Free Thought Forum
 
 

Our Mission:

Build Inclusive, Supportive, and Free-Thinking Communities

Everyone is welcome (regardless of personal religious belief, political leanings, education, race, sex, etc.) to join our weekly open and civil discussions on moral philosophy, science, religion, politics, current events, and more!

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The Problem

The Six Issues We Exist to Address

Each Free Thought Forum seeks to improve its members and its surrounding community. In order to do so, six modern societal and personal issues have been identified as growing problems in need of solutions.

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Isolation & Depression

  • Distorted views on the sources of happiness and fulfillment

  • Unrealistic expectations of self, family, community, and humanity

  • Unhealthy comparison to others

  • No sense of belonging to a supportive group or community

  • Lack of healthy friendship

  • Little motivation or passion

  • Lack of proper psychological treatment

  • Growing despair and social anxiety

Public Misinformation & Anti-Intellectualism

  • A failing educational system producing mass scientific illiteracy

  • General gullibility and a lack of critical thinking skills

  • Rampant political propaganda

  • Predatory cults and fundamentalist religious groups

  • Online Anti-science campaigns

  • Unopposed pseudoscience

  • Online echo-chambers

  • Fake News

Failing Social Cohesion

  • A lack of common values across communities

  • A pervasive lack of personal responsibility or life purpose in young adults

  • Advice and information overload

  • Political apathy

  • Complete disregard for traditional values

  • A growing number of individuals without a sufficient moral compass

  • Political violence

 

SUPREMACISm & Polarization

  • Online hate mobs

  • An epidemic of general distrust between social groups

  • Ideological certainty and close-mindedness

  • Religious and Political Terrorism

  • Race, gender, and belief based discrimination and violence

  • “Us vs. them” thinking

  • Political polarization and extremism

  • Growing tribalistic division

Career Inertia & Poverty

  • A sense of being overworked and underpaid without better options

  • An increasing number of young adults experiencing a “failure to launch”

  • Lack of access to financial planning resources or counseling

  • Fear of growing college debt

  • Diminished perception of social mobility

  • Lack of budgeting skills

  • The threat of automation leading to greater unemployment

Overindulgence & Addiction

  • Video game, social media, and technology addiction

  • Pornography addiction

  • Medication, drug, and alcohol abuse

  • Obesity and chronic illness

  • Increased susceptibility to disease outbreaks and epidemics

  • Run-away consumer debt

  • Excessive trash and pollution production

 
 

 The Solution

Our Vision for a Better Future

To address the SIX ISSUES summarized above, and to allow more members of our society to achieve their best personal potential, the following three-part strategy was launched in the Spring of 2019:


THE FREE THOUGHT INITIATIVE


  1. Build inclusive, supportive, and free-thinking communities in which individuals from any background or belief system may belong, develop positive friendships, and share unique and diverse perspectives.

  2. Educate the public in matters of scientific literacy, nonpartisan political history, healthy living habits, practical life skills, and helpful community resources.

  3. Promote universal values developed to encourage social cohesion and to enable, convince, and inspire individuals to better realize their own greatest potential.

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What We Do:

We help those in need of an inclusive, supportive, and free-thinking community by hosting public discussions on moral philosophy, healthy living, and science to improve the cohesion, health, and scientific literacy of our society.
 
 

Our Values:

What We Promote and Encourage

 
 
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The Sincere Search for Truth

Although our members come from diverse backgrounds and belief-systems, we are unified under the same goal: to seek, speak, and live by what is true. “The Truth,” for us, is best represented as having three parts:

  1. What is Real — The objective facts of reality

  2. What is Right — The sound moral behaviors that will plausibly lead to the most cohesive society in which the highest number of people are enabled to realize their greatest individual potential

  3. What is Currently Unknown — The acknowledgment that we must all be willing to learn and adjust as better information becomes available

 
 
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Universal Inclusivity

Every person is welcome to join our groups and meetings and is valued for their unique perspective. We are living in a period of general distrust, online echo-chambers, political polarization, racial discrimination, supremacism, and other forms of tribalistic division. The Free Thought Forum is a place where anyone can belong and let their ideas be heard.

 
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Logic, Reason, and Scientific Literacy

In addition to critical thinking skills and rationality, we seek to provide each member with a sound understanding of real scientific facts. It has become apparent that public misinformation, conspiratory thinking, pseudoscience, cultish-group-think, and fake news have contributed to confusion and scientific illiteracy en masse. In an age run by advanced science and technology, we must all seek to better understand science and technology.

 
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Freethought and Open Discussion

The “Free Thought Forum” is our main weekly event, hosted by local individual groups. Each forum exists to promote healthy civil discussion and celebrate the free-exchange of ideas with an emphasis on granting all participants opportunities to share. We assert that one’s ability to voice their ideas and have them supported, contested, tested, and reviewed among peers (and in-person) is an indispensable tool in one’s honest search for the correct answers to life’s most important questions.

 
 
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Healthy Living

In order to combat growing plagues in our society such as addiction, overindulgence, isolation, despair, depression, and chronic illness, our members are regularly educated and encouraged to form healthy habits (based on established scientific fact) in their progress towards greater physical, mental, emotional, and social wellbeing.

 
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Moral Philosophy

Although many members of our society feel sufficiently morally guided from their religious, spiritual, or political beliefs, an ever growing number of us find ourselves disenfranchised by religious, cultural, and political dogma. Many of us lack a powerful-enough belief-system or framework to help us make hard choices, orient ourselves in the world, or make meaningful goals. This can lead to the evils of nihilism, moral relativism, apathy, aimlessness, and a complete disregard of traditional ethical values.

Therefore, The Free Thought Initiative is developing (with the help of forum members) a universal secular moral philosophy, capable of providing healthy answers to life purpose and moral direction for any person, anywhere.

 
 
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First Amendment Rights

Although we are not a political partisan or lobbying group, there is one set of human rights in particular that must be respected in order for our organization and our mission to exist. In any case in which these rights are threatened, diminished, or ignored, we stand ready to defend them. These are the rights described in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights of the United States:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

 

Model Citizenship

We encourage our members to live productive lives, filling an important niche in their community as law-abiding citizens wherever they may be. Through regular volunteerism, we strengthen local government programs and other non-profit enterprises. We support local law enforcement and elected officials. Although we do not (as an organization) endorse any particular candidate, platform, or party, we urge all citizens to vote in local and presidential elections.

 

Self Discipline and Actualization

We seek to empower our guests and members with the tools they need to build character and improve themselves. Much of this is accomplished through teaching reliable and time-tested principles on which they can base their decisions. This applies to financial competence, effective dating techniques, long-term-planning, and other practical life skills. Above all else, self discipline is emphasized as one’s greatest tool to unlock his/her greatest potential.

 
 
 
 
 

Organizational Structure

 

Connected Groups

The Free Thought Initiative is structured as a non-profit organization (legal non-profit status pending) with a board of directors at its center. Operating under the board are “Local Group Leaders” who oversee region-specific 10 to 100 member organizations called “local groups” or “Free Thought Forums.” Among the members of these groups are contributors who make our operation possible!

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Leadership Feedback Cycle

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Non-Profit Status Pending…

The Free Thought Initiative is currently an online sole proprietorship. However, our board is now in the process of filing to become a 501c3 Non-Profit Organization. Our goal is to complete our paperwork before 2020! After that point, all donations made to us will be eligible for tax-deduction!

 

Leadership Duties

Members and Guests

Regular Members and Guests (occasional visitors) of each local group play an important role in the overall leadership structure of the Free Thought Initiative. Your feedback, as a member, informs the subject-matter and tone of our published content such as Discussion Primers and promotional materials such as our newsletter.

A large portion of our operational and promotional costs are also funded by the monthly contributions of our members! To show our appreciation, each donation level is paired with a thank-you gift!

 

Forum Hosts

Any member of a local group may volunteer to become a forum host. Such a host helps to neutrally moderate the open discussions within their weekly meetings, de-escalate conflict, and ensure that the Five Rules for Civil Discourse are being followed by all participants. This position requires training and certification provided by a group leader.

 

Local Group Leaders / Assistant Group Leaders

Individual groups, based on a geological region such as a state or town, are run by a Group Leader and his/her assistants. These are unpaid volunteer positions. Before a group leader may create or lead a local group, they must go through an interview and training process that includes a background check. As needed, group leaders may be asked to acquire certain legal certifications and authorizations, such as those to become a Notary Public, a legally-recognized minister, and so forth.

Among other things, a group leader is trusted will the following responsibilities:

  1. Answer weekly phone calls from the Executive Board concerning the status, needs, and management of their local group. (Optimal times for these calls may be arranged with the board.)

  2. Appoint at least one “Assistant Group Leader” who shares in the following responsibilities and is included in all group event scheduling and decision making. (An Assistant will assume the role of a Group Leader if the official Group Leader is not in attendance at a weekly meeting.)

  3. Coordinate meeting times and logistics with a local hosting entity (such as a coffee shop, restaurant, business, house of worship, or library) to ensure that a weekly hosting arrangement is mutually beneficial and meets the needs of members.

  4. Organize, schedule, announce, and participate in at least two local volunteer projects each month.

  5. Order materials (such as pamphlets and flags) and request funds from the Executive Board to meet the needs of their group.

  6. Promote their Free Thought Forum in their area.

  7. Ensure that weekly meetings and volunteer activities are properly staffed, planned, and announced on their group’s official webpage well in advance.

  8. Complete Forum Host Training and train additional Forum Hosts as needed.

  9. Study and print each week’s Discussion Primer and present its content as directed.

  10. Act as the formal officiator for all Free Thought Forum meetings, programs, and services in their designated area.

  11. Encourage members to become monthly contributors through our donation page.

  12. Encourage members to subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

  13. Take note of each member’s expressed monthly goals and contact them individually outside of regular meetings regarding each goal.

  14. Help all Members and Guests feel welcome, included, and appreciated.

  15. Be a genuine friend to all Members and Guests and join in the celebration of their birthdays, successes, and important life events.

 

The Executive Board

The entire Free Thought Initiative is overseen by a board of at least three highly-qualified directors. It is this board that interviews and authorizes group leaders to create and run new local groups. The Executive Board oversees the production of instructional and promotional content for the Free Thought Initiative and manages the overall operations and finances of the organization itself with an emphasis on transparency.

 
 

Programs and Services

 
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Free Thought Forum

A two-hour (or so) open and civil weekly discussion on moral philosophy, science, religion, politics, current events, and more. Guests are encouraged to participate under the facilitation of one or more trained volunteers known as “Hosts.” These typically are held in public spaces such as libraries, coffee shops, and city parks.

Group Leader Presentation

Before an open forum discussion, a group’s leader gives a brief educational and motivational presentation on a different topic each week, inspired by what we promote and encourage. The materials for these presentations can be found in our Primer Library!

Semimonthly Service Projects

Elite volunteer training and projects selected for their meaningful impact allow members to improve their emotional health, make a real difference in their communities, and develop leadership and team-building skills.

First Weekend Feasts

These potluck events are more casual than our other meetings, take place on the first weekend of each month, and are held outdoors if the weather permits. Feel free to share a brunch item with our group! Plates, eating utensils, and napkins are provided. The meal is followed by our “Support Circle” event and an open forum.

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Support Circle

In our Support Circle Meetings (paired with First Week Feasts), every participant is welcome to share a personal goal for the upcoming month and all other participants are welcome to offer help, advice, and other forms of support. This allows us, as a group, to check-up with one another on a monthly basis in order to encourage continual personal improvement and progress.

Cult Recovery

In a world plagued with cultish-group-think, pyramid schemes, religious fundamentalism, conspiratory-thinking, and online echo-chambers, we can all use a breath of fresh air, and help to reorient ourselves toward reality, morality, and healthy living. Cult Recovery meetings allow members the chance to vent about their experiences, contextualize and learn from their past, and gain support from others who are also on their journey toward de-conversion and free thinking.

Life Event Officiation

Some of the most important moments in one’s life call upon the services of a formal facilitator. As our society and families become more mixed and diverse, who can you call upon to officiate at a wedding, ceremony, or funeral who won’t offend half of the attendees? We are happy to provide a trained and legally-authorized officiant for such occasions.

…And More!

As membership increases, each group’s options to host guest speakers, lend aid to disaster victims, fund scientific breakthroughs, attend conventions and conferences, and even organize group vacations increase as well!