Atheist Community and Relocating

by Jesse Galef –

Three weeks ago I moved from Washington, DC to Columbus, Ohio to become the new Communications Director for the Secular Student Alliance! It’s been a hectic couple of months as I had to find an apartment, move, and start work. The job is great, and I joined just in time to drive back to DC to participate in the historic White House briefing visit. Everything has been happening so fast; I feel like I’m just now getting my feet.

The hardest part of moving has been leaving people. I’m remarkably bad at keeping in touch with people, so I worry about what will happen. I had to say goodbye to my girlfriend, parents, roommates, and friends. It wasn’t easy.

What’s made the process easier was the thriving atheist community here in Columbus. The Secular Student Alliance shares an office with Camp Quest and the Humanist Community of Central Ohio, and we all spend a good amount of time together outside of work. I’ve been to Central Ohioans for Rational Inquiry’s “Drinking Skeptically” night, a drinking event with Omnipresent Atheists, and meetings of OSU’s Students For Freethought (we went drinking afterward). If I hadn’t learned long ago to pace myself, my liver would be threatening legal action.

I tend to be an introvert who takes a while to warm up in social settings. But I felt welcome and comfortable walking into these groups, introducing myself, and joining them. It put me at ease to know that the people I was meeting would likely share my values and accept me for who I am. A thought struck me: This must be what it feels like to have community through church. Now we atheists are providing it for each other. It makes me proud of our movement.

I’m not going to isolate myself in the atheist world – I have other interests. So far, I found a group of students who play pickup games of roller hockey and I’m looking into the Columbus Area Boardgaming Society. But having the atheist/skeptical/humanist community here has really made me worry less about fitting in and meeting people here in Ohio.

Of course, my story isn’t unique. We’ve heard countless similar stories from people who were thrilled to find group in their area for the first time. I’ve just never experienced it so personally, and it gave me an appreciation for what we’re doing. Keep up the good work, people!

About Dr. Denise Cooper-Clarke

I am a graduate of medicine and theology with a Ph.D in medical ethics. I tutor in medical ethics at the University of Melbourne, am an (occasional) adjunct Lecturer in Ethics at Ridley Melbourne, and a voluntary researcher with Ethos. I am also a Fellow of ISCAST and a past chair of the Melbourne Chapter of Christians for Biblical Equality. I have special interests in professional ethics, sexual ethics and the ethics of virtue.

  • Jeremy

    Do you know of any related groups in Cincinnati?

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/healthyaddict healthyaddict

    @Jeremy

    There are a couple I believe.

    Google ‘Free Inquiry Group’

    There’s also a meetup.com group, and I think a student group at UC.

  • Jim

    Ya, I hear Columbus is quite nice. I am from NE Ohio and planning on moving to Columbus after I graduate from the university here. My family does not want me to go but I have to get a better place and follow the jobs. It’s only recently a Humanist student group started here and I joined. Unfortunately not many members. Hoping to change that soon.

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

    Congratulations, Jesse! I think I may have missed the news about you getting this job. You’re going to kick ass! And it sounds like the relocation is going well. Yay!

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/noblinksnake/ laviniaserpent

    I believe you’ve pinpointed the reason countless people who are internally deist, agnostic, or atheist still go to church and identify themselves as Christian in surveys.

    Getting together to ‘not believe’ in something does have an irrevocably negative (not/non/anti etc) aspect to it, but there is no reason that clubs can’t turn into politically powerful organizations.

    Liberal has been defined as decadent or wimpy, atheist as malcontented or amoral, it’s time for groups to become more visible and vocal in defining themselves and their opposition.

    (Sorry to squat my rant on your good news, I’m almost done and I AM happy your transition has help ;)

    As much as it hurts a thinking mind to oversimplify things into dualities, we should adopt, opposite the term ‘Humanist,’ the term “Deathist.”

    The one thing uniting all destructive religious teachings is the value of afterlife above life. Make them own that they are Deathists, that this life is nothing more than an obstacle course.

  • Tori Aletheia

    Finding a freethought community is playing a big part in my current decision of where to attend grad school. So far I have offers in Indianapolis at IUPUI and the U@Buffalo, and I know both cities have great freethought student groups on campus. Of course, Buffalo’s campus is also right next to a CFI, so that gives it more of a leg-up in that area – but it’s so cold and they get soooo much snow there! Ugh, decisions, decisions.

  • will anderson – qatheist

    Jesse,
    Best of luck – which now you’re in charge of making. I know folks from The Cleveland area who tell me that your area may be one of the nicer progressive spots in the Midwest.
    When you get a chance, come on out to western Oregon. Everyone fits in here. But until then, may your renaissance be a fruitful one!

  • http://politicsandpucks.blogspot.com Mike Brownstein

    @Jeremy
    Try starting here for a Cincinnati Atheist community: http://www.meetup.com/cincinnatiatheists/

  • Brian Dolezal

    Glad to hear the good news; it’s always nice to be surrounded by a community that encourages and allows you to express yourself freely.

    I’ve just recently moved (back) to Atlanta, GA after college and have had some trouble finding these sorts of organizations. I am a part of the meetup group, but does anyone have any helpful suggestions (even a good Google search) to point me on my way?

    Thanks :)

  • Richard Wade

    Great news, Jesse, I’m sure that you’ll have much to contribute to the SSA as well as the atheist community and your other affiliations.

    There’s something funny about reading this,

    …to become the new Communications Director for the Secular Student Alliance!

    and then reading this:

    I’m remarkably bad at keeping in touch with people…

    I guess you’d better work on the latter so you’ll be good at the former. ;)

    I wish you all the best.

  • http://3harpiesltd.org/ocb Judith Bandsma

    @laviniaserpent I’ve always classified the religion (christian at least) as a death cult; it is founded on a death and rewards or punishments are deferred until after the death of the individual.

    I hear a lot of ‘but it’s not the death but the resurrection that counts’. No answer for ‘how do have a resurrection without a death?’

    I’m with the others, though, on offering congrats on the new job. It’s always lovely when someone finds work that excites and fulfills them.

  • Ron in Houston

    I think for some people it’s important to find groups where they’re comfortable.

    At least for you “groupy” “community loving” sorts.

    And Jesse, yeah, I think the irony of a communications director who is “remarkably bad at keeping in touch with people” is pretty damn funny.

  • http://atheistcamel.blogspot.com/ Dromedary Hump

    “… pickup games of roller hockey…”

    You’ll knock your eye out, kid!!!
    Best of luck on the new position, Hemant.

  • Razzle

    I live in Columbus, i dunno these meet ups seem like support groups.

  • http://www.thomas2026.wordpress.com Jonathan Weyer

    Jesse,
    Love having you in the C-Bus. Can’t wait to hang out with you more, even though I’m a preacha’.

  • http://mingfrommongo.livejournal.com mingfrommongo

    I, too have just relocated to Cowtown. It’s getting better all the time.

  • http://www.hcco.org Sharon Moss

    Thanks for the shout out, Jesse! Welcome to C-bus!

  • Staceyjw

    Congrats on the new job, it’s nice that you got what you were looking for, esp in this economy.

    I think you will enjoy “Cowtown”, and Ohio in general. There are lots of nice people, you can live very well for little $, and there’s plenty to do if you are willing to look for it. I went to OSU and stayed there for several years after; I enjoyed my time there.

    I’m looking at moving back to Ohio this year, so it’s nice to hear that there is an active atheist community in Columbus. I wonder if there is anything in the Cleveland area though, since it’s more likely I will end up there. (If anyone knows, please post)

    Atheism suits Ohio, many people from there are down to earth, laid back, and rational- relaxed compared to the East Coast, and pragmatic compared to the West (not nearly as much WOO in OH). Of course, there are fundie whack jobs as well, but they are easy to avoid, unlike some Southern states!

    Good luck- I hope to meet you when I move back!

  • http://N/A Charles J Jaggers

    I live in Wales UK I have always found that Atheists are the most genuine people.


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