A while back, I was reading an old New Yorker article by Malcolm Gladwell (author of Blink)
It was about Pastor Rick Warren and the rise of his megachurch. Read it. It’s a good piece.
What really hit me was this passage:
When churches — in particular, the megachurches that became the engine of the evangelical movement, in the nineteen-seventies and eighties — began to adopt the cellular model, they found out the same thing. The small group was an extraordinary vehicle of commitment. It was personal and flexible. It cost nothing. It was convenient, and every worshipper was able to find a small group that precisely matched his or her interests. Today, at least forty million Americans are in a religiously based small group, and the growing ranks of small-group membership have caused a profound shift in the nature of the American religious experience.
Is there anything analogous to that among atheists?
There are local freethought groups in select cities across the countries. But at all the meetings I’ve ever been to, the group members were never *that* close. Some close friendships would exist, but nothing like the all-for-one-one-for-all mentality shared by the types of small groups mentioned in the article.College freethought groups are slightly better at this. The people are closer in age and have some shared experiences. The close proximity to each other also helps. But what happens when you graduate?
I think it’s vitally important that atheists have some sort of community.
I’m not saying we should have an “atheist church.” Nothing like that.
But it helps to have people you trust enough to talk to about your atheism — about dealing with religious family members, or raising children without religion, or discussing how and when to come out to people you know, or a variety of other topics.
This raises a couple questions:
What is your atheist small group?
Where and with whom do you feel comfortable talking about your (non-religious) beliefs?
It could be a local group or Meetup group. It could be an online forum. It could be a blog. It could be a small group of friends who meet every once in a while.
Do you have a network like that? If not, could you find one? If you choose not to have one at all, why not?