This profile was last updated in 2013
Houston Oasis began as an experiment in August 2012. Its nine founders sought to provide Secular Humanists with a lively community to explore the world through an empirical perspective. The founding members, some of whom had recently left the Christian tradition, wanted to create within the Freethought movement the same social networks and support services often found in a religious congregation, minus the supernatural claims. In just eight months, Houston Oasis has become an active community of atheists, agnostics, and secular humanists and caught the attention of local and national media including TIME magazine and the Washington Post. The community’s leadership has also networked with secular humanist communities around the world. They receive support and endorsement from the Humanist community at Harvard, led by Greg Epstein. They are working with Jerry Dewitt, author of Hope after Faith, to establish a similar secular community in New Orleans. They are discussing possible collaborative projects with London’s Sunday Assembly, the largest Atheist organization in England. Due to the growth in membership, the community is quickly outgrowing the occupancy of their rented meeting space, which is currently a large room with chairs, a podium, and a few tables. Members are currently in the process of fundraising to build an official center.
Founding Members include Mike Aus, Gary Williams, Judy Williams, Joe Vingle, Lynae Vingle, Kim Saccone, Natalie Newton, Tina Davis.
Houston Oasis meetings take place every Sunday morning at the Norris Conference Center in Northwest Houston. While members trickle in and catch-up over the week’s happenings, local musicians begin playing original songs that commonly celebrates the wonders of life. From bluegrass to rock ‘n’ roll, every week a new Houstonian artist takes the stage before an Oasis member begins the meeting with a “Community Moment.” The “Community Moment” provides a platform for anyone to voice his or her thoughts on a chosen subject for ten to twenty minutes. Planned beforehand, they feature a new speaker every week. These moments are diverse and have no limits to their focus. Some have rallied political action, for example, by calling for a protest of the key note speech of Ken Hamm, a vocal supporter of creationism, at the Texas Home School Convention. On another note, some community moments have delved into the poetic dimensions of death, forgiveness, and love.
Following the “Community Moment,” members can “mix and mingle” where they can socialize over coffee for ten minutes. Then, Mike Aus, the equivalent of a preacher, will begin his talk on a substantive topic, such as how morality can arise through evolution. Aus draws from scientific evidence to support his insights and ends his talk with three questions for group discussion. Concluding the meeting, the musical artist performs a final song. The conversation continues informally as members gather for lunch at a pre-designated restaurant nearby. If Houstonians cannot make the meeting, they can view key clips on Houston Oasis’ Youtube channel.
In addition to weekly meetings, Houston Oasis provides the Freethought community with many support services. They continually update their Facebook page with these events and send out weekly newsletters. Every Monday, it holds the Smart Recovery Program, a national non-theistic addiction recovery alternative to the twelve-step program. For those seeking to move away from religion, Houston Oasis holds a monthly Transition to Reason meeting. These meetings provide participants with a venue to discuss non-metaphysical perspectives on day-to-day issues of living such as dealing with doubt.
Although members of Houston Oasis are not bound by any creed, the community does embrace service to others. The organization provides multiple service trips on a regular basis, often partnering with local nonprofits such as the Houston Food Bank. Community is also upheld as a cherished value, and social gatherings are held regularly at various venues like parks, bars, and concert halls. Potlucks are popular, with the community hosting five throughout the year. These social events are open to anyone and are marketed through the Oasis Facebook page and the Houston meet-up website. For kids who are three to twelve years old, there is a science and art summer camp. Through these programs—and through its very presence—Houston Oasis hopes to demonstrate that non-theists place value not only on reason and science, but also on compassion and working for the common good.