Tad Beaty is a Member of the Chatanooga Humanist Assembly. Here we talk about his relevant background, and his community, and more.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Let’s start with some background, either family or personal, what are some salient details and stories?
Tad Beaty: So I grew up in a nominally Christian household and never really believed. I realized from an early age (6 or so) that this wasn’t just another game of pretend that the adults were playing. I learned from an early age to hide amongst them and just played along. For the first 40 years of my life I hid so well, almost nobody else knew I was an atheist. Shortly after I turned 40 a friend introduced me to a group called the Chattanooga Freethought Association (CFA) and I ended up going to one of their social gatherings. Of 10 people at themeeting, 5 were people I had known from other parts of my life.
Jacobsen: How did you become intrigued and involved in secular issues?
Beaty: After the CFA event I started hanging out with them a bit. One of the things I noticed in the CFA was there was a lot of online activity but there wasn’t a lot of face to face interaction. One of the things I noticed the churches do well is build that sense of community and that was missing from the atheist groups I was becoming involved in. I thought it would be important to find a way to build that community so that atheists in the South didn’t have to feel alone anymore.
Jacobsen: How did the Chatanooga Humanist Assembly start? What are the demographics of the community now?
Beaty: So, after a couple of years in the CFA, Tom Kunesh posted in Facebook an article about the Sunday Assembly and wanted to know if anyone would be interested in building a group like that in Chattanooga. I immediately responded that I was interested. We scheduled a meeting and 3 other people showed up to help us form the group. We discussed what to do and talked to the local Unitarian church about using their facilities after hours to have our meetings. A couple months after the first meeting we got interviewed in the paper and had our first meeting.
Jacobsen: What have been important social and political activities of the Chatanooga Humanist Assembly?
Beaty: We have tried to stay politically neutral for the most part. We have had a couple of people running for office come and speak but we’ve mostly focused on social and humanitarian issues like homelessness and equality issues.
Jacobsen: What are some new projects for the Chatanooga Humanist Assembly?
Beaty: Last year we started a secular meditation group that meets weekly and one of the projects I’d like to see is a Heathen’s Hike once a month where we get people out and just enjoying nature as a group. We just started a highway trash pickup on the first Saturday of the month. We’re hoping to get a stretch of highway dedicated to the CHA. One of our current social challenges is that Tennessee is going to have a law that prevents people from performing weddings if they have an online ordination. Fortunately, our board of directors has already ordained two of our members (I’m one of them) and we can ordain more should the need arise.
Jacobsen: Who is an important person for secular work in your locale? What are other important organizations in the area?
Beaty: Chattanooga is fortunate to have several groups in the area. Of course we have the CFA also, they’re more open and easy to find on Facebook. Our group is also easily found and joined there. Chattanooga Atheists is another group but you have to be vouched for to become a member. We used to have a chapter of Atheist Alliance Helping the Homeless but unfortunately that petered out. I’m hoping we can get another group together to help the homeless situation in the area.
Jacobsen: How can people become involved with the Chatanooga Humanist Assembly?
Beaty: The main CHA group meets at the Unitarian church in Chattanooga on the second and fourth Sundays of the month at 5pm. The second Sunday has a presentation followed by a potluck dinner and the fourth Sunday is just the potluck and a social gathering. The secular meditation group meets every Sunday at 12:30pm at the Center for Mindful Living and is open to everyone who is interested in meditation, no previous skill needed to join the group. To join the track pickup group, you’ll need to get in touch with us so you can get on the email list. We’d love to find someone to come out and help us form a Heathen’s Hiking group once a month so we can enjoy the great outdoors as a community.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Tad.
Beaty: Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me. We appreciate the work you’re doing and look forward to seeing this.
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.
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