In an effort to expand their reach, atheists and humanists are launching yet another intriguing initiative — a Peace Corps for those without a belief in a higher power. They are planning to lay the groundwork for a new organization that will send non-believers around the world to produce acts of compassion.

The “Humanist Service Corps” is, thus, in the works, and is being headed by the Foundation Beyond Belief (FBB), a charitable non-profit launched for and by non-theists. The group announced today in a press release that, on Aug. 1, four humanists will be sent abroad to lay this framework.

Over the next year, the FBB said that these individuals, through a project they call “Pathfinders,” will visit eight countries in an effort to work with local organizations to setup and launch a variety of service projects. These efforts will focus upon education, human rights, the environment and other related subjects.

Atheist Missionaries? Non Believers to Launch Their Own International Pathfinders Peace Corps | Foundation Beyond Belief

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While religious organizations and government institutions are known for their work overseas, the notion of atheists launching a cohesive cohort to do similar outreach is noteworthy — and seemingly unprecedented. Earlier this year, Greg Laden of ScienceBlogs.com solidified this sentiment when he covered the subject, writing, “this is like Missionaries but it is secular.”

“Humanists are driven to service by empathy and compassion. It’s a natural fit for a naturalistic worldview,” FBB founder and executive director Dale McGowan said. “But we need to create the infrastructure that allows humanists to put those values to work. This pilot year is a crucial first step toward the dream of an ongoing Humanist Service Corps.”

Here’s a video announcing and explaining the project:

The effort, McGowan says, is to being launched to make the world a better place. Among the countries the young leaders will visit are: Uganda, Cambodia, Haiti, Guatemala, Ecuador and Colombia.

In addition to setting up projects, the team will be engaged in relationship-building in an effort to get moving on cohesive partners that they can serve and work with once the organization is fully functional.

“Like the Peace Corps, the HSC will serve their fellowman in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries, but with more focus on encouraging and demonstrating the generosity and compassion of secular humanists,” proclaims an IndieGoGo campaign that raised more than $7,000 earlier this year (this was well below the $16,150 stated goal).

It will be interesting to see if a secular form of proselytizing unfolds on these trips or if the effort in launching the Humanist Service Corps has a more existential and internal rooting (i.e. simply showing that atheists are good people too).

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