our leaders are appointed by God. Since we don’t believe our leaders are divinely inspired we are more likely to prosecute criminals.
Also since the leaders of the secular community aren’t required to be celibate, they have healthy and legal avenues to deal with their sexual desires.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Carly.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
Do not forget to look into our associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, and Centre for Inquiry Canada.
Other Resources: Recovering From Religion.