It’s the first time I’ve been in a group of fellow atheists (and I haven’t detected one sign of stridency or militancy), and it gives one a warm supportive feeling. One of the functions of speaking at these meetings, even if one is preaching to the choir, is to give solidarity to the atheist community, many of whom feel isolated and alone.
Pharyngula reported on Robert Richert’s talk on his experiences in Vietnam, but what P.Z. didn’t mention is that Richert broke down in sobs at the end, while he was describing how one of his fellow soldiers bragged that he had been protected by God, while a Vietnamese woman wailed helplessly as the last blood pumped out of her infant son’s body (he had been hit by a grenade fragment). “Where was his miracle?” asked Richert, with tears streaming down his face. It was an enormously moving moment.