Building a Secular Community

A recent column by Katha Pollitt, The Atheist’s Dilemma, laments how atheists would like to take away what people value and offer nothing in return:

But if all you can offer people is reasons to quit their religion—which also often means their community, their family, their support system and their identity—you’re not going to have many takers. For every brilliant angry teenager you strengthen in doubt, there’s a mosque- or churchful of people who’ll choose the old-time religion if the only other choice is nothing.

I can’t disagree with Pollitt’s point as she phrases it. What I want to discuss instead is her apparent misconception that atheism offers no sense of community or social support system. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Admittedly, ten years ago, this would have been a fully valid concern. As recently as a few years ago, the atheist community was still embryonic, offering plenty of rhetoric and reasoned argument but little in the way of tangible support networks for the nonbeliever. And it’s true that we have a lot of work left to do in this area. But when it comes to building a secular community, we’ve already made a great deal of progress.

Consider this recent report, Sunday School for Atheists. The article concerns the Humanist Community Center in Palo Alto, California, which has instituted a weekly class for the children of nonreligious and freethinking parents that gives students instruction in ethics and critical thinking. Similar community programs in other cities will begin next year.

The Palo Alto Sunday family program uses music, art and discussion to encourage personal expression, intellectual curiosity and collaboration. One Sunday this fall found a dozen children up to age 6 and several parents playing percussion instruments and singing empowering anthems like I’m Unique and Unrepeatable, set to the tune of Ten Little Indians, instead of traditional Sunday-school songs like Jesus Loves Me. Rather than listen to a Bible story, the class read Stone Soup, a secular parable of a traveler who feeds a village by making a stew using one ingredient from each home.

The article also notes the humanist summer camp, Camp Quest, which now has programs in five states and Canada, as well as the Carl Sagan Academy in Tampa, Florida, a public charter school dedicated to the principles of humanism.

Other humanist social programs are springing up elsewhere around the country. The Bostonist recently ran an article on the monthly social events organized by Boston Atheists, which include dining out, conversation and community. The organizers admit that getting atheists together can be like “herding cats”, but they’ve shown dedication in their work toward building a true community. This is an effort that always takes time to reach critical mass, whether for atheists or for the religious, but their efforts toward creating an atheist “congregation” have already begun to bear fruit.

In addition to these programs and others like them, atheist and freethought groups continue to gain numbers and traction around the country and elsewhere in the world. Last month I filed my own report from the Center for Inquiry’s diverse and well-attended 2007 convention. The Freedom from Religion Foundation recently had its own annual, even larger convention in Wisconsin with over 750 attendees, not to mention their Freethought Radio show going national. (I covered these developments and others in “Finding Our Voice“, this past October.)

And when it comes to the most important aspect of building a secular community, namely raising families, atheists have not been slack either. There are wonderful books on humanist parenting, such as Parenting Beyond Belief, whose author I interviewed in March. Matt Cherry of the Institute for Humanist Studies supplies another excellent example, a “Welcome to the World” ceremony for his newborn twin daughters, held at the Atheist Alliance International convention last September.

Evidence like this shows that a secular community is taking shape. In true atheist fashion, it’s organizing in a fashion that’s spontaneous, decentralized, and dependent on no single authority, so its growth can be hard to track, but it is nevertheless happening. Granted, we have a long way left to go until there are freethought organizations even in every city, let alone in every town. But our movement is still very much brand-new, still finding its voice and defining itself, and the progress we have already made is an important clue that there will be more to come.

Religious people who believe their own spin sometimes erroneously conclude that the “new atheism” has nothing to offer but anger and vitriol. Since they’re not looking for what they don’t expect to find, they tend to overlook the nascent secular community, which is why Christian apologists like this one are puzzled by our success:

I wrote earlier this year about the new atheism and Richard Dawkins. I was hoping his form of aggressive and militant atheism would decline quickly. It is not happening.

In reality, atheism has much more to offer than just criticism of religion. Rationalism and naturalism can serve as a worldview in their own right, and the foundation for a true community of like-minded freethinkers. Inspiring stories like those of Jonathan Edwards, an Olympic athlete and former devoted Christian turned atheist, show that even as a purely individual movement, atheism offers great benefits:

The upheaval of recent months has not left Edwards emotionally scarred, at least not visibly. “I am not unhappy about the fact that there might not be a God,” he says. “I don’t feel that my life has a big, gaping hole in it. In some ways I feel more human than I ever have. There is more reality in my existence than when I was full-on as a believer. It is a completely different world to the one I inhabited for 37 years, so there are feelings of unfamiliarity.

“There have also been issues to address in terms of my relationships with family and friends, many of whom are Christians. But I feel internally happier than at any time of my life, more content within my own skin. Maybe it is because I am not viewing the world through a specific set of spectacles.”

But in a true secular community, this sense of happiness and purpose could well be multiplied manyfold. We have all the reason in the world to encourage this budding society of free minds, and do our best to see that it continues to flourish and grow.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • An Indonesian Atheist

    Great news! Sadly, such thing will never be possible in my country as its constitution acknowledged a monotheist god (though it didn’t say which one) and a large part of the population subscribe to Islamic belief.

  • An Indonesian Atheist

    Great news! Sadly, such thing will never be possible in my country as its constitution acknowledged a monotheist god (though it didn’t say which one) and a large part of the population subscribe to Islamic belief.

  • An Indonesian Atheist

    Great news! Sadly, such thing will never be possible in my country as its constitution acknowledged a monotheist god (though it didn’t say which one) and a large part of the population subscribe to Islamic belief.

  • mackrelmint

    I think it’s also worth remembering that we don’t have to find community with only those who believe/disbelieve as we do. My personal community would be sadly lacking if it included solely atheists and I am under no heavenly direction to limit my associations to like-minded people.
    I can’t help but think that Ms. Pollitt’s life would be greatly enriched if she allowed her community and social support system to also include nonbelievers.

  • uhclem

    This social thing has perhaps been most difficult for me since I walked away from a fundamentalist church nearly 8 years ago. My rock climbing friends, people that I used to go biking with have all faded away, or rather I faded way from them, and there really hasn’t been much but work to fill the void. Not being a sociable person has made it pretty difficult. Still married to a nutty fundamentalist, but at least my grown children remain probably as my closest friends. Looked at the unitarians but syrupy sweet tends to invoke the gag reflex. Still I don’t regret listening to my conscience. It’s not clear what could be used to replace the cultural phenomenon known as church. Ultimately it is up to each one of us. GD

  • http://www.wayofthemind.org/ Pedro Timóteo

    For every brilliant angry teenager you strengthen in doubt

    “Angry”? Is that the old “atheists are just angry at God” myth again?

  • http://www.anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    Hi Indonesian Atheist! I have a very good friend who lives in Jakarta. She is a Chinese Catholic. She told me that Indonesians have to choose one of 5 accepted religions, though most of the Muslims are not particularly militant.

  • Brock

    Is that the old “atheists are just angry at God” myth again?

    OOOHH! EVERY TIME I HEAR THIS, I GET SO MAD I COULD JUST CHEW NAILS!!!!

    Just kidding.

    My own experience with a local secular humanist group is now about six years in the past. Albany, NY Secular Humanists. After going to their meetings for several months, people there still didn’t know who we (my wife and I)were, despite our best efforts. That nagging feeling that I had been here before finally resolved irself. It was like a faculty tea that the students are invited to, but only to be included. I haven’t been back.

  • http://thechapel.wordpress.com the chaplain

    I think it’s also worth remembering that we don’t have to find community with only those who believe/disbelieve as we do.

    I think this may be a fact of life for atheists who, like me, are surrounded by religious people. Atheism is not the only thing atheists think about. We have families, hobbies, jobs, etc. We go to football games, concerts, museums, etc. And so do many religious believers. There are many points of common interests at which believers and non-believers can connect and in which conversations need never turn to religion or philosophy. I’m a recent atheist, and I deeply value the connections I’ve made through the Internet, some of you have provided wonderful support to me. Nevertheless, I continue to cherish many of the older connections I have too. My life would be less rich without them.

  • http://spaninquis.wordpress.com/ Spanish Inquisitor

    I stopped going to church 30 years ago, except when my wife wanted me to go for a few years when the kids were young. That eventually petered out, and I’ve never had any sense of loss of community, either from the earlier sabbatical, or the latter abandonment. I never really felt comfortable in such a community, because god was everywhere, and it was kind of spooky talking as if non-existent entities were all around, and approving of the activities.

    I did enjoy, for about 6 months, a Sunday school for adults program my wife and I would attend while the kids did their own Sunday school. We’d then skip out of regular services. The discussion leader was very secular in her approach. The topics were, well, topical, and not supernaturally related. I actually enjoyed the resulting discussions. But she left, and when her replacement got up at the first class and asked everyone to identify themselves and what their relationship to Jesus was, that was my last class.

    I’ve found that in these times one can form virtual communities on the Internet. 6 years ago I got involved with a book discussion group over the Usenet, which has turned out to be very widespread and tight knit.(I have friends in England, Australia, Tasmania and all over the States and Canada as a result). We actually meet once a year at a convention (didn’t go this year because it was in Alaska, to both my chagrin and excitement)and have formed some very good friendships. The main point here is that we don’t get together every Sunday, we get together every DAY. It is possible to have something better than a Sunday social community.

    I also notice that here on the various blogs, I’m picking up what looks like future friendships. It’s early now, as I’ve only been doing this for less than a year, but I can foresee a time where the bonds get strong enough to broach the subject of meet ups, similar to what I do at the book conventions. Ebonmuse mentioned two conventions this years, and I can see more coming. I see he even met up with a few bloggers I’ve gotten to know.

    And the internet is only one source of community. As The Chaplain mentioned, there are the usually social contacts that are religion neutral. Who says we have to have an all religious community? Why can’t it be mixed? I also suspect that as atheists become more vocal, and more visible, it won’t matter to religious people what your religious beliefs are. Mixed social functions will become de rigueur much like they are with blacks and gays today.

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    This has been touched on, but if she wants a community, why doesn’t she join a book club? Or a sewing/needlepoint/quilting/knitting group? Volunteer for a reading hour at the local library? Get involved with politics? Wouldn’t these (and many, many more), all of which are religiously neutral, provide a community?

    Maybe it’s not the same, I don’t know. I’ve always been something of a hermit and don’t really feel the need for strong community ties like most people apparently do.

  • http://spaninquis.wordpress.com/ Spanish Inquisitor

    I’ll say one other thing, and of course, it’s a personal opinion, but if your entire social life revolves around your church, you have a somewhat narrow, perhaps shallow social life.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Mackrel and Rev both make an excellent point. Aside from the fact that many religionists are fine people, and that it is foolish to hold any friendship to a litmus test, I regard the sheltering of arguments from the give-and-take of debate as an admission of frailty if not falsity; therefore I enjoy engaging believers [courteously, of course] any time the topic arises. Or, to repeat my favorite Frank Herbert quote: “those who see only what they wish to see are doomed to rot in the stink of their own perceptions.” One’s thinking will either be strengthened, or shown false, and both things are good.

  • An Indonesian Atheist

    @Tommykey: That 5 religions thing -Christianity, Catholicism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism- was strictly enforced during the 32 years of Soeharto’s presidency and every citizen must choose one. Since his resignation however, other religions/belief systems have gained state recognition (one’s religion have to be recognized by the state before it can be printed on one’s ID card).

    Still, the constitution’s acknowledgement of a monotheist god ensures that nonbelievers will have a hard time organizing and generally being visible to the public.

    As for the Muslims, even though most are not particularly violent, they would still balk at the idea of having a nonbelief community in the country.

  • An Indonesian Atheist

    @Tommykey: That 5 religions thing -Christianity, Catholicism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism- was strictly enforced during the 32 years of Soeharto’s presidency and every citizen must choose one. Since his resignation however, other religions/belief systems have gained state recognition (one’s religion have to be recognized by the state before it can be printed on one’s ID card).

    Still, the constitution’s acknowledgement of a monotheist god ensures that nonbelievers will have a hard time organizing and generally being visible to the public.

    As for the Muslims, even though most are not particularly violent, they would still balk at the idea of having a nonbelief community in the country.

  • An Indonesian Atheist

    @Tommykey: That 5 religions thing -Christianity, Catholicism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism- was strictly enforced during the 32 years of Soeharto’s presidency and every citizen must choose one. Since his resignation however, other religions/belief systems have gained state recognition (one’s religion have to be recognized by the state before it can be printed on one’s ID card).

    Still, the constitution’s acknowledgement of a monotheist god ensures that nonbelievers will have a hard time organizing and generally being visible to the public.

    As for the Muslims, even though most are not particularly violent, they would still balk at the idea of having a nonbelief community in the country.

  • http://narrowroads.wordpress.com/ Chad

    I love being a Christian and studying the Bible. I’m not shallow. I try to love everyone unconditionally. I don’t think there should be a culture war. Most Christians are good people. Most atheists are good people. Faith is an issue of heart. We are all searching for those deep questions in life whether Christian or not. For me, Christianity answers those questions. If you like how that sounds than click on my name.

  • http://goddesscassandra.blogspot.com Antigone

    I agree that a community of non-believers is nice, but I’m afraid that groups will begin to take on the “trappings” of religon, at least to outsiders. I already hear, about a billion times a day, that “atheism is just another religion”. It’s really annoying.

    I second the love of the internet: if it wasn’t for my online community, I would be fairly isolated out here in the North Dakota boonies.

  • DamienSansBlog

    Thank you, Chad. While I’m sure you understand it already, it needs to be pointed out right from the get-go that for most atheists and agnostics, Christianity does not answer those questions. Our reasons are various, sundry, and explained in full many times on this website. Let’s not ruin our good relations here by proselytizing at each other.

    That said, the apologist who mentioned the “aggressive and militant atheism” of Richard Dawkins may be right about its negative aspects. The community-building activities we’re talking about here certainly seem a lot more constructive than the negative rhetoric he aims at folks like Chad.

  • Eric

    DamienSansBlog:

    I disagree about the negative aspects of people like Richard Dawkins. And I believe it was also one of the frequent posters here, Greta, who pinpointed (better than I could say) why it is okay to be an “angry atheist.” Personally, I have had enough. I am fed up with having to swallow my anger and take what is given by the relgious zealots and apologists. Don’t misundertsand me, I am not talking about “taking up arms” rather, I feel this level of anger and “turning the tables” in voice and action (involvement with local politics/school boards/etc…) is necessary, and we need to have those who are angry.

    Don’t take away my anger, or try to marginalize it. It is a needed component to bring about change. If Ghandi hand’t been “angry” he would have opened up a chain of fried Tandoori stands catering to the lower castes instead of changing a culture and world.

    And as it stands, my anger is what is helping to fuel an issue in my little town. The city has allowed an illmuinated cross to be placed on municipal property. I have brought this to the city manager and city council and it has alienated me, but it is a necessary action. Separation of church/state. I have gotten the Alaska branch of the ACLU involved as well as the Freedom From Relgion Foundation. If I weren’t “angry” I wouldn’t have had the courage or guts to do so. (and if anyone is interested in more of the details, please feel free to PM me, or leave a message here and I will provide my email address so I can provide details/information.)

    Cheers,

    Eric

  • javaman

    How great would it be if we could all meet each other… say… at adam’s place this Sunday!:) This is our meeting place, this site needs pics of us all, so that we can bond as a clan.

  • Tomas S

    Nes wrote: This has been touched on, but if she wants a community, why doesn’t she join a book club? Or a sewing/needlepoint/quilting/knitting group? Volunteer for a reading hour at the local library? Get involved with politics? Wouldn’t these (and many, many more), all of which are religiously neutral, provide a community?

    I agree here, but only to an extent. No doubt there is value in paricipating in groups for activities which you enjoy. At the same time, the very fact that this website was put up and that people come here and post demonstrates that there is a desire for atheists to come together as atheists.

    One of the problems with the clubs Nes mentions is that they tend to be one-dimensional. I was in a recorder society for two years and barely got past “what note is that?” in my relationships with the nice people there. We were in an inline skate club, which was pretty good, but we were unable to sustain our involvement once we started needing to bring a stroller. At church (I’m a former Thumper) it was different. There’s always so much going on. You can sing in the choir. You can show off a musical talent. Hey, we need someone to work in the nursury. There’s a basketball game this afternoon. Carla’s getting married. Want to go to a play? In these activities, you often see the same people and get to see different sides of their personalities. If the church is local (and not an “expressway exit church”), there’s a good chance that many of these people are your neighbors too.

    Really, this is part of the bigger problem in our modern lives that everything we do tends to be done in pockets — work with one group, this activity with another, that activity with a third group, and you rarely ever “bump into” any of these people. It would be nice if there were more options for atheists. It’s strange to think back on this, but shortly after my wife and I got married (in a church, even though we were professing atheists), we started attending a Church of Christ church. I was invited to lead worship and she worked in the nursury. Nobody asked whether we believe.

    One last thought – you can’t get married or have a funeral at a sewing club.

  • Archi Medez

    Pollitt: “How likely is it that the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims will wake up one morning and abandon their ancestral faith? Even if you are a ferocious Sam Harris-style atheist who thinks religion is completely stupid–the province of shysters and fools–you have to admit it would be quite astonishing if that view persuaded the devout anytime soon: This Koran, which I thought was dictated to the Prophet by an angel, is totally ridiculous and poorly written to boot! Muhammad, that child molester, most definitely did not fly to heaven and back on a winged horse! What an idiot I was to give these notions a moment’s credibility! “

    1. Pollitt calls Sam Harris “ferocious.” That fits with the standard mainstream media line at present, whereby atheists who sometimes use frank or strong statements are classified as extremists. Later in her article, she uses the term “moderate” to refer to those apologists who explain away/ignore the explicit endorsements genocide, murder, terrorism, slavery, and torture in the so-called holy books. By this strange calculus, if you are a religious believer making excuses for why you think torture in eternal hell-fire is appropriate punishment for mere non-belief then you are classified as a “moderate,” whereas if you are an atheist criticizing such a policy you are classified as “ferocious.”

    2. Contrary to Pollitt’s caricature, I don’t think anyone is claiming that Muslims or other believers are all going to wake up one day and abandon their faith due to criticisms. However, criticism of religion can have an effect over a longer period. The first step in solving the problems in religion is drawing attention to them. I think something analogous to the law of inertia (or Newton’s first law) applies to beliefs: They remain unchanged unless affected by some other “force”—in this case, criticism, social pressure, etc. .

    3. Actually, the reasons that Pollitt cites above for leaving the religion—i.e., pertaining to dubious claims and unethical conduct of Islam’s founder–are among those cited by apostates of Islam. Another fairly common theme in the testimonials of former Muslims is that they had a serious problem accepting that disbelievers should be punished with eternal torture and hell-fire simply for disbelieving. By pointing these things out, critics draw attention to the problems, leading either to reform of those problems or else rejection of the religion.

    4. Pollitt also fails to mention two of the major reasons why more Muslims don’t leave Islam: (a) There are usually harsh penalties, up to and including death, for leaving Islam; and (b) There are usually harsh penalties, up to and including death, for criticising Islam publicly. Even where there are not officially implemented penalties, there are still strong social taboos about leaving Islam or criticizing it. This of course is also true, to a lesser extent, in other religions today.

    I suspect that large numbers of Muslims would reject their religion abruptly if there were no penalties or cost, whatsoever, for leaving Islam or criticizing it. Still many more who continued with a more modern, moderate interpretation would feel much more secure and confident in expressing their beliefs.

    Pollitt:“But if all you can offer people is reasons to quit their religion–which also often means their community, their family, their support system and their identity–you’re not going to have many takers. For every brilliant angry teenager you strengthen in doubt, there’s a mosque- or churchful of people who’ll choose the old-time religion if the only other choice is nothing.”

    Ebonmuse has already addressed this. I will just add that leaving a religion, or criticising it openly, shouldn’t entail leaving a community or a family, if believers are tolerant and accepting of non-believers. If leaving the religion does entail those additional separations, then criticism, again, is justified. If believers do not make the appropriate rational and ethical adjustements to the religion, then those who are disaffected with it should leave it. These factors will pressure religions to improve and adapt, or fade away.

  • Stacey Melissa

    What’s this?! A post about building a secular community, with no mention of the North Texas Church of Freethought? Heresy!

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    Admittedly I’m not much of a joiner. (I’m a loner, I’m a rebel. Don’t try to change me, baby.) But while I’ve ceertainly felt a yearning for some sort of atheist equivalent of church, an atheist group that satisfies many of the social and personal needs that church/ temple/ etc. provides for believers, I’ve personally come to the conclusion that I don’t need to get all those needs filled from the same, single place. To quote myself in something I wrote elsewhere:

    “A place to sit quietly with other people, feeling both private and connected? I can get that at a library. Or even a good cafe. A place to ecstatically celebrate mind and body and the places where they connect? I get that from dancing — not to mention sex. A sense of being a link in the chain of human history? Dancing again… and writing, and reading, and cooking, and singing, and almost every other basic human activity that’s been done for hundreds or thousands of years. A place to celebrate nature and feel connected with it? I can go to the woods, or the mountains, or even just go outside and look at trees. A way of recognizing and reminding myself of how limited my understanding is, and how much I still have to learn? Reading about science is a great way to do that.

    “And a place to join with others in a passionate, inspired pursuit of social justice?

    “I get that from the atheist blogosphere.”

    That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be forming groups and societies and such. Living in the very tolerant, not very religious San Francisco means that I don’t really know what it’s like to come out as an atheist in, say, Dallas, where the folk dance groups and sewing circles and such are, in all lilelihood, NOT religiously neutral. I’m just saying that atheists don’t necessarily have to find community and support and identity that’s centered on our atheism.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    “I regard the sheltering of arguments from the give-and-take of debate as an admission of frailty if not falsity.”

    True enough, Thumpalumpacus. But I don’t really want the give-and-take of debate every second of every day for the rest of my life. I also want places where I can rest, and be strengthened and supported by people who share my values. If I don’t get that, then the debate soon stops being enlightening and enlivening, and becomes exhausting instead.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Greta –

    I certainly agree with you about needing refuge; no ship can sail forever in a storm. However — and don’t shoot me for writing this — I find that I do share many values with many believers, no matter what they think those values are based on.

    Also, I did qualify my comment: “…any time the topic arises.” Personally, one-trick ponies bore me, and I wouldn’t maintain much of a friendship with someone whose only spoken thoughts regarded religion. To my mind, depth of thinking and communication are directly proportional to the depth of the friendship thus nourished, and I find that this depth is greatly enhanced by differing viewpoints, on what ever topic. Of course, I don’t believe in expressing my every thought the moment it occurs to me; I should be worse company than I am already. :P

    It would seem that in my pursuit of brevity, I gave this background the short shrift. Sorry ’bout that.

  • GodlessinSD

    Hello, Antigone! I, too, grew up in the boonies of ND (Mandan), an atheist my entire life, but so desperate to maintain close friendships that I was active in my school’s church through high school! My best friend and her family were dedicated Catholics, and such great people that I just kept pretending until college, when I couldn’t stand it anymore. I now live in the boonies of SD, and I’m finding it impossible to find even individual people of like mind, let alone entire groups. It’s hard enough making friends with people my own age who aren’t married or have kids. And everyone around is just so churchy, always talking about going to church or how god has blessed them this week. So even though I don’t limit my friendships to nonbelievers only, I’m hesitant to become involved with these churchy types. While Internet groups are great, I need that personal, physical connection.

  • Tomas S

    Greta wrote: But while I’ve ceertainly felt a yearning for some sort of atheist equivalent of church, an atheist group that satisfies many of the social and personal needs that church/ temple/ etc. provides for believers, I’ve personally come to the conclusion that I don’t need to get all those needs filled from the same, single place.

    Possibly not. On the other hand, think about some of the “best friends” you’ve had through life. How many of them have been people with whom you have only one common interest or only one activity which you like to do together? I’m sure there may be exceptions, but I think many people would not want to trade their best friend with whom they share everything for ten single-topic friends with whom they share one thing.

    The attraction in the social aspect of a Chuch (compared to that of a sewing club) is that it encourages people to engage in diverse, unrelated activities with the same people, helping us to get richer (if not deeper) relationships with these people. Is it likely that a sewing club would hold a potluck supper, a softball game, a musical play, and a Saturday of light carpentry?

    If as Atheists we feel it’s best to get these different kinds of fulfilment from diverse places, it’s only because we currently do not have a better option.

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    Ahh, so I guess it’s not quite the same. Thanks!

  • http://mindstalk.net Damien R. S.

    anger: Not at God, but at the idea of God, or at their community and upbringing, I’d guess.

    Benefits of atheist vs. non-sectarian community: it can be nice to have a place to relax and snark, to make fun of the Pope, arrested pastors, and anything about religion which strikes you as, frankly, stupid, without worrying about offending someone else in the room.

  • Peter

    It was like a faculty tea that the students are invited to, but only to be included.

    I think you should give it another shot – wherever you live these days.

    I agree that a community of non-believers is nice, but I’m afraid that groups will begin to take on the “trappings” of religon, at least to outsiders. I already hear, about a billion times a day, that “atheism is just another religion”. It’s really annoying.

    so it seems like you agree that the ‘trappings’ and ‘atheism is a reliion’ stuff, however often repeated, is meaningless. i agree.

    for me, i wouldn’t mind being ‘trapped’ in a tight-knit community of people who care about me. been working at it for a while, now. can i get another helping of ‘trappings’, please?

    i’m into Humanism not just because it is making me happier to be involved with a community of people who care about and do things for each other, but because i see it as my _responsibility_ to be part of a community of people. when regular people get together and look out for each other, good things happen. when regular people don’t get together and don’t have community, we get things like the current state of the world – where corporations run roughshod over individuals.

    i’m not an atheism hater, but i’m not sure how well you’d be able to build community around just a belief in rational thinking – i’ve never attended an ‘atheist get-together’.

    That’s where Humanism comes in. it’s a life stance – it’s written down, it’s crystal clear, and part of that crystal clear message is to ‘look out for your brothers and sisters’ – and they are everyone in your community, and everyone in the world. that’s very different from atheism – you can have ayn rand-type Republican atheists who are fine with poor people suffering, but you can’t be a Humanist and be fine with human suffering. _That_ is something you can build community around.

    Just my take. :)