How the Atheist Movement Failed Me – Part 1: Cost

When I finally realized that I was an atheist, after months and months of reading, listening to lectures and debates, and countless conversations, I had never felt more relieved or liberated. Arriving at atheism was the “rebirth” of my mind that Christianity had always failed to deliver; for the first time in my life, I realized that the absence of a divine plan meant that I was completely in control. Every action I took, every decision I made was suddenly subject to a completely new framework for interpreting the world, a framework that required me to seek out an objective reality rather than grope in the dark searching for one given by an invisible, unknowable deity.

That honeymoon phase is long over. I’m no longer in any transitional phase — atheism has become as much a part of my identity as my blonde hair and mad pie-baking skills. The initial novelty has long worn off. If I were still a Christian, with as much passion for those beliefs as I currently have for atheism, I would probably be well-established with my role (whatever it would be) in the movement. But in the atheist world, I’m not well-established at all.

I would love nothing more than to be able to devote time and energy into the atheist movement in meatspace, in groups and organizations, in real life and online, but there are several obstacles that have frustrated me.

This series isn’t a simple whine-fest about the things that I simply dislike about atheist spaces but about actual barriers that inhibit or discourage my participation. It’s not about venting, or getting blog hits, or creating divisions about what atheism “should” be about. I simply want to point out some legitimate concerns that affect many people besides just myself, and, in the long run, do a disservice to the movement as a whole by limiting what we can do and how we do it.

Let’s get down to it.

Atheism is too often expensive.

She’s sad because she can’t afford to attend her local atheist gathering

Last summer, I lost my job, which effectively killed off any possibility for my husband and I to have extra spending money. Through budgeting and home-cooking, we managed well enough, but there was rarely enough money at the end of the month to justify conference fees, travel expenses, food bills, and so on. Even most local groups stage meetups at restaurants and bars, and it was unicorn-rare for us to A) have the money on hand to foot a bill for both people or B) be convinced that spending our already-tight money on jalapeno poppers in order to converse with other atheists is a good investment, rather than putting it into savings in case of emergencies.

It’s not that these events, in and of themselves, make participating in real-life atheist groups a problem; obviously many people enjoy them. The problem occurs when all or most of the activities are structured this way.

For example, I was on a swing dance kick in college, but I was also a full-time student, working a part-time job, and was responsible for paying for my own recreational stuff. I was able to afford dues for lessons and weekly dances, but I didn’t really make friends because all of the people who were really involved had the money and time to go to out-of-town dance exchanges on the weekends. Money didn’t prevent me from being “involved” in the organization, but I couldn’t cultivate friendships without being able to devote the time and money that others had. The people who spent more time together and more time developing the skills were naturally the ones who eventually became friends.

In the same way, I have felt disheartened, frustrated, and very much alone since de-converting (which carries an awful lot more bad baggage than, say, slowly choosing not to participate in a swing dance club). At the time when I most needed support and the ability to meet like-minded folks, I felt that my circumstances prohibited me from making the connections I needed.

At the same time, my early impression of the still-developing movement is one that is far more concerned with issues than with people. Wanna go to an atheist event? Ok, how about a lecture on how silly homeopathy is, or ten reasons the Bible isn’t a good moral resource, or an evening in the pub with some neighborhood skeptics, where you can discuss the above lecture topics? Already aware that homeopathy and the Bible both are a heap of nonsense? Under the legal drinking age? Have kids? Not interested in the topic? Well…there’s always the Internet.

Where are the picnics and hikes and movie screenings? We know that the demographics of the movement are diverse, and, therefore, it’s likely that the needs of the individuals are quite varied as well… so why is raising awareness about the historicity of Jesus (usually a ticketed event) always more important than delivering casseroles to the non-theist first-time parents? Where are the low-cost, easy-access events that tie us together as people, simply for us to get to know one another and organically create support networks? (The free Skepticon conference is a wonderful example of what’s possible, but the events I’m talking about certainly don’t need to be that extravagant.)

This is not to imply in any way, shape, or form that the work that is already being done in the atheist movement is not worthwhile, or that events like pub nights, conferences, lectures, and panels are “bad” or a poor investment of our limited resources. I am certain, if I had an extra $500 just hangin’ around, I would certainly spend it on tickets for my husband and I to go to the AAA’s Ascent of Atheism conference in Denver, and I would enjoy the crap out of that weekend. Unfortunately, the operative word in that sentence is “if,” and I’m sure I belong to a large-enough population of atheists who would like to participate but simply can’t.

We talk an awful big game about Christianity in particular, but ultimately religions have cornered the market on human emotional connection, and so far it seems that the atheist movement is content to ignore it altogether. A major reason it’s hard to leave the church is because of the wealth of social and emotional support you must leave behind. Learning about evolution and archeology are awesome, mind-opening opportunities that are great for everyone, but a lecture about evolution won’t pick your kids up from practice if your car breaks down. Or take you out for coffee if you’re having a rough week. Or play a pickup game of raquetball. Or come to your open mic night. Or whatever it is that you do. And the connections that make those interactions possible aren’t easy to create when you don’t have the money to join in.

This isn’t about seeking to replace the things we do well with the things I, the Queen Overlord of the Atheist Agenda, have deemed “need improvement,” but to augment our strengths and close our deficits. Events are not a zero-sum game. You can have lectures on the role of secularism in the states and potluck dinners, and conferences and board game nights, and pub nights and picnics. What negatives are there in expanding the scope and access of our movement to include minorities, low income groups, and families?

None at all.

A better question may be: What are we doing to make those low-cost events happen?

(Image via Shutterstock)

About amanda

Amanda is a pie-baking, music-listening, lindy-hopping, yoga-doing, power-tool-wielding feminist, atheist, and wife. She divides her time equally between cooking delicious things, trying to make nice with the house cat, and ranting about religion.

  • Anonymous

    I LOVE THIS ARTICLE!! FINALLY…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=639378446 Bridget Gaudette

    Secular Woman (www.SecularWoman.org) is offering grants to help out women like yourself to get to more conferences. We understand the hardships and we want to help.

    http://secularwoman.org/grants 

    • Homer42

      Any help for secular guys Bridget?

    • The Other Weirdo

       Would the grant cover her husband’s travel expenses?

  • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

    “Where are the picnics and hikes and movie screenings?”

    They’re at hiking clubs and cinemas. You don’t need them to be attached to your atheism. The way religions try to totally take over the lives of their adherents is really, really, weird, controlling and creepy. We don’t do that, and that’s a good thing.

    • Kahomono

      No, Ewan, you miss the point.  I can’t even go to geocaching events without having to navigate a minefield of god-bothering.

      It’s damned important to be able to know when you go to a social event that this will not even POSSIBLY be an issue.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/HXMGJONKJJ35BYMNFHNGXMXH2U Mary P.

         I like that you liken it to a minefield!

        Ewan is right in saying we are around, but as you say it’s a scary place when suddenly confronted with ideas that are so different from my own.

        It’s tough to be, “on”, all the time…to suppress a certain response for fear of ending a good time at an activity.  That’s why I hike, run and paddle alone A LOT.

        • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

          I like your description of “on”. :)

          I was “off” for a long time when I first moved to Texas. Then I became stuck “on” for a year or so. Now I flip back and forth depending on my mood. Sometimes I bite their heads off. Other times allow them to make their assumptions.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Łukasz-Jezierski/791365757 Łukasz Jezierski

        I agree with Ewan. I don’t really see the point of adding the adjective ‘atheistic’ in front of my daily activities.

        • Isilzha

           But sometimes it’s nice to do those activities and know that you don’t have to dodge endless conversations like this:  “So, what religion are you? Where do you go to church? Why don’t you go to church? OH NOES…you don’t believe in GOD; you’re the ANTI-CHRIST!!!!!  What happened to make you turn your back on god?  Why don’t you come to church with me, you’ll really love it?  I’ll be praying for you.”

          • Charon

            I think we need to appreciate that there are huge geographic differences here. I was active in an outdoors group when I lived in Seattle, and over many years of activities can’t recall a single person ever bringing up the subject of religion. There’s really no point having an “atheist outdoor club” when that’s the case.

            But other people, like you, live in very different areas, where religion is considered an acceptable thing to talk about with strangers (the places I’ve lived would find that an extreme faux pas). So in places like that, such a club might be very useful.

        • Carla

          I agree with Isilzha. Where I live, I can’t tell anyone that I’m an atheist. I would be really nice to be able to fun things where I don’t have to worry about what I’m saying and how I’m saying it. It’s not that we need to insulate ourselves, or add “atheistic” to anything. But we need some sort of safe space to just relax and have fun. No cognitive dissonance allowed.

          • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

            Similar to how gay people will often wear rainbows or other symbols to denote to others their friendliness in closeted situations, you may wish to adorn yourself with some symbol.

            I think the FSM usually flies right over the heads of most theists. I like those shiny metal FSM car stickers. Or a /r/atheism sticker.

            Keep looking. I use an anonymous name to post links to our local community on the local newspaper website in the comments sections. Have had one troll and 6 genuine people join that way.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

          I have several hobbies and preferred activities… popping over to the coffee house, scrapbooking, powerwalking, trying local cafe fare.  As a work-at-home Mom, I have zero exposure to social activities… no church, no gym, no meetups.  So I rely on a few of my hobbies to meet people.  While I do have a few friends I can do these things with, they are all Christian and at some point, religion becomes the topic of conversation.  It would be nice to have some atheist friends to do these things with.

          Thus, the activities themselves aren’t “atheistic,” but atheistic company is preferred if for no other reason than I’m assured there will be no pro-Christian, you can be saved, “Jesus is stting next to you with his hand on yours, Kerri” nonsense (yeah, true story… at a coffee house).

          Unfortunately, the local coffee houses in my Northwest Bible Belt ™ town all have Christian fish and bibles prominently featured (yes, ALL… trust me, I’ve been to all 7 of them with my Christian friends), so even if I go by myself, I’m surrounded by mythology.  Scrapbooking is a HUGE thing in the religious world, especially Mormons, so it’s nearly impossible to find an atheist scrapbooking buddy.  Walking doesn’t really lend itself to tons of conversation or meeting new people.  And where do I find an atheist gal pal to lunch at the Portland cafes?

          I totally get where the writer is coming from… I’d love to attend a conference or some other national atheist event but being so far up here in the Pacific Northwest, it would be an expensive venture with airfare alone because NOTHING is scheduled up here.

          • Reddwynge

            The Freedom From Religion Foundation is holding its yearly convention in Portland this year the weekend of October 12-14, and Richard Dawkins is the keynote speaker.  Sadly, even though I live on the West Coast, I can’t afford to attend.

            • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

              OH OH OH!!  Thank you!!  I will definitely check that out!

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Łukasz-Jezierski/791365757 Łukasz Jezierski

            Well, I might not get this problem. I’m from Poland, and although (or because) it’s considered to be a Catholic country, people just don’t care about religion so much.

      • EivindKjorstad

         That’s probably true some places, and *those* places it’d make sense to arrange atheist social gatherings. Where I live (Norway), the case is *already* that *every* social gathering is essentially “atheist”, except for those arranged by a religious group.

        Thus if you want to be social, but not hear religion mentioned at all, you’d just go to the local film-club, or the geocaching-event, or the ballroom-dancing-organization, or even 95% of what the scouts do. (they tend to have a religious song sung at the end of each event, but apart from those 2 minutes, you could speend the weekend in scout-camp and never notice they’re religious at all, and infact many of them ain’t.)

        Thus the only sort of “atheist” meeting, with the label ‘atheist’ that it’d make sense to arrange here, would be those which where specifically about issues of relevance to atheists, such as the examples in the article above.

        • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

          I wonder if part of the problem is that you’re not going to get the critical mass; if you’re in such a massively religious area that a geocaching meet of all things is a ‘minefield of god-bothering’ then you’ve got to wonder how many atheist geocachers you’re going to be able to find for an atheist geocaching event.

          In that sort of environment you’re doing well to get one catch-all atheism event going, and that’s inevitably going to focus on the usual ‘core’ atheist topics.

        • Kahomono

          Norway?  NORWAY?  AHH HA HA HA HA HA HA HAHHH no.

          Living in the US is much more like living in a Christian version of Saudi Arabia than it is like living in any European country, especially a Scandinavian one!

          • EivindKjorstad

             Yeah. I know. It makes me sad. Growing up, I used to think USA was awesome, we all did. Land of the Free. Land of unlimited Opportunity. Land of Democracy and Free Speech.

            Then I grew up. Reality is a lot more depressing.

          • ortcutt

            I live in the US and the hiking and other social groups are entirely secular here. I don’t know where Kahomono lives in the US that he can’t find a secular hiking group. I’d much rather hike with a hiking group than with an atheist group.

            • http://www.facebook.com/dgomiller Dannel Gomiller

              If it’s a red state, God is probably involved.  I grew up in New York and then moved to LA, now I live in Boise, ID so my wife can be near her family.  I’ve had a cultrue shock coming from such liberal states. While my inlaws are atheists or at least non-theists, there seems to be nothing you can do here that doesn’t have people bringing in God somehow.  Even my job has “Being a good Christian” as a company value, and we’re a rather large multi-state operation.

              • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7JUNXN6N7XM64PFQTA7EHY6K54 ArtR

                 Dannel, do you know there are a few secular groups in Boise. I belong to 2.

                Art Rigsby-Nampa

            • Isilzha

              OK, fine, that’s what YOU would rather do.  However, have you know come to realize that other people have different preferences and goals than you do? 

              Have you NEVER lived in a place where one of the first things people ask after your name is where you go to church?  Seriously, it happens and there’s often one person in the group who decides it’s their new mission to bring you to god.

              • Kodie

                 I have NEVER lived in a place where one of the first things people ask me is where I go to church. My beliefs are sometimes inquired eventually but most of the time not. I have live in the US my whole life, NY state (various areas of the state) and Boston, MA. I feel terrible for people who live where they can’t be free to join activities without their beliefs questioned and suspected and made to be uncomfortable. To me thought it’s not really to be an atheist. What if you wanted to take a cooking class or aerials or something? And those activities are closed off to you because people are in your business. Aside from that, whatever hiking or geocaching can you do, are there “atheist-specific” versions of doing every activity? I take fencing and my atheism does not come up. If I felt uncomfortable there because everyone was churchy, what would I do? I would not feel like joining an atheist group. I have never felt like attending conferences. I communicate online and that’s fine for my purposes. Joining a real-life local atheist group would not possibly compensate for many activities I was closed off from or felt the atmosphere was too icy to enjoy an activity that has nothing at all to do with my “beliefs” or lack of. I don’t consider my atheism an activity. I would not consider lack of real-life atheist meet-ups as a loss. It would be just like taking a cooking class when I wanted to take pottery but pottery was full. Not the same thing as I wanted to do, and not even nearly an adequate substitute if what I was interested in was closed off to me for some reason.

                • http://profile.yahoo.com/47IDX2QAR6VU6ZAILFU6I23ACQ Joseph

                  “Welcome to Texas… have you found a home church yet?”  That was what my wife and I heard constantly when we first moved to Texas (originally from the Los Angeles area) twenty years ago.  Consider yourself fortunate, Kodie, for not having to deal with that shit where you have lived; things are a lot different here in Red State America.

                • KEH

                   Yep – That’s what we went through in Alabama too.  “What church do you go to?”  “Ummm….We don’t.”  “Well that’s no problem!  You can come to ours!”  “Ummm…I think you missed my point.”

                • http://profile.yahoo.com/47IDX2QAR6VU6ZAILFU6I23ACQ Joseph

                  Missed the point, indeed!  Then they look at you like you’re a space alien when you try to explain to them that you don’t go to church, period. 

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

          Oh… can my family come live with you?  That sounds absolutely wonderful!  My son wanted to do scouting but if they found out we’re atheists (and we’re pretty “out”), they would kick him out anyway.  And we finally have a Campfire Kids group here in our town, but it’s all under age 6 and my 12yo son said NO.

          To know that I’d be surrounded by nonreligious folks by default is a dream.

          • Neil Terry

            There can be a bit of a double edge to it in my experience.  While you are rarely envagelised at, it takes more effort to get out and meet people, and more effort to actually make close friends without the deep social links that religion can provide.  If you’re a private person anyway, it’s fine, but if you really like socializing and getting to know new people, there aren’t as many guarantees as in a religious society.
            Personally, I love it.  I’m outgoing enough to get attention, if I need it.  Not everybody is.

      • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

        Why is it so important that religion not come up? What makes it an issue for you? Is it an issue if someone where’s the lower-case-t necklace? What if they say god-bless-you when you sneeze?

        Look for local communities. If you can’t find one, then create one and see if anyone else finds it. Use word-of-mouth to meet other secular people.

        Making excuses will get you nowhere, literally. You will simply continue to sit and complain that things don’t exist. Are you even looking for them? Try meetup.com, try asking around, etc.
        Oh and btw, I live in Abilene TX which is extremely Christian. Three private Christian universities and 125 churches in the city limits alone. The churches run this town. I helped create a local group because I could not find anyone to hang out with. It’s not big but it is a community.

        • http://twitter.com/NakkiNyan NakkiNyan

          That is all well and good for you but when every event opens and closes with a prayer and most downtime is conversation about the latest sermon at your church it becomes alienating even if you were accepted.

          Now I can’t be part of a group at all, I run a small business and being known as the local heathen satan-worshipping antichrist would lose me 3 of my biggest clients which account for 2/3 of my yearly income.

          As for meetup, between the tab and gas, driving 90min 1 way to go to a bar for an hour is not in my budget.

      • Agnostics

        In many countries, there are beggars who come up to you asking you to share your blessings. Consider yourself lucky that you are not surrounded by beggars, even if I am not sure that that is not the future of US always spending more than she can afford. If it pleases you, consider them poor, unfortunate beggars.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mind.blight Arion Sprague

      I think atheism has a huge advantage over many religions in that we don’t have a dogma dictating how these events should happen. No one will say your less of an atheist if you picnic on Saturday instead of Sunday, or if you don’t serve wine and crackers at your event. 

      Creating support groups that don’t require religious beliefs would be incredibly helpful. Since there is no overarching dogma, each group could easily cater to the needs of its individuals instead of trying to fit them within a single, uncomfortable mold.

      We have groups like Grief Beyond Belief; I’d rather not have to lose a child before I can count on a support group.

    • Sarah

      The reason that some people want to be part of an “atheist community” is the same reason that people participate in the “lgbtq community”. When you are surrounded by a cultural majority who generally assumes that you must be like them, it is nice to be able to have a community where you can interact with people and know that your beliefs/orientation/etc won’t be an issue. 

      It’s the same reason there are women’s groups and men’s groups and  : not because everyone who is an atheist/gay/woman/etc has the same interests, but because it is nice to spend time with people who have shared some of the same life experience.

  • Tenley Horton

    I absolutely love this post. I agree with it to a high extent-while I’d love to join my local atheist’ group, their events are always held at a nicer bar or resturaunt, and I have a young daughter and can’t just drop everything, including my wallet, to go. I have met many people that have actually personally decided they don’t believe in any religious dogma, but still go to church for the ‘community’ aspect. It is definitely the one thing we are missing.

    • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

      Then join them and ask for a family friendly location. We were meeting at bars for a bit but then we got some folks with kids. Now we meet at playgrounds and family-friendly areas. The folks with kids also offer to host so the kids can go to sleep as needed, etc.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

      Funny you mention the community aspect.  Last year, I was so desperate to meet some nice ladies to hang out with, I nearly went with a friend to her church.  But then I realized the smile would hurt after awhile and I didn’t think I could stand the stress of letting the “YOU’RE KIDDING ME!” build up inside me.  AND all we seem to have is fundie churches around here, if they’re not Mormon.

      I do miss me some good potlucks!

      • Randomfactor

         We do atheist potlucks here in Bakersfield.  Nobody does baby stew like our cooks!

        • Tainda

          Mmmm, baby stew!

        • Neil Terry

          If there was ever a town that could use an atheist potluck…..congratulations!  I was pretty miserable there 20 years ago.  A few good punk/metal shows and a coffeehouse or two was about the limit of the “cool” places.  Well done!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1742797601 Deanna Joy Lyons

    If you build it, they will come! If you want a no- or low- cost event, get together with a couple people and make one! My husband and I have people over and watch movies occasionally. It ends up being a small group, but a great cheap atheist group. Some people get together and have a day at the park, some people meet up at coffee shops to save money. These things are all happening all around us, but the only way they happen is if someone says: “Hey, I think it would be great to do _____.  Who’s with me?” 

    One problem with this is that someone has to take charge, pick a day and a place, which can sometimes be a pain. I’ve known people that will say they want to have a family-friendly cheap event sometime, but are kind of expecting that it will happen on its own.  You can’t just wait for someone else to do it, you gotta take the leap. Good luck!

    • Sindigo

      I couldn’t agree more. And after a (admittedly brief) scan through the replies below it seems you’re the first to say it. This surprises me.

    • Mike

      Do you want to grow your movement or not? If so stop telling people who don’t feel welcome that they should fix it themselves. Telling poor, young parents with jobs and kids that if they don’t like it they can start and manage their own group just means you aren’t going to see any of them. Because they don’t have a lot of resources or any time.
      If you always respond to everyone who tells you why they aren’t involved by fundamentally missing the concept of what feedback is and how to use it, guess what? They aren’t going get involved.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1742797601 Deanna Joy Lyons

        No, I’m not saying that she needs to organize her own group and spend precious time and resources to do so. She’s saying that established groups are not serving her needs. I’m saying, speak up *within* that existing group. All it takes is one person to say, I’d like for us to go do this thing, and other people will join her. One thing I have seen within existing groups is one person will say “I’d like to see us do something low cost and family friendly.” But when you suggest that all they have to do is tell organizers and maybe be just the one person who shows up, they don’t want to do it. They want for it to already exist on a regular basis and then they can join in sometime. Well, someone has to be the first. You don’t have to do anything spectacular or organized, you just have to be the first one to say it. Other people will jump on board. 

        I literally have had people in one of our local groups say that we should move two of our existing meetup nights to another location they felt was more appropriate (although it was in a restaurant). When I suggested that if they wanted a different location they could just pick a time and place and they would have lots of people join them, they said they didn’t want to have to go. I’m not blaming the victim here, I’m saying they should say one sentence on an existing group or online forum and they would have the meetup they want. A lot of people are kind of waiting for the movement to do something for them.

        • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

          “A lot of people are kind of waiting for the movement to do something for them.”

          EXACTLY! I was part of a small group that started in Abilene, TX. We have 130k population and 125 churches in the city limits alone plus three private christian universities. The community is small and new folks who join often claim they want to do things but nobody really goes to hang outs if I schedule them. I need THEM to schedule the hangout. 

          • Heicart

            Ah. I just read a further comment of yours below, and I think I might have misread your comment here, Darrell. I thought you were speaking as a member, but now I believe this comment comes from the perspective of an organizer, perhaps.

        • Heicart

          I was going to post a reply, then saw yours and it saved me a lot of the trouble of typing. I can now just add to your own recommendation. I love to hike and camp. I am also a member of an atheist group in my city. I am not really “active” in the social events. I go to some of them sometimes. I don’t have a problem with an atheist group gravitating around atheist issues. It’s what I expect. Just as I don’t expect a hiking club to host a babyshower for someone in the group. They can if they like, but it’s not related to hiking. I would imagine Humanist groups might be more into the non-atheist related socializing than an atheist group. With regard to the money, my first thought was even “Our group hosts lectures, and they’re free to the public.” And our happy hour is outside the pub, and I’ve often shown up with a bottled water and not spent a dime. But this article is more about having atheist friends to do just normal life stuff with. And I relate to that desire,  but the atheist group has pretty well given you the environment in which to cultivate that yourself.

          I see Darrell’s comment below, but don’t know how to explain it. When I go to a happy hour for my local group, I meet lots of people. Some of us have things in common, and over time, I’ve come to befriend some of the people I get along with most–it happens quite naturally at recurring social events as far as I have seen. I don’t see how a person could manage to avoid it if they regularly attend and also get along well with the other members? In the end, I have a yearly Christmas party, an annual camping get together, where most of my invites go to the friends I’ve made at the local atheist group. My get-togethers that I organize are nearly all atheists attending. Theists are also welcome, but everyone knows the score. And if I wanted to tailor that list to atheist-only, I could simply just invite my atheist friends…?

          I don’t see how, when you have a group that hands you atheist people regularly to interact with, it could be difficult to ask them–especially in social settings, “So, what else do you do for fun besides mock woo? :) ” When you find 3 or 4 who say they like the outdoors, you get their digits and invite them to a campout or a hike…? For me it was that easy, and I’m not sure I understand the logistics of other groups that would make this impossible for others to accomplish. That doesn’t mean it’s not impossible and I’m not being imaginative enough to envision what these other atheist groups are like, but my own group sounds A LOT like the one in the article, and I used it to form my own atheist social network with the particular people I met in the atheist group who liked the same things I like.

          I offer this more as a possibly helpful suggestion, and not a criticism or a message to say “WTF are you doing wrong?” I’m just sharing what I did, and hoping that if other people want social atheist *friends* outside of the atheist-oriented meetups offered by their atheist groups, they could try just making friends with people they meet regularly in these groups?

    • Muzakwood

      I’ll tell you why I can’t do that. Because I am very impoverished and live in a hovel and would be very embarrassed to invite nice suburban middle class families to my home. So I am too poor to participate in confrences and meet-ups and too poor to start my own come over and be friends group. So where does that leave people like me? In a church there is a place to go a hall or a sanctuary but we don’t have that so it just leave me isolated.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1742797601 Deanna Joy Lyons

        Can you go to a park? Can you meet with people anywhere else that doesn’t cost any money (libraries are usually cool)? Can someone else do the hosting at their place? I’m just throwing out suggestions here. If you want to do things with other people, you can make it happen. Just toss a line to a local group. Let people know that there are things you’d like to do, and I’m sure someone will join in. No one will know unless you tell them you’re willing. This doesn’t require a whole lot of time, money, or effort. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

        Excuses eh?

        My family hosted events even though we didn’t have much as a kid. I host events where we watch things on TV even though my wife and I still have a 36″ CRT and everyone else where we live has 40″ flatscreens.

        Meet at the park. Go on outings to local museums. Go camping. Go hiking. While I’m on the outdoors bit - kayaking , canoeing, rafting, horse-back riding?

        Start a facebook group or a meetup group. After you have a few members, request that someone host. I often volunteer my residence to host.
        You are making excuses. Stop it. Be imaginative. You are holding yourself back.

        • Muzakwood

          Seriously a 36″ vs a 40″? I have a hole in the back of my house because I can’t afford a window to replace one that rotted out. I really do not think we are talking about the same kind fo situation at all.

          • Tainda

            lol some people just don’t understand what hardship really is.

            I know exactly where you’re coming from.  I was young once and it’s hard.  I learned to depend on myself and no one else.  I also use the internet (which I didn’t have when I was poor) to talk to people that have the same thoughts I do.

            It does get better eventually!

          • Kathryn

            My thoughts exactly, Muzakwood. I think what many people are missing here is that when a person has *no* money, they can’t afford the time or energy, let alone the funds, to go kayaking or ride horses, or even to go to the park. Speaking from my own experience, in a situation like this, worrying about how you’re going to afford even the most basic necessities can be so stressful and overwhelming that by the end of the day, you’re simply mentally exhausted. How are you supposed to try to organize a whole new organization when all your energy is going into trying keeping your own life together?

        • Neil Terry

          I really do think that you have good ideas and are trying to help.  Sometimes there is simply no substitute for personal effort, and if nobody can come to the rescue you have to save yourself.  At the same time, money and other basic resources like transportation are very serious roadblocks sometimes- more so, I think, than many people realize.  I’m lucky to live in an area rich with parks, beaches, busses, nice weather year-round, and tolerant people. 

          If I had to live this same life, with the same income, in one of the more poor, limited, and conservative towns just a couple hours away from me, I would be going crazy and planning escape, not looking to host events.

        • Neil Terry

          I really do agree with you for the most part.  Self-defeating attitudes- fear, embarrassment, bowing down to unreasonable social stigmas, giving up on yourself and others…I think these problems are like a mental plague in America.  I’m a naturally happy, content person who really doesn’t give a flying fig what others think of me… and I still fall victim to these mental roadblocks sometimes.   

      • Muzakwood

        This comment was written in anger and may not convey what I really wanted to say. I just happened to be reading this blog post when I found out that my financial situation has put me in a place where I can’t act in a play. I work a stupid mindless job for very little money and theater is the joy I get out of my life. When people ask me what I do I always tell thm my avocation is as an actress, it is what defines me.

        The post reminded me that those around me have these communities that they depend on in their churches. Places that they can go for solace when crap like what is happening to me happens to them. I don’t know any other atheists and I just seethe when I try to talk to my religious friends and their response is that they will pray for me. I am very poor and right or wrong I am very embarrassed by that fact and the way I have to live because of my poverty. My neighbors can go to their neighborhood churches and mosques to meet people who are like minded who they can lean on. I don’t have a place like that. Yeah I can go to the library or the park but who is there for me to talk to about what is happening with me? If I was to enter a church weeping because my life is crumbling someone would listen to me. Even as a stranger. But where do the isolated non-believers have to flee to when we break? Where is our community when someone is falling down? I do not and cannot ever believe in gods so I have no one to turn to right now. No place to just get it out.

        And I think that was more of what I was trying to find really than a picnic.

        • Mrs Schaarschmidt

           I know where you’re coming from Muzakwood. At one point I wound up in a homeless shelter with my kids…so I really do get it. That’s years behind me now, and I have some perspective. But I know that while you’re in the middle of it, and you are using every drop of energy you have just to try to survive, well it’s overwhelming to a point that many people can’t understand.

          One thing that helped me in that situation (emotionally) was to do some small volunteer work at the shelter once I was out. This helped me because this was a group of people who really understood the pressures of poverty. I didn’t become a huge activist or anything…I was still just spending all of my time and energy trying to survive. But having people around who “got it” really helped. And doing something to help other people in my situation really helped.

          From there I was able to make some connections that eventually lead to friendships where, once I was on more stable footing, did become a small skeptic’s group at one point (that’s more where my interests were at the time).

          I just suggest making connections wherever you can right now (even if you do have to deal with people praying for you) until you meet some like-minded people within that group. Then use that seed to grow what you need.

        • Neil Terry

          Being poor myself I really can’t help much, but I’m curious- where do you live? (generally, not specifically, I’m not a stalker!) 
          I’ve noticed that things are VERY different in different locations.
          My hovel is a tiny 40 year old apartment, and we both smoke, and we have a barky little dog, so only a few very tolerant friends come over to our place.  But we live in a pretty laid-back county with various artistic and social outlets, plus most of our friends are non-religious, and those facts certainly make life a lot better than it could be.   

    • http://www.facebook.com/rogi.riverstone Rogi Riverstone

       not if you’re closeted & rural, as I am. And not when the LOUD atheists won’t read emails, comments, blogs from low income people who are BEGGING to be included. We are invisible.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1742797601 Deanna Joy Lyons

        If you’re closeted and rural, then you can’t join and participate in any existing groups. That sucks, and I’m sorry you’re in such a position, but this is a different situation than the one being blogged about above. 

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

      I’d love to have the time to plan and organize a meetup but I just don’t.  I do have the time to attend one that is already set up.  I went to a few of a local meetup but then had a falling out with an active member, so it would be awkward to attend one now.  It’s depressing, actually.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Kristenmomof3 Kristen Kramer

    I am glad to hear that I am not the only one who feels this way. I have children so atheist meetings that happen in a bar don’t work for me. Where are the fun family friendly things?

    • Barbara

      Our local humanist group puts on monthly speaker events (not very kid-friendly). Once in a while parents will show up to the event with children. Sometimes I will ask them if they’d like to help organize a family friendly event. So far, they have always declined, protesting that they are too busy.

      I have no children, so have no personal interest in hosting a family-friendly event, other than improving our group’s programming to serve more people. Why can’t I get a parent to volunteer to help? It irks me then when they later complain about the lack of family-friendly events. We would gladly put together these events, but we need some help from the parents!

      • http://www.facebook.com/chrisalgoo Chris Algoo

         It might be a good idea to make an announcement to that effect at the next meeting!

  • Kahomono

    SPOT FREAKIN’ ON!

    Thank you for writing this, thank you, thank you!

    I hope the people wielding what resources we do have as a movement start to shift their priorities.  

    Remember: religions have an awful lot of paid-for, tax-free infrastructure to start with.  The ingredients are cheap (per person) and the labor is free to make a homestyle dinner for a few dozen people – but someone had to build that restaurant-style kitchen….

  • Marylynne7

    I know this isn’t an ideal solution, because many of us have no interest in a church-like setting of any kind.  However, I found much of the above at a Unitarian Universalist church.  Congregations are different and some are more faithy than others, but mine is almost anti-theist. Of those who speak up about it, many of us of atheist and some vaguely deist.   9 of 10 at the new membership meeting said, “I lost faith years ago, had no church for years, then needed ____ (usually something social) so now I’m here.”   The minister apologizes on the very rare occasions she mentions  Jesus in a sermon.   It is a very comfortable and welcoming environment for me.   We have game night and LGBT movie night and social issues movie night and great potlucks with lots of local or vegetarian food.    The kids programs are great with lots of world religions, critical thinking, social justice and equality issues.  

    Sorry – I didn’t mean this to be an ad.  But I found so much of what you wrote true.  I would like to start going to the local Free Inquiry Group, but I’m not going to a brewhouse on Thursday nights.   

    I agree with those who say those of us feeling this could just go out and start something.  I haven’t tried it yet, but Meetup looks easy.   I bet if I contacted the local FIG, explained the issue, and offered to organize a picnic at a park they’d be glad to let me send out the notice to their Meetup list.   

    • Isilzha

      UGH…UUs are not really much better than the local Baptist church.  The ones here charge for almost all their functions (usually more than an appetizer at a restaurant) and have bizarre rules.  The one rule I ran headlong into was “no kleenex, only cloth handkerchiefs”.  This was actually printed in their monthly newsletter and when I called someone to ask if it was real or satire, I was then told to not come back to the church since “apparently this isn’t the place for YOU!”.  Seriously.  This happened. 

      That was back in 2001 and it finally made me realize that all religious organization are pretty much the same crap underneath the surface.  Yeah, some may be more welcoming to LGBTs and not talk about Jeebus, but they often have their own arbitrary dogmas. 

      So, UUs disgust me, but I do have them to thank for helping me to finally rid myself of ANY lingering desire for religion.  Though it is a bit weird to say that I finally declared my atheism for refusing to follow the commandment of “thou shalt only use cloth handkerchiefs whilst in the inner sanctum of the UU.”

      • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

        My understanding (which is admittedly very limited) is that UU congregations vary widely, which would explain the disparity between your experience and Marylynne7′s. Your experience doesn’t mean that anyone should be discouraged from seeking out a UU church, but it should temper one’s expectations. (I personally have had not wanted to go to a church after I deconverted, so I’ve never cared to look into the local UU congregation.)

        • Isilzha

          I’ve gone to 3 or 4 different UUs in 2 different states.  Although the last one I went to was the worst, they were all still churches and religious organizations.  I suppose if someone is still looking for religion in some way they may like UU.  However, I have found each on that I’ve attended to be dogmatic and LOVE to embrace all kinds of woo.

          • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

            I somehow doubt that’s a representative sample.

  • Chris

    “Atheism is too often expensive.”

    Really?  Atheism is the lack of a belief in a god or gods, bla blah blah.  With that in mind, athiesm is not expensive, nor is it blue, nor a piece of cake, nor a tangy taste.

    “How the Atheist Movement Failed Me”

    A main goal of the atheist movement is to ‘convert’ people to atheism.    You are no longer a Christian. It could be said that it didn’t fail you.

    • Robin

      “A main goal of the atheist movement is to ‘convert’ people to atheism”.  Well, this is a first.  I don’t see the movement as about converting at all, but bringing awareness to others.  Most atheists I now, including my huband and I, are not interested in converting (or as a good friend of mine says “Deconverting”) anyone.  We don’t really care if someone is an atheist or not.  We focus on the issues of Humanism, rather than Religious.

      I agree.  We need to build up our own community (not by coverting, but working with what we have) and have events that actually help, rather than just those events at the local bar or that conference about the attitudes of the Religous.  We see those attitudes everyday in our lives.

    • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

      If the atheist movement is only about deconverting people, then it would be right to say that it’s failing its proponents. We should be about providing support to non-theists, especially since it is very frequently difficult to be a non-theist and open about it.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

      First, you KNOW what she means.  Being literal in this sense is silly and paints you as a jerk.

      Second, the main goal of the atheist movement is NOT to convert people to atheism.  That is definitely something a Christian would say… in fact, I had this conversation with my mother this summer.  I would say the goals of the atheist movement include ensure a secular government, secular education, and further humanism in the world.  I’m no more trying to convert people to atheism than I am rushing pregnant women to abortion clinics as a “pro-abortion” advocate.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nick-Warner/620045191 Nick Warner

    Totally agree! We also need the low cost emotional connection events that religions have. Deanna is completely right though, build it and they will come. If you’re unhappy with the events on offer, start a group! That being said, I think it would be a fantastic to have a section on the forums for organising local atheist group meetings. That way people can find like minded people a lot easier. (Not an active forum member but at a quick glance there was no obvious section for arranging meetings)

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1742797601 Deanna Joy Lyons

      Thanks, Nick! I do want to clarify, though. I don’t want people to have to start their own groups, but just speak up within an existing group. It’s hard work running local organizations! :)

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nick-Warner/620045191 Nick Warner

        Yeah absolutely! but it really depends on the size of the organisation. It doesn’t have to be big and certainly not to start with. When I was a kid my mother was in a a young mothers group where we’re all go once a month to play with the other kids and the mothers could chat and socialise with each other. The amount of work to run such a group amounts to putting out a plate of biscuits. 

        This is the sort of group that could cater to the emotional and social needs of athiests. Organising the occasional activity when there’s a small group of you is not difficult when you can share the work. This is the sort of group I have in mind when I say start a group. 

        There’s potential for these small groups to coalesce as more and more form but it never has to be bigger or more work than you want it to be.

  • http://twitter.com/nicoleintrovert Nicole Introvert

    This! This!  A thousand times this!  It’s tough when every time you turn around on the interwebz there seems to be some super amazing event happening.  Due to personal finance reasons I cannot justify most of the expenses to travel or pay super expensive conference fees (on top of travel).  

    Yes… everyone says “start your own local event.”  Well that is fine and dandy if you are good at that sort of thing.  Check out my moniker… “Introvert.”   Yeah I might be fine when I get to know you or I show up at some sort of gathering where I can skip small talk and dive right in (not afraid I am going to offend someone with my atheism, feminism, etc).  But I am NOT the person that can reach out and start something.  That is not my forte.   I wish I could, because Richmond, VA REALLY needs it. 

    So yeah… I am that jerk that is sitting around hoping something awesome happens.  I’m just throwing it out there as to why maybe some of us might be frustrated but not act on that frustration. 

    Also, some of us may only have the time/energy to show up to an event, and are not able to put that extreme amount of time/energy into planning no matter how bad we want it.   Aside from me being introverted, I have Fibromyalgia which gives a limitation on how much energy I can spend (even mental energy).   Some people have kids, so they cannot afford the extra time to be involved on a greater level. 

    • Simondavis79

      If you’re in the DC area, we have events all throughout the month (see my comment above): 
      http://www.centerforinquiry.net/dc/events/

      I know there’s some other groups nearer to Richmond however.

      • http://twitter.com/nicoleintrovert Nicole Introvert

         I am coming up to see PZ Myers next weekend!  I do appreciate that event being so inexpensive, thus making the tank of gas to get to and from DC affordable.

  • GodlessPoutine

    I agree.  $20 for a meal at an Irish pub is actually rather a lot for me.  What I also see is a rather older demographic at these meetings as well.

    I’m lucky in that my wife has little interest in going to these.  If she did it would be $40 plus babysitter, plus parking…

    What I’m really looking for is a place where we can all drop off our kids to play with one another and then just chat.   Atheist daycare cafes? :-)

    • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

      I absolutely agree about the older demographic part of this. My local freethinkers’ group (which I really do love) is predominantly middle-aged (and older) people, and such groups really do need to make sure they’re catering to younger demographics.

    • JenAli

      The strange thing is that in my area (Kentucky) most of the atheists in our group are under 30. They have kids. We are all poor. They still insist on going to a very popular bar/restaurant where we will have to pay AND get interrogated if someone overhears us speaking about anything that could be atheist related. From what I gather, most of us do not attend these outings. Other things have been suggested but they just aren’t happening. Hm. 

      • Neil Terry

        I don’t know for sure, but it sure seems at last partly related to class/money/social issues in America, and partly related to education issues.  I love just doing very simple, cheap amusements.  A day at a park, sitting in the shade, talking about religion, politics, life in general, etc. sounds absolutely awesome to me,  but even most of my close friends would be bored stiff.  A rich intellectual life and the open sharing of ideas has become an undervalued currency in our culture.  It’s either an expensive, exciting outing, or some kind of narrow, pre-determined reason to group up, like yoga, sports, knitting, yard sales, etc, or else nothing at all.  I have one or two other friends who enjoy discussions as well, but they seem to get their fill talking to me and each other, and one of them constantly annoys everyone on facebook with political stuff.  Ron Paul!!!!1!!!! lol.

        I don’t think I could get a local philosophy or political discussion group going to save my life.  Even the book clubs are entirely older women, mostly religious, reading crap fiction and feel-good spiritual crap .   It’s like only 1/2 of 1% ever bother giving  shit about anything intellectual, and we’re spread too thin to count in most places.

        I realize that people want to have fun in their free time, but when did overpriced crappy food, overpriced crappy drinks, and running around spending money for no reason become more fun than a good debate? 

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    Amanda,  you’re spot on in stating that class is a problem in the movement. I will also say that it’s as big a problem as race and gender is. What local atheist leaders should think about is actively communicating with people as against to simply shooting off an email blast about a future events. There is a stigma to being poor (been there, done that) that stops individuals from asking for low cost events and we need to be sensitive about it. 

    I’ve started up a local atheist meetup  group in my area a few months ago, and while there are many  people who are members, there are few who go to events. I’m going to email each person on the  list (and maybe set up a local atheist newsletter using mailchimp –  a free service) to see how the group can service its members effectively.

  • Korrigan_du_Sud

    Since when is it costly to think, to speak and to debate? I used to be a rather destitute atheist, and simply never felt forced to partake in any event which came at a fee; nor did I feel in any way left out if I missed such gatherings. Poverty then never stopped me from meeting like-minding people, trying to spread reason, or getting informed.
    The syllogisms of this article portray atheism as another costly cult – and demonstrate that the author merely sought to replace her sense of belonging previously provided by the Church by another membership to a new circle. It debases the very principles of reason: atheism is not mere proselytism or a fuzzy attribute to define an otherwise bland self; it is simply, at each individual level of capacities, influence and means, a fight against obscurantism, ignorance and irrationality. It is upheld by all who display the propensity to think for themselves, and can freely impact minorities and low income groups, just as much as the words of religions reach them: the more vulnerable populations have information readily available at no cost in public libraries, over the net should they be privileged enough to benefit from such luxury, and in a variety of newspapers or TV programs. Nobody forces anyone to enter a church and espouse a faith (unless you are a child born to fundies with never any contact with alternatives to your reality); on the same principle, the doors of a library are open to those who wish to push them only. Atheist pamphlets can be found in most libraries of your country. One does not need to pay for a dinner with well-off atheists to suddenly see reason; neither does one require to attend the latest two-day conference of the greatest minds of our time to deny the existence of god. There is enough free material around to enlighten you; past words, now freely available, of ancient authors are there to guide you, should you need light on your way; videos of seminar extracts, as well as websites from all the most profound contemporary and past thinkers, are open to those who seek them. Does the article’s author require someone to constantly refresh her thoughts, and dictate her what the latest trends in atheism are? Is atheism a fashion constantly evolving, that she feels she is not “a part of it”, should she fail to be present at a cocktail party because she could not afford it? Atheism is not a movement. It is not a membership to some elitist club. It is not about dinners or conferences. It is a humanist stance, akin to a philosophy.
    It is true that knowledge is indeed evolving at great speed, and that conferences and seminars bring forth the latest discoveries in science, or analyses in thinking, etc. But if anything of ground-breaking significance is revealed in such gatherings, then surely it will be made available to the rest of the world soon enough? Does the author feel that, as a child who has not been invited to a birthday party, the lucky few who were will keep their joy a secret? Does she live in such a censored country that there will be no echo on the Net of what she would have missed out? And even if there were indeed scant information to be found about whatever she had not attended, would that threaten her atheist knowledge, and weaken it, and even destroy it? Does she need to be with others to know she is an atheist? Then she is not an atheist. She is just another member of a cult, in desperate need of being told what to think, finding solace in having replaced Catholicism with a new feature to characterise her. It is, sadly, the case with many noisy atheists out there: they wear it as a make-up, brandishing it as a personality trait, with as little rationality, and as rare depth, as another faith.
    There should certainly, however, be even more “voices of reason”, perhaps even cynically fashioned after the highly successful scheme of catholicism’s missionaries (noisily reaching as far and wide as the planet allows); but unlike a religion, which hushes all personal thoughts by its constant presence and rituals pervading a believer’s life, once one has understood the need for reason to prevail in one’s life, there is less of a need to convene with like-minded people, as enlightenment and knowledge can easily (and arguably even best) be cultivated in the silence of one’s own mind, with some solid, good reads. But even if one insists that there is such a necessity as that of congregating, for the thrilling pleasure of brushing one’s thoughts against someone else’s (of course, from such moments can come profound personal improvement), then the mention by the article’s author that some such reunions happen in restaurants or expensive venues is completely irrelevant, and rather reflects her puerile need of belonging to a group rather than her desire to apply her mind to thinking with others, which can be done in all sorts of perfectly free circumstances.

    • berberine

       Since when is it costly to think, to speak and to debate?

      For me it has costs in two ways.  First, being an atheist in the middle of nowhere America where the community is very religious could cost me my job.  Both my husband and I work in education and, while it would be difficult to prove that being an atheist is what got you fired, you work on year to year contracts and they can simply let you go at the end of the year, no reason required.  We have to keep low-key because of that.

      Second, it is costly to get to any conference because of where we live.  Last night, we saw that the American Atheists’ conference in March lines up with a break we have and thought it would be cool to be able to go to Austin and attend.  Then we figured the costs and are now hoping that some of it is filmed and thrown up on YouTube.

      At the moment, we mentor a young man who is 16 an also an atheist.  He has to keep it quiet around his family.  Some of his fellow classmates know and harass him at school about it.  It’s not major harassment and not worth anyone complaining about because he would be disowned by his family.

      So, my husband and I get together with this young man we mentor a couple
      of times a week and go fishing, watch movies, and talk.  He also comes
      over to read books he can’t at home.  He’s currently reading The Selfish
      Gene.

      I know of two other students that are atheist and suspect two teachers, but where we live it’s not feasible to gather together in public.  One of these student’s mom is an atheist and she begged me not to say anything.  She’s a single mom, the dad is  a devout Catholic and a cop.  He’s made certain legal threats about taking the daughter away if the mom publicizes who she is.

      The fact is a three day conference can be costly.  Sure, it really helps when the conferences are free, but if you can’t afford the associated costs of travel, lodging, and food, you won’t be going.  Now, don’t mistake me, I’m not looking for a handout.  I’ll save and do things as I’ve always done, but I agree that not all atheists can afford these conferences.  That’s why, at least for me, it’s nice for them to be online later on.

      It’s also not always possible to be open about who you are and, when you live in a community of less than 10,000 people where the vast majority are super religious, you’re not going to go seeking out other atheists.  You know what might happen if you do and you don’t want to be responsible for any backlash they might suffer.  If you find some accidentally, that’s great.  For now, we’ll keep things as they are.

      • Bustacate89

         so your being a conforming non conformist ?

        aka grow some balls you dont need to shake hands with people while saying by the way i hate god.  and guess what if the parents dont want him to read a certain book he should not read it, you assume they dont want him to read it because of god.  unless he talks to his parents and they regrettably allow him to.

        • Isilzha

           Good grief…where did YOU come from and why are you here?

          • Carla

            I believe people like him are referred to as a “troll” and are best ignored.

            • Bustacate89

               when people are presented with flaws in a argument they presented its best to yell troll.

              i also love how you countered my points.

              • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

                It’s not at all clear that you actually made any points. You say “if the parents dont want him to read a certain book he should not read it” but you don’t back that bald assertion up with any sort of rational argument. Or indeed, irrational argument.

                • Bustacate89

                   so you would want a person that believes in god to take your kid and brainwash him into believing in god?

                  i know i would be upset 

                • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

                  If you can’t see the difference between ‘brainwashing’ and reading a book there really is no hope for you.

                  It is widely considered a good idea for the children of atheist parents to be exposed to a range of religious books (see particularly Dale McGowan’s blog); it’s just part of the general knowledge of culture that everyone should have.

                  More knowledge is generally a good thing – you can read something that disagrees with your beliefs without it changing them if your beliefs are secure and robust. If they’re not, then you should be changing them.

                  As berberine said – if your beliefs can’t withstand exposure to the fact that different beliefs exist, then they’re pretty worthless beliefs to start with.

                • Bustacate89

                   im sure the mother would see non christian books as brain washing hence what i was asking .

                  but instead you choose to go the strawman argument and not even cover my point .

                  wold you want a cult or a church  to take and teach your kid the beliefs they hold?

                • Bustacate89

                   we are talking about a teenager one that is not quite sure what they believe in

                • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

                   How are they supposed to decide what they believe without ever hearing about the alternatives?

                • Bustacate89

                  jimmy rustling
                   

          • Bustacate89

             im here because i saw a article posted by a friend and decided to post as everyone else here is doing (being mean pricks& assuming about others intelligence ) .

            plus i was hoping to get some “freethinkers” to see that bashing people with different views is rather silly

            also neckbeards

        • berberine

           Normally, I don’t respond to trolls, but I’ll make an exception for you.  I don’t hate god.  I can’t hate something that doesn’t exist.  I also don’t introduce myself as an atheist, but it also isn’t something I can tell people about precisely because of my job.  Maybe you can grow balls and walk around telling people what you think, but in my line of work, that can put me out of a job and future job prospects very quickly.

          The young man I mentor has a mother, not parents.  His mother doesn’t want him to read anything at all.  She doesn’t even see the point in all the stuff he needs to read in school because, to her, it’s useless.  I have witnessed her telling him that college is unimportant as well because she gets by on $9 an hour and welfare.

          I was also witness to an event where a neighbor told his mother that he didn’t believe in god and the tirade she went on.  She threatened to throw him out (at 15) and disown him so he lied to her and said the neighbor was angry at him and just wanted to get him into trouble.

          I could go on and on to the things I’ve seen with this kid’s family.   I also do not assume that his mother doesn’t want him reading a book because of god, I know it for a fact.  It’s 2012.  I shouldn’t have to defend myself for letting a kid read a book.  If a book is going to shake the foundation of your beliefs, then maybe there’s something wrong with your beliefs.

          • Bustacate89

            Your thinking you know what is best for this child, and it seems your wrong. by that i mean your in this insanely redneck bible thumping state so you are putting the kid at risk by “showing him the light” and by the light i mean yours.

            at best nothing happens to the kid at worst he gets thrown out .  he would be better off living in a hick town beliveing in god with the support of the community than being chastised as a heretic witch that needs to be dipped in water or burned (if the water does not work )

            your help could very well hurt him more than help him.

            true it could help him become more than he would as a god worshiper but are you willing to gamble on his life(not your life as you can move).

            • berberine

              I never said I know best for him.  He was already an atheist when I met him.  I didn’t show him any light.  He comes to me and asks questions.  He already knows how to google and figure most things out.  He also knows that if he ever did get kicked out, he has a place to stay, indefinitely, along with any help that would be needed.

              And if you think I can just up and move, you’re sadly mistaken.  It’s really not that easy.

              • Bustacate89

                 no but you think you know better than his mother.

                how did he find out your an atheist i you cannot tell people?

                • http://www.shadesthatmatter.blogspot.com asmallcontempt

                  You’re a fucking asshole. Go away.

          • Bustacate89

             also your not defending yourself for letting a kid “read a book”  obviously its not just a book its  a book that causes thinking and it seems that this item is contraband in your town

            • berberine

               Reading isn’t contraband in my town.  It’s a problem with his mother.  His mother does not equal the whole town.

              • Bustacate89

                i said thinking was contraband  not reading your point is moot since i never said reading was contraband .

                so if the whole town is not anti atheist. you can now  tell people your an atheist?

          • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

            *applause*

            There’s usually a lot to be said for not feeding the trolls, but you handled that with class and grace.

        • Neil Terry

          Wow! UR KEWL!!

    • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

      The syllogisms of this article portray atheism as another costly cult – and demonstrate that the author merely sought to replace her sense of belonging previously provided by the Church by another membership to a new circle.

      Ignoring the incredibly inaccurate use of “syllogism” here, this should neither be a matter for surprise or condemnation. We’re social animals: we want a sense of belonging and connection with others, which is a function that religious groups (as well as many non-religious groups) serve. It’s easy to feel like you belong as a part of a major religious sect; not so much when you’re in the minority of freethinkers.

      To be honest, the whole of your comment could be summed up in, “I never felt this way, so why should you?” That’s a bad premise to start from, and it shows a severe lack of empathy. Add in the presumptuousness of claiming that the author just wants another cult to stay “in fashion,” and there is practically nothing of real value that you contributed to this discussion.

      • Bustacate89

         Ignoring the incredibly inaccurate use of “syllogism” here, this should neither be a matter for surprise or condemnation.

        http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/syllogism

        really you cannot find one way that syllogism works

        not one

        if your not able to  then what the fuck does being a grammar nazi gain

        “your shitting all over her blog idea” >tcc 

        “im going to shit all over your response” >tcc

        the world is not a better place with your response

        • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

          Please come back when you have something substantive to say. Troll.

    • Carla

      Do you really think that free thought was born with a bunch of people sitting alone in their basements?  You are incredibly ignorant of both the social tendencies of humans, and how thinking and developing ideas works.  Do you really believe that the great minds of history worked in isolation, just reading the books of their peers and predecessors?  If all of your “free thought” and “rational thinking” happens in your basement or on the internet, then you are even more ignorant than this post reveals.  We apologize that some of us can’t spend forever if fearful solitude wishing we could be a part of the larger movement.  We’re not all blessed hermit souls like yourself.  Like it or not, humans are pack animals, and we want to gather with other like ourselves.  Being an atheist in a religious society makes us fundamentally different from the people around us, and sometimes we just need a break.  The fact that you seem to be an exception does not change the entirety of human nature, nor does it make those of us who desire contact with those like ourselves “peurile” (the need to belong to a group is lifelong, not a phenomenon that ends in childhood).  And you should probably note that using big words does not make your argument any smarter, especially if you use some of the words incorrectly as part of an inaccurate argument.

      • Bustacate89

         showing how butthurt you are because of a new idea does not make you a free thinker .  also your probably fat and stupid looking(thats what we do to prove the other person is wrong right? make fun of them? )  fuck ya i win

    • Christypulliam

      Having grown up in a non-religious household I am noticing that atheists who have fled religion continue to seek a coven, flock or congregation to feel accepted or fulfilled. It’s like a ghost limb that’s been amputated, you still feel the need to flock together for a similar purpose. But atheism isn’t a purpose or religion. If you seek human companionship, as we all do, then seek out groups based on your hobbies or nerdy ways, political or activist etc… “Atheism” just means you don’t believe in God, not a congregation.

      • Metaphid

         I agree–to a point. But I would argue that the pervasive influence of religious nonsense on culture, education, and government points to the need for garden-variety non-believers to come together in a political movement.

        • Kodie

          May depend on your location and the environment, but I’ve never needed a specific atheist group that I couldn’t get online. I like the issues and the blogs and the articles and forums where I can ask questions pertinent to atheism, but maybe because I grew up without religion or grew up in an area where it doesn’t seem like on the outside that religious belonging is a great deal. If you are isolated and looking for like minds and attracting others, if that’s what you want to do, I don’t see it as any different from another club or class or group someone wants to join. I also don’t know what you’d talk about – I assume it’s not just hey, isn’t being an atheist great? but similar issues as brought up on the blogs; starting a charity; renting a billboard so other atheists know they aren’t alone. Seems like it would have to be activist in some way, and not just a “free” time to not be bombarded by religion.

          However, I was thinking upthread and almost responded. I remember a group for gay men where I used to live. I worked at a live theatre so I was tasked with marketing this group and hadn’t thought of it like this before – basically they do join a group with like-minded people but effectively splinter off and do other interesting things as part of their group that aren’t activism or support. So in this instance, they might sign up and go as a group to see a play.

          Atheists might create or join a similar group to make friends to go together on other activities that are neither activism nor support, where otherwise one might feel isolated or alienated from the mainstream environment of taking a class or doing a certain activity. I don’t live somewhere people ask right up front what church do I go to or what religion am I, but if one does live in such a place and has been intimidated and shunned from normal hobbies or groups due to that, joining an atheist group in order to make normal social participation more comfortable by making friends who also might want to go, and if nobody else wants to be your friend because you don’t go to church, you already have something in common with someone – “hey, I wanted to take a fiction writing class” or “wine tour” or “bicycle race” with your new atheist friends. It is not a bad idea. I don’t know that making a group of atheists has to always be petitions and serious issues. You just want to make friends who aren’t religious.

      • Neil Terry

        That’s funny, I’ve never been much for “flocking”, I was never even comfortable in church or in a religion, yet I can still see the value in social groups that share basic philosophical worldviews, or that stand in opposition to the harms of other, larger systems.

        I’ve never felt like I was “replacing” anything, yet I would still like to go to a conference, or a secular meet-up, just to talk about lif and the world, face-to-face, with other like minded people.   I would even go to a diverse meet-up with religious folks in attendance, if honest friendly discussion were at the forefront. 

        Some people like other people but don’t want to limit themselves to a church or a knitting club or a very narrow purpose. Some people like talking with other people about issues of mutual concern.  Some people find great life benefits in such groups.

        Why this is such a surprise, and why there is so much resistance to using atheism or secularism as a starting point, I do not understand.    

    • Chris

      I couldn’t agree more.    I do sympathise with her though.   I can’t imagine what it must be like to be surrounded in every direction by god botherers.  I wouldn’t complain about how the Atheist movement had failed though,  I’d be proactive and do something about it.     Writing things like “Atheism is too often expensive.”  really isn’t constructive and definately doesn’t help the atheist movement. 

  • Al

    It sounds like to me your missing the “purpose” given to people in Christianity.  Go find a cause to volunteer for.

    • Isilzha

      However, she would like to do stuff like that with other atheists.  It seems she’s wanting to create more sense of community and social obligation.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to share “purpose” with other atheists. 

      • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

         The secular alternative to a church isn’t a church full of secularists though, it’s groups that actually are secular, in that they don’t address religion at all.A secular hiking group is just a hiking group. A secular environmental charity is just an environmental charity. A secular poker night is just a poker night.

        You shouldn’t have to move from having your whole social life built around one religious identity to having it built around another – just find people doing the stuff you want to do, and go join up. The OP is apparently ‘lindy-hopping and yoga-doing’ – is that atheist lindy hopping? Atheist yoga? Or secular, no religion required, lindy-hopping and yoga? That’s the sort of place you get your community without a church, not by building an atheist church.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=57508266 Beth Presswood

          Where do you live? Because for people who live in the bible belt, there ARE NO SECULAR hiking groups or knitting groups or anything. Everything turns into Christian groups because all the people are Christian.

          • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

            I’m not saying that that sounds anything other than horrible, but I can’t see it as a failure of community organisation that someone who doesn’t have any other atheists anywhere near them, and/or cannot publicly identify as an atheist, can’t get an atheist hiking group together.

        • Isilzha

          What’s wrong with some atheists wanting more community with other atheists?  You’re really taking a huge leap to think that they’re asking for a church or atheist exclusive social life?  And even if they are…so WHAT!!??!!

          I’m confused as to why people are making posts arguing against this.  If you don’t like this idea, fine, but why try to tell other people they shouldn’t be wanting it?  Here’s a very simple solution–you don’t want to find other atheists in your community to do activities with (like yoga or lindy-hopping), get to know or hang out, then just don’t fraking do it!

          • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

            “If you don’t like this idea, fine, but why try to tell other people they shouldn’t be wanting it?”

            Because they’re telling us that we should. If the OP wants to set up atheist lindy-hopping, then good luck to her. But she’s not doing that – she’s saying the the rest of the community have failed her because we didn’t.

            • http://www.shadesthatmatter.blogspot.com asmallcontempt

              “Because they’re telling us that we should. If the OP wants to set up atheist lindy-hopping, then good luck to her. But she’s not doing that – she’s saying the the rest of the community have failed her because we didn’t.”

              Where in the piece did I assert that I needed an atheist swing dance club? Nowhere at all.

              The point is that the restrictive nature of the events in my area (the fact that most groups require a cover charge for events or meet at nice restaurants or bars) means that, for a long time, I couldn’t go at all, because I didn’t have to means to do so.

              Even if I wanted an atheist swing dance group, I couldn’t go to the most likely spaces in order to drum up interest. 

              It’s not about being able to accommodate 100% of the population 100% of the time. It’s about recognizing and responding to the fact that staging atheists meetups in this way (though not all! I’m super heartened to hear about all of the free, cheap and family friendly events in the comments; I wish there were more in my area) excludes a pretty large swatch of potential members. 

              There’s nothing wrong with pub nights. There’s something wrong when the ONLY thing going down is pub nights. 

              …and yet we wonder why we are still struggling to get more diversity. Do we REALLY care, or is it just a convenient topic to discuss at pub night?

              • http://www.groverbeachbum.com/ NeilTerry

                As a person who really has very little need for community of ANY kind….I really don’t understand why Ewan and so many others are having such a hard time getting the concept.
                Even if the US were not soaking in religion to annoying and unhealthy levels, even if there were truly”secular” clubs of all kinds by default in every single community in America, why would it be so bad, or unusual for people of a generally  like philosophy to want to get together and talk?  Why do so many atheists think that this somehow becomes an atheist “church”, or that the desire is somehow irrational? 

                There is no dogma, no sacred text, no sacred rules, no supernatural beliefs, no permanently applied moral code…it’s NOT a “secular church”.  Just because such a group could help take over a bit of the social support and network of a church, does not make it a church….it is churches that glommed onto existing societies, and took over those things that ALL societies do.  What is so freaking odd about atheists wanting to be around, talk to, learn about, help, or be helped by other atheists?  Why does that need a special justification that other groups do not?Also, there is nothing weird or pointless about wanting an “atheist” or “secular” group of ANY kind.  Especially in a country overrun with religious options.  Maybe I want to be able to really talk about related philosophical issues in my book club…but can’t, because most of the members are already committed religious believers who don’t like to debate anything.  Maybe I want  truly “secular” events for my kids, instead of letting them get hammered with religious marketing all the time.  Maybe I want to push secularism itself in politics, but the exisiting local political groups are all heavily religious.  These issues do not exist in a fucking vacuum!

                And even if atheism is eventually the norm, and secularism is fully respected in America, wanting to link a bit of one’s philosophies or worldviews to one’s hobbies and daily fun is NOT all that unusual.  Democrats, republicans, feminists, christians….people do this ALL THE TIME for a variety of reasons.  Why on earth would it be weird or unnecessary for atheists, secularists, or freethinkers to do it, especially when we are a minority? 
                 
                I honestly think that most of the confusion stems from a kind of faux-individualism related to the assumptions that “atheism” should never relate to any other aspect of a person’s life(dictionary atheists), or that athiests should be “beyond” such primitive “churchy”, “follower” behavior(asshole atheists).     I could be wrong and I hope I am. 

              • http://www.groverbeachbum.blogspot.com/ NeilTerry

                Nice article, BTW!

              • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

                “Where in the piece did I assert that I needed an atheist swing dance club? Nowhere at all.”

                That’s splitting hairs. You did ask:

                 ”Where are the picnics and hikes and movie screenings?”

                Which is essentially the same thing. You also said:
                 
                “Wanna go to an atheist event? Ok, how about a lecture on how silly
                homeopathy is, or ten reasons the Bible isn’t a good moral resource”

                Which is all about the content, nothing to do with the cost. The headline says that your problem is financial, but the substance of the post is all about how you want the atheist community to provide events with different content (that avoids typical atheist/skeptic/rationalist topics in favour of picnics, movie nights and hiking), and how it’s a failing of the community that it hasn’t.

                • http://www.shadesthatmatter.blogspot.com asmallcontempt

                  It’s about both, though – both social interaction and cost. Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems to me that you are hung up on the examples I provided rather than the concept behind it; the point is, that even if I wanted to have and “atheist swing dance” club, or hiking event or movie screening or picnics, I can’t, because I can’t/couldn’t tap into the pre-established networks of atheists and skeptics due to costs. It’s not that I want specific, prescribed activities only with other atheists; it’s the fact that, if you want to be involved in the organized atheist movement IRL, you have to cough up the cash to attend events that don’t focus on socialization at all (i.e. lecture series). 

                  The examples I provided aren’t necessarily Things Amanda Wants To Do – it’s merely a few examples, off the top of my head, of low-impact, free gatherings that local atheist organizations could easily add to their current agendas. Mind you, “add to”, not “replace with”. Lectures and whatnot are great on their own, and certainly serve well, but the real point of the post is address the fact that these types of gatherings are a) not welcoming to low-income folks, families, and minorities due to cost and b) important in terms of socializing and creating good networks where non-believers can find support and relationships.(And, FWIW, I wouldn’t recommend an “atheist swing dance” club anyway. It would defeat the purpose of the post, since you’d have to pay for a venue and the activity requires specific equipment, like shoes. And I’d be the only one there, so there’s that, too.)

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

          Life isn’t all or nothing.  Just because she wants to find some low-cost activities that involve other non-believers doesn’t mean she’s looking to do everything in her life with other atheists.  I totally understand where she’s coming from, wanting to do some treasured, fund activities without having to eventually face religious conversation.

          If I go to my local scrapbooking store for a scrapbooking event, I’m prepared to face tons of church and god talk.  It’s part of the culture of this activity.  Is it wrong for me to wish I had at least ONE atheist friend with whom to do this activity?  I don’t want to give it up just because of the religious aspects.  I’m just looking for a friend with like beliefs with whom to hang while we craft.

  • http://twitter.com/ztkraptor NO YOU

    Sounds like that atheism is workin out for you….oh wait…

  • Chris M

    I’d ask what she is doing to help. Local groups don’t have paid position to coordinate events or a tax free place to meet.  We tried a ton of times to do family events and it just never worked.

    What I’d suggest is that if her local group has sufficient demand for a hike, for example, someone needs to manage that and put it on the schedule at the same time, same day, every month.  We’ve manage to do that with a book club and volunteering. Over time it becomes part of the culture of the group and folks work it into their schedule.

    Speaking from experience, being in a leadership position in one of these groups is hard. We’re not exactly an easy group to keep happy.

    • Kodie

      In my mind, I am thinking of an atheist group that meets and gets to know each other and then participates in small or large numbers in regular community offerings. So the atheist group isn’t the book club, but if some want to join a book club, they can go together. The atheist group isn’t a bowling league, but they can put one together for a tournament. They find out what’s going on and find others to go with them. I have never had the urge to go to an atheist conference about specific atheist issues. I’m online and I see what’s going on and I communicate on blogs/forums. I don’t live somewhere where it’s intimidating to join a club or class by yourself and be grilled by the regulars about your religious beliefs, but I can imagine in places where that happens, it might be nice just to have a club of atheist activity buddies, and it’s not like you wouldn’t also have your serious issues, charities, awareness, and fundraisers, or group picnics or pub nights either. I don’t picture a meet-up like “church” as in, this is all we do at meetings, we meet and then we go home. I picture people making friends and allies similar to how, for example, parents of all the kids at one school might have a picnic as a group and in between times, set up play dates or meet for book club or yoga on a smaller scale, the kind of people you might ask around if anyone wants to try kayaking with you or knitting or coin collecting or race-walking. I think a lot of people want to join something fun but they feel more confident if a friend they already know goes with them when they do. So in this case it would be atheists, someone you already have met and like and want to be friends with, doing stuff.

       

  • Gunstargreen

    Atheism never cost me a dime. 

    I suppose if you want to attend events and all that and make atheism into your hobby then it could get costly, but the same goes for all hobbies.

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    Good article.

    I think all of the following are important.

    1. cost – not all atheists have sufficient disposable income

    2. time – not all atheists have lots of free time. 

    3. venue – many atheists are in a situation where if they go at all, thy must bring their kids with them.  The venue must be appropriate.  No bars and no boring (for the kids) lectures about anything.

    4. purpose – not all atheists are looking for the same thing in activities.  Some are life-long atheists that are somewhat comfortable in their social status and only look for some interesting debate or conversation.  Others are recent deconverts that may be looking for a more comprehensive substitute for the community that their former church provided.  Others are looking for other things.  Atheists, just like religious people, are from many different backgrounds and walks of life with age, education, vocation, and economic theory differences – and some with kids, some without.  The common bond for religious groups is their shared belief in one particular set of religious scriptures.  They can all get together and worship together.  Sing the same songs.  Atheists are only bonded by their lack of belief in the supernatural and possibly a common concern not to be the victim of the tyranny of the majority.  It is much more difficult to organize around a negative.  Some think atheists should organize around humanistic principles instead.  Others would prefer to work simply to make all other activities (like non-religious social clubs) strictly secular where if you have an interest in something, you can go do that without fear of being proselytized by the religious majority.  The purpose of atheism is a tricky subject.  It is a damn shame that Christianity has one of its main tenants to go proselytize to the world and convert everybody.  What we really need is for Christianity (and other religions) to change so that they are content just to keep their beliefs to themselves.  Then we could all simply get on with our lives and there would be no need for an atheist movement – people could freely organize around common interests.  But religions change VERY slowly.  We will have them trying to convert everybody for some time to come.

  • Jasmyn

    I was unaware of this. My local group cooked dinner and brought it to my apartment the night before my first anniversary. We help each other move. My husband and I hosted a poker night. These people are what makes Fayetteville feel like home to me when my family is 1200 miles away. I’ve never met a group of people that are more concerned about others. The only thing that may make my group different is that it’s geared toward military families.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

      Ah, okay… you have a HUGE commonality that others don’t have.  You are lucky to have that group!

  • Mike

    I just had this experience myself. Local skeptic group is an hour away. First activity? bar. friday. until 1 am.
    By the way I love the commenters’ suggesting young parents with little money and kids should just built it themselves. Clearly they do not have small children. I work. My wife works. I have a kid. I do not have time to build a new atheist group. If that means I’m not welcome then I guess I’m not joining your little atheist thing.

    • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

      You emailed them and asked about doing something during the day, maybe at a weekend, right? What did they say?

    • Chris M

       You’re not welcome because an event is not accommodating to your schedule?

    • Neil Terry

      I understand your concerns, but I would assume that you have at least say, surfed the web a bit, made a phone call or two, and maybe sent an inquiring email or two?  All of my old friends have kids now…I know how precious their time is and I respect that.  But if you can’t be bothered to do a tiny amount of searching and questioning locally, then honestly, you’re asking for everything to be done for you when it sounds like you wouldn’t even bother to show up anyway.

      I’m not trying to attack you or dismiss your concerns…but they can’t help you out if they don’t know you’re there, and they can’t just load up your couch into the back of a truck and take you there.  At the very least, you might have to make a little noise if you are really interested.  Every atheist/secular/science/astronomy/ even theater group I’ve ever contacted tries their best to be accomodating.  It’s part of the job of spreading one’s interests. 

  • Tainda

    Maybe it’s because I’m generally an introvert but I see no need to gather with other people regarding my atheism.  Going to a conference is something you do when you have the time and money.  I don’t see the need to go to every one.  Talking to people online fits me just fine.  As someone else said, go volunteer for something you are passionate about.  We aren’t Christians, our lives don’t revolve around atheism.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

      My life doesn’t revolve around atheism, granted.  But is it wrong for me to want some atheist friends with whom to do things?  Granted, I have few friends to begin with, but the few that I do have are ardent Christians.  (They are mom of my son’s friends and fellow scrapbookers, so we have other things in common.)  While I adore my friends and we’ve gone on scrapbooking retreats together, the conversations inevitably end up on religion, with me defending my atheism.  I’d like to skip that whole thing and just have fun, so a few atheist friends would be great.  To meet them, I’d like to attend some events.  THAT’S where the disconnect happens.

      • Tainda

        Not wrong at all.  Like I said, it’s probably because I’m an introvert and I prefer to be alone.

        My friends are all christian and we all know not to bring up religion.  Then again, only a few of my friends are thumpers, the rest don’t even go to church.

  • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

    The secular alternative to a church isn’t a church full of secularists though, it’s groups that actually are secular, in that they don’t address religion at all.A secular hiking group is just a hiking group. A secular environmental charity is just an environmental charity. A secular poker night is just a poker night.

    You shouldn’t have to move from having your whole social life built around one religious identity to having it built around another – just find people doing the stuff you want to do, and go join up. The OP is apparently ‘lindy-hopping and yoga-doing’ – is that atheist lindy hopping? Atheist yoga? Or secular, no religion required, lindy-hopping and yoga? That’s the sort of place you get your community without a church, not by building an atheist church.

    • Kahomono

      “A hiking group” in most parts of the USA turns into “A Christian Hiking Group.”  Read the clueless rhetoric of all those town council folks in the country, defending their opening meetings with prayers to Jayzus.  They truly cannot even conceive that someone could object to this.

  • Tim

    Wow,

    Thanks for an interesting article.  I don’t have any suggestions but as a European the article and the replies really opened my eyes.  Here in Europe none of this would be an issue.  Unless an event is specifically religious it is likely to be default atheist.

    So you have my sympathy and whilst I have no concrete suggestions I remind you that with time this is an issue that will go away as the poportion of athiests creeps up in your locality too. 

    • Stev84

      In Europe you can know people for decades and never learn anything about their religious beliefs other than their denomination. In many places it’s just not talked about in.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

        Here in America, one of the first questions you are asked upon meeting someone new is “What church do you attend?”  When my son started school, it was a new school and we had many meetings before it opened and I met a hundred new families within the first week.  Without fail, the first or second question was always asking what church we attended.  For awhile, I stuck with “We really don’t have one.”  By the end of the first month of school, I started saying I’m an atheist.  I lost a few almost-friends but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

        • Kodie

           It’s not like that all over the US. I guess I am sort of lucky the way and the place I grew up and it’s something of an idea that I would not choose to move where that was different. If I already came from somewhere that was dear to me and also made uncomfortable by people asking nosy questions like that, I don’t know what I would do. From what I am to understand, it’s still not safe necessarily for me to say I’m an atheist, but I don’t lie if I am eventually asked. Just because people don’t ask doesn’t mean they don’t have prejudices or assumptions.

          The way I see it is, well, most people I know ask where you work/what you do. I always feel like people are sizing you up whether or not you are in their “class” or can breathe the same air, but not necessarily listening to the answer and don’t care. These type of questions have a “name” (that I can’t remember) and purpose that’s more like social lubrication than actual interest in you – normal battery of small talk meant to demonstrate their acknowledgement and sociability toward a newcomer instead of ignoring you and making you have to introduce yourself. I don’t know if asking where you go to church is just habitual stupid-question ice-breaking or something they are making sure you are one of them and fit to associate with them, or your children with their children, but if this is how they figure out who is friend-worthy, not sure if I’d want to hang out with them anyway. It always sucks because they would reject you and get to feel superior, while you agree it’s not a good match and the luxury of not having to deal with them either, it’s still crummy when they don’t stick around for you to shun them first because they’re in a clique and you just got there, just sets an awkward tone. 

  • ortcutt

    How does it cost money to be an atheist? It costs money if you want to go to conventions or something like that, but you don’t need to. I have never spent a single cent on being an atheist.

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    The UU have a big social activism component and will want you to tithe just like other churches.  The money goes to better causes than your local Baptist church but they will still eventually want that 10% or some percentage there-of after you have been going there a while.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=749242262 Dale Husband

    It seems this writer has never heard of Unitarian Universalism, or if she has, she is unaware that UU churches actually welcome atheists into their membership.

    http://www.uua.org/beliefs/welcome/6191.shtml

    • Isilzha

      And that’s still a church with all the same kinds of problems that other churches have.  I hate UUs and think it’s ridiculous when atheists actually recommend them.  If you’re really trying to get away from religion, UU isn’t the place to go.  It’s like LOTS of religions bundled up together with environmental fanaticism and layered thick with loads of random anti-science woo.  BLECH!

  • popeyoni

    Atheism is pretty cheap. All you have to do is not believe in gods.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

      Yes, taking the statement literally helps a lot.  [eye roll]

  • Chupper

    At my local group social events at restaurants and bars, several people come and drink only water.  These are simply the only venues large enough to handle groups of any moderate size, but it’s not like they’ve got a two drink minimum anymore.  If you can afford the gas to get to a local establishment, you can afford to go to an atheist event.  

  • http://twitter.com/sammyblade sammyblade

    I have mixed feelings about this article.

    On the one hand, I think Amanda raises some very valid points. It’s true that not everyone has the funds or free time to travel to a conference. And perhaps it is also true that the events offered my local groups are prohibitive to low-income groups or families.

    On the other hand, I have been an atheist for a long time and I’ve never been to even one convention. I really wanted to go to the Reason Rally last year but I just couldn’t afford it. Like you (and many of the commenters) might do, I wistfully check out the upcoming conferences and conventions for American Atheists. I even once checked out how much it would have been to attend the Global Atheist Convention in Australia earlier this year, fantasizing over my Expedia search results as if I’d have the extra $2k for air fare, hotel and convention tickets. But although I am unable, I do not feel that I am any less an atheist for not attending.

    Institutionally, churches operate like a for-profit corporation. I saw a thread on Reddit a week or so ago about a guy who tabulated the expenditures of his local church, and the scummy pastor was using offering money to finance his house, bills, lifestyle, etc. And while I’m sure that not *all* churches are equally evil about spending offering money, I do know that most church institutions have extra money for things like dinners, community outreach programs, etc. Your/our local group of skeptics or secular humanists, however, probably have far less money in their treasury to host the kinds of events you are wanting. But do not fear, churches have centuries of a head-start on secular groups, and those groups are growing every year. Eventually, I hope that they will be able to offer the kinds of cross-class events you are seeking (and in more areas, too!)

    Lastly, I know several low-income atheist families who manage to make friends and have events like potlucks and reading groups. A dear friend of mine is a stay-at-home mother of two in Oklahoma and she managed to find a secular community by poking around online and founding her own group for secular parents in her area. We atheists have a disadvantage in that the structures do not yet exist for broad community, especially in “meatspace,” but that doesn’t mean that the structures themselves are failures.

  • Revyloution

    The real issue is infrastructure.  The web is a great tool for communicating,  but it is poor at building close communities.

    We need to build, buy or renovate buildings, and create ‘secular churches’.   Offer free classes,  use it as a space to marry people, have marriage counseling centers,  etc.   But this would scare the hell out of many atheists, who pride themselves on their loner status. 

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

      It really is like herding cats.

      • Neil Terry

        You know though….doesn’t that make it more of a worthwhile accomplishment?  A lot of people want more basic “community”, but the high conformity of many religious/social groups costs us too much individuality.  There are those who say it can’t or shouldn’t be done, but I don’t think I believe that. 

      • Agnostic

        Cats are not faithful to their owners. You can own a dog but the cat owns you, so it has been said.

        • allein

          Dogs have owners, cats have staff.

  • Jerry

    Try a UU or liberal Quaker church. There are quite a number of atheists and agnostics in my local UU church. There’s Buddhists and pagans and liberal christians too,but everyone seems to get along fine and they have a nice supportive community. There’s a number of young families and the church seems to have a good kid’s program. 

  • Anon

    The author seems to mistake Atheism for a religion. It’s not a religion. You can make it that if you want to but you’ll eventually end up with all the problems that go along with religion.

    People at these conferences that she can’t afford are gathering based on their common beliefs about the supernatural, in this case atheism. But people who are atheist don’t have to gather with other atheists. It’s one nice thing about atheism. You don’t have to go to a weekly echo chamber based on supernatural beliefs/non-beliefs.

    One of the biggest problems for religions is this echo chamber where ideas get reinforced and balloon out of proportion. Atheists constantly criticize religions for being insulated, xenophobic and inflexible. It’s because they gather only with people who reinforce their convictions and don’t open their minds to the outside world. The same thing can happen with atheism. 

    If you need a community, choose one that isn’t based on religious beliefs. Leave religion and atheism at home. Go to a civic meeting. Join a secular charity. Drop in on the neighbors. Take up a club sport.  

    You can’t plug atheism into the religious hole. Atheism should not be the axis on which your social life turns.

    • JenAli

      While I absolutely believe that atheism shouldn’t be treated like a replacement for religion, I see the need in an “atheist community”. It is all relative to where you live in the world. Just the security that comes with knowing when you do whatever it is as a group there will be no church/jesus/let me pray for you/the devil has you is amazing. Atheism may never even come up-which would be AWESOME!

      • Agnostic

        If one thinks that a system of believe is a religion, as I do, then atheism is a religion.An agnostic who puts himself on a scale of 1 to 10 to represent the degree of agnostism( I know someone used 7) as follows

        Atheism. 1,…..,,…..10. Theism

        There are gaps on both sides. To some, the gaps are narrow and easy to cross. Some, like me, find them deep and wide. To cross requires leaps of faith, wide or narrow. That is why I have to think of atheism as a religion.

        • Charon

          But atheism is not a system of beliefs. There’s no system.

          Even if there were, I would strenuously object to any system of idea about the world (what you seem to be calling beliefs) being called a religion. Quantum mechanics is not a religion. Nor is general relativity.

          • Agnostic

            Is it not a believe that requires a leap of faith? From not knowing to knowing does not require faith?

            • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=759720170 Bryan Smiley

              No.  You’re missing the point.  Atheists are anti-theism.  Atheism does not define a set of beliefs on ‘faith’ nor does it define a set of principles.  In most cases I’ve experienced, atheists tend to rely on principles of evidence for reasonable likelihood…and where there is no evidence, there is no certainty.  

              Typically, the theists profess certainty by ‘faith’ not by evidence.

              Scientific theories are explanations solidly and well supportec by the evidence, not by faith.

          • Agnostic

            Quantum mechanics and relatively are both theories if I know what I am talking about. What has that to do with religion unless you believe there is intelligence that created them or they came about by themselves.

    • Guest

      You really should try humanism and/or Unitarian-Universalism. Put the emphasis on living and not on atheism. You may find the community that you are looking for with all beliefs optional. I am a humanist and find the UU group great. Also low cost.

  • Taoist

    Congrats on making the leap to “god is not in control.” now you just need to get to “I am not in control.”. If you can accept that, you will be a happier person. Just go with the flow.

    • Agnostic

      Ha! Someone like- minded? I wonder why people without religious affiliation who have so much time and think of themselves as humanist(and I don’t know what that means when some atheists feel they are no higher than animals) not donate some free time to non- religious welfare organizations. They can socialize with the like-minded which is obviously a main aim.

      Oh, maybe I am wrong, the leaders want this to be a movement.

  • Deep-Fried FreeThinkers

    My apologies for the spacing format above, it got changed when I posted. It looked a lot better before.

    • DeepFriedFT

      And now my comment has disappeared, weird…

  • http://www.facebook.com/o51r15 Michael Adams

    There are several groups in my local area.  All have free meetings.  One has all their meetings at the local library.  Another has meetings in members homes.  The group I’m a member of has meetings in a Chinese Buffet, but the owners have been nice enough not require everyone to purchase meals to attend, though most do, this only happened when a person wanting to attend our meetings expressed the fact he was on a limited budget.  It took us 5 minutes of talking with the owners to get their ok, but until it was brought to our attention it wasn’t a known issue.  If your local groups are not meeting this need and are only having meetups that require you to shell out cash, say something to them.  Help coordinate a meetup that does not require extra cash, a picnic in the park, invite people over for a movie night.  One local group has a regular meetup just to get together and ride bikes on a local bike trail.

    I’ve never seen an Atheist group say ‘no we don’t want to have a free meetup’.  Go to a local meetup group, talk to the organizers, tell them know what you need.  I’ve never met a organizer of a group that wouldn’t bend over backwards to attract new members. 

  • Houndentenor

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but the thought of “converting” anyone to anything makes me sick.  I had enough of that growing up Southern Baptist.  I’m happy to talk to people who have questions or are interested in a lively discussion, but “converting” sounds to me like going door to door with some equivalent of Chick tracts.  No thanks.  I am interested in people knowing that they aren’t the only ones who don’t believe.  But converting is not my goal.  Gack!

  • Kim Rippere

    As more come out as atheists the diversity of the “community” will increase as so will the ways to participate.  Remember the idea of an atheist “community” is fairly young.  I like your ideas for adding more ways to participate.

  • Annie

    I think the issues and obstacles that Amanda brings up are not the byproduct of the atheist community, but rather the byproduct of any community whose  membership grows from on-line communication.  I was a member of a wonderful on-line support community for parents of children with cancer.  As great as it was to get support and advice at all hours of the day, it was also frustrating that I lived too far away from other members when they could have benefited from my physical presence or real-world help.  I think the deeper question here is how do you successfully transform an on-line community into a  real-world community?  Perhaps we should look at other communities that have successfully made this transition.  Are there any? 

  • http://www.facebook.com/rogi.riverstone Rogi Riverstone

    You’re leaving out a LOT of good people. And no, PZ Myers, we’re not “uncool” because we won’t be at Skepticon. Reason Rally, Amazing Meeting, Women in Secularism, etc. are uncool for not making these events accessible.

  • http://skepticalimerick.blogspot.com/ Rich Stage

    Perhaps here in Columbus, OH we are lucky. The Humanist Community of Central Ohio is a well run organization that provides no-cost events regularly. We have knitting events that are held at a local Panera, and purchase is not required to attend. Many meetings are held at local libraries. They provide free meeting spaces to everyone, regardless of belief.

    I’m in the same financial situation as some of the other posters here, but there are free options in almost every community.

    Also, Meetup is an invaluable resource for connecting to other godless heathens in your area

  • Boggin828

    I belong to an atheist parent group. We go to the science center, play dates, stroller walks, the children’s museum, among other things. I recommend meetup.com, it’s how I found my group! You can choose to attend only the free events (like we usually do- I am also gainfully unemployed due to the joys of the recession).

  • http://twitter.com/UnderINK Ava Wilson

    This is SPOT ON. This is why more Atheists need to utilise MeetUp, the website, and put together regional get-togethers with small $10 dollar dues during monthly meetings.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

    I think you may be looking for something your church may have provided which the atheist movement does not. I think you are missing the point of the atheist movement. The atheist movement as a whole is transient. That is, we only exist as a group because we are the “other” box. We are the non-theists. We are coming together to reach a common goal: separation of church and state and promotion of science and reasoning over theism. Once the USA has reached a critical mass where non-theists make up > 50%, how would you group atheists together? 

    Atheist groups exist for different reasons. In some situations, the group is organized to focus on atheism and/or anti-theist topics. In other situations, it’s merely a social group which originally started with the common-ground that they were all atheists. Your misconception lies here – with the assumption that there should be some atheist community that goes on.You appear to like to bake. Do you know others that like to bake? Why not join some sort of cooking community?My point is that atheism is not a community like any religion is. Religious folks tend to all follow the same dogma. We do not.We are a community like Democrats are a community. Do Democratic conventions offer the stuff you want? Democratic day care of kids at conferences? To be sure, some Democrats may meet together when there are only a few of them in a right-wing area but what they choose to do is independent of their reason for coming together in the first place.

  • Steph

    I wanted to write about my personal experience with this to show you that there are ways to build a community with out spending money and without the infrastructure of a church.  If you are considering trying to form a group, you might find it interesting. 
     
     A few years ago I felt the same way that the author of this post feels now.  I was having a hard time finding what I wanted—which was a group of atheist homeschooling mothers.  I felt very out of place in the homeschooling community. I wanted to meet people I could talk to in person about raising kids while atheist and homeschooling while atheist.  
     
    I checked out the ethical society, who had a weekly Sunday morning meeting.  Most of the folks were older than me and there were few kids present.  The atheist meetups were at restaurants or bars and most of the attendees were single guys.  The UU church was fine, and the people were nice.  But, really, it was still too church-y for my taste. Because of my introversion, a large group setting is not really what I wanted.
     
    In the end, I decided to bite the bullet and start up a group myself.  Besides being an atheist homeschooling parent, I was also working at the time.  So, I know all about being busy.  But, it is not all that hard to start up an email loop and invite people you think might be interested.  They can then invite people they know.  Once you have a handful of people, you can start meeting in person, if that is what you want to do.  I specifically created my group to be for atheist homeschooling mothers.  I was surprised at the number of people who were interested. I am thinking that if I can find enough homeschooling mothers to form a group, then people with other interests should be able to do it as well. 
     
    Our group is still mainly email based, but we meet monthly.  Members take turns hosting the meeting in their homes. The email discussions are wonderful—we share article and videos and then discuss.  The in-person meetings are always fun.  The real gem is the friendships I’ve made with the other members.  The formal meetings are only once per month, and cancelled during the summer.  But, I get together with a smaller subset of the other members informally much more often.  Several of the members of the group have become very close friends.  Our kids hit it off, too. 
     
    I am an introverted person, so for me having a few like-minded close friends is the perfect type of community to meet my needs.
     
    Anyway, if you want to start up a group, I found that starting with an email loop, inviting people that you think might be interested, and then gradually moving to face-to-face activities worked well.  There is one thing that you have to do though—you have to be comfortable being “out” as an atheist, because otherwise you may never find out who else in your local area is like minded.  I was pretty sure when I started that there were few atheists in my local homeschooling community.  Once I opened up about my own views, I found I was not alone and I was able to form my group. I did get snubbed by a few former friends, but the new friends I gained definitely made up for it.  And some of the people I thought would snub me ended up being really cool about it even though we disagree. 
     
     I also found that, in the beginning, I had to be the person who started most of the discussions on our email loop.  I made a point to post a question or an article every day.  I also responded to everything that anyone else posted, so they would be encouraged to post again.  I hosted the first couple of in-person meetings in my home.
     
    Somebody had to put in the work to start the group and get it rolling, or it would never have happened.  Since it was something that I really wanted, I decided to do that work. Now the group is on auto-pilot, but I have the community I want, the friendships I need, and my life is a whole lot happier.  Worth the time and effort!!
     

    • Neil Terry

      That is awesome.  Good for you and your kids!

  • Kim C.

    Meetup.com is what brought me in. Sure, we have a night at the bar, and we have coffee meetups, but we also have a movie night. We found a place that let us use their facilities for free initially, but after they closed, movie night moved to our house. People bring snacks. I’m an introvert too, and it’s hard sometimes, really hard, but it’s worth it.

    Meetup is worth checking out, though, just to see if somebody is doing something in your area.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chrisalgoo Chris Algoo

    “I’ve never experienced what you’re experiencing, and therefore it doesn’t exist.” – Half the commenters in this thread

  • Anurraagg A

    I feel a little better after reading this. (Not really,  no.) While I’m surrounded by religions what really makes me wish I had other atheists to talk to is all the superstition and how everyone thinks its normal to get up in the morning and check your horoscope. If I’m sleepy its annoying, if not it disgusts me and for the rest of the day I see all the symptoms of this disease even more. Horoscopes, black cats, spilled water, broken glass ….. usually ending with messages about impending death cos a street dog is howling. I donno how many of you know they WORSHIP god-men (and women) here!!

    And people think you are abnormal if you even tell them that you don’t pray. I remember actually thinking a friend in school was weird when he said he doesn’t believe that there’s a god of any kind. Maybe if I had had a discussion or argument I would have de-converted right then. Most of the educated and rational(?) people I know are agnostic (they don’t realize it tho’). If we had what you guys in the U.S. have (SSA, FFRF etc.) I wouldn’t be as depressed. But there is almost nothing of that sort here.

    I sometimes think that maybe another great war or aliens or maybe nukegeddon will cure us. Then I realize they’ll blame it was Dawkins’ doing. I feel so empty right now.

    I don’t feel any better after writing this either.

  • Mike Caton

    I’m sorry that this has kept you away!  Here in San Diego we have a group that’s zero or very low cost most of the time, and mostly we get together and socialize (picnics, bonfires, hikes, community service, etc.)   Not everything has to be a convention!

  • DeepFriedFT

    Second attempt,

    We also had noticed a steady decrease in our group meet-ups, granted we were meeting every weekend. I know this took a toll on people’s schedules and their pocketbooks as well. It was still confusing at first when we only saw at most 10% of our group at this meet ups.

    So Tweenky and I looked around for alternatives for places to meet up and create a much more inviting situation for all.

    *Local Book Store(s) -We found that Barnes and Noble had a closing time of 11pm on the weekends. So we started having a meet up after our dinner group in the bookstore lounge. We even had nearby patrons of the store join in on our discussions. It doesn’t cost anything to stay in the store so that was a plus. A bookstore which is usually attached to or near a mall gives other excuses to be in the area.*Libraries - 
    We found that most Libraries in the area have a private room for quiet discussion and study groups that can be reserved. 

    * Conference Room -
    Some hotels have a conference room that can be rented or reserved for a low amount. You could take up a pool of money from all interested members and bring your own snacks and drinks. This would cost far less than 4-6 people going out for dinner at a local restaurant.

    * Group members home -
    This only just recently came up as one member mentioned they had a new place and it was large enough to accommodate a few people. *Online Chat -
    Sounds boring right?  Think of it as a safe way to have a discussion with like minded individuals. this is especially important since most of our group is made up of young adults that may not have access to a vehicle or allowed to go “hang out”.Additionally, we have been working with SAUCEFORALL.com in getting a system in place that would allow us to have a speaker come on via Skype, Ventrilo or even RaidCall and give a talk of sorts or just have a discussion. This would allow a greater number of members from a great many other groups to join in, listen and even have a discussion.Money, time and public visibility are all issues that a vast majority of interested folks just do not have or do not want to risk. We need to do better in finding a solution that can accommodate most and still be inviting to new members that have an interest to learn more.

    • DeepFriedFT

      for some reason my spacing keeps getting squished 3/4 of they down the page, sorry about that.

    • Randomfactor

       I belong to a local atheist group that typically meets only in members’ houses, or at local parks.  It tends to be a potluck, but nobody notices if someone attends but doesn’t bring something fancy.  But I know what the original poster is talking about, and I want to see our group develop even further into something that could offer–say–a lending closet for home-health equipment (crutches/wheelchairs, etc) or a revolving loan fund to help a member pay an unexpected hardship expense.  Somewhere down the line we’d like to have a meeting house akin to a church building–but we get by without.  Right now we’re taking a collection up to pay for our nonprofit incorporation paperwork.

      Another item on our list–a group account at the local blood bank, with donations credited to any member who needs blood in an emergency.

  • LesterBallard

    I’m kind of a misanthropic loner, so this really isn’t a problem for me. Good luck to the rest of you, though.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

      You’re like my husband… unfortunately, I’m a socializer, which means I have to socialize alone.

    • Neil Terry

      I feel that….I could realistically just find a stray dog for companionship, move to a mountaintop, and be content until I got old and died….but sometimes I still want just at least a good conversation.  As content as I am with my own thoughts, if there was a cool meet-up group near me, I would at least check it out for shits and giggles. 

  • Jefe

    I don’t know where you live, but in my city we have a Skeptic’s club that has pub-nights and such, where the cost is merely what you choose to eat/drink at the venue.

    You might want to check for similar clubs in your area.

  • http://www.facebook.com/clduckett Craig Duckett

    I, myself, have never felt the urge to go to an event or attend get-togethers with other atheists. Maybe it’s because I have a B.A. and M.A. in Philosophy, so I’ve grown accustomed to having nobody else to talk shop with (not a lot of card-carrying philosophers out in the field). Over the years, I’ve learned to appreciate both philosophy and atheism as a solitary sport, although part of that sport is commenting profusely about various matters on the web!

  • Wild Rumpus

    In Vancouver,BC, talking about your religion at social events is seen as gauche and inappropriate. Religion is something done privately.

    Reading some of these stories makes me sad and bewildered. I am always thinking “oh come on, it can’t be THAT bad in the US…” but I guess it really, really is.

    I wish more Americans could understand the freedom of living in a truly secular community, or a multicultural community where religion is never discussed because claiming to be the only true faith among many is just seen as arrogant.

    • Tainda

      It IS that bad here.  When you start a job it doesn’t take a week before someone asks where you go to church or something of the sort.  At least where I live which is on the fringe of the “bible belt”.  I call a lot of doctor’s offices every day and I get quite a few “have a blessed day” at the end of the calls.  I can name at least 3 people at my hospital who have a bible verse in their email signature (I’m sure there are many more but of the ones I interact with on a regular basis)

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

        I’m nowhere near the bible belt but am in the Pacific Northwest and it is the same here.  When meeting ANYONE new, one of the first questions is asking what church I attend.  There are Christian fish on either the signs or the doors of most of the businesses in town.  Our town is relatively small, but we have TWO parochial schools and the charter school (with the highest test scores in town) rents rooms in a church (my son went there).  You just can’t escape the religiosity of this area.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

      We plan a move to Vancouver at some point in our future, so this is good know.

      Yes, it IS that bad in the US.  The thing that the faithful, fundie Christians is that they see their own faith as the only faith rather than one among many.  I can’t count how many have told me that my poor Catholic mother will be going to hell for being Catholic (it’s a “cult,” you know).

    • Neil Terry

      One funny reversal….I live in a place where maybe half to two thirds are slightly religious, yet many or most don’t care too much about it or go to church, and there are damn near no fundies.  There aren’t really many “out” atheists, humanists, or secular activists either, because we don’t have the social problems caused by excessive religion.  The end result….it’s good and tolerant, yet a little…boring sometimes.  Interesting conversations are often quietly suppressed by politeness.  Almost nobody is really much of a humanist, few people care about the culture of the country at large, and even though I have lots of christian friends, I’M the asshole if I talk about beliefs, since none of them really do either!  Even though there are religious nuts by the millions in California, and it DOES affect the culture, it’s not a serious issue where I live, so I look like the zealot when I bring up religion, or humanism, or even sometimes just science education and the threats it faces! 

  • http://carpescriptura.wordpress.com/ MrPopularSentiment

    As a poor atheist, I’ve found that the best way for me to get to participate in the movement is to become an organizer. If you’re doing a lot of the volunteering/organizing, you often get to attend for free. If not, you can organize events that fit your budget. For example, CFI-Ottawa has quite a few potluck picnics and other free get togethers. When we do charge admission, we try to keep prices as low as possible while still covering the costs of putting on the event, which usually means $2-3 per person. 

    Yes, the movement does need to take its demographic into account. Here in Ottawa, many of our people are students and young families, and being poor is a big part of both.

  • http://twitter.com/MarcBarnhill Marc David Barnhill

    Wonderfully clear and incisive post, Amanda, despite the clear emotional pain behind it. You’re absolutely right, and while some organizations (like CFI-NYC) are doing what I think is a fine job of broadening their outreach and supportive community-building, the movement as a whole is in serious danger of losing momentum and relevance at its base. Looking forward to part 2!

  • Thankthesnake

    Wow… This person may “actually” be an atheist. I wonder if she “actually” knows what an atheist is. She sounds more like a social animal who hasn’t forgotten her religion. Or who’s been looking for a new one. The poor thing! And this is just the story of a “joiner” retold. I can’t wait for Part 2. On second thought… yes I can.

    • http://twitter.com/m_ethaniel Mistletoe Ethaniel

      Oh please. I’m sofa king tired of other people questioning atheists as to whether or not they’re the True Scotsman type of atheist that fits into their own view, whatever it may be.

      Not believing in the existence of a deity and wanting to be part of a social community are not mutually exclusive.

      And you sound kind of like a jerk.  See, I can make snap judgments based on short amounts of text too.

    • Neil Terry

      It is clear that you think enjoying social contact is a sign of weakness or some such bullshit.  I can guarantee you one thing…that in all the atheist secular meetups all over the world, you will never be missed. 

  • StarStuff

    There’s going to be a atheist convention here in a week or so.  I was looking forward to going until I found the price of the event.  Yes, they have to pay for the facilities, etc. but I found it to be overpriced for 8 speakers and nothing else,  except for the food & merchandise for an additional cost. (No, I don’t think those items should be given away. I’m just trying to point out what you do & do not get for the entry fee). I attended one at UW Madison which was free and had more lecturers including  3 (that I’m aware of) who will be coming here.  For the fee, I was hoping for booths with information, activities, etc. but I was corrected because I apparently don’t get that “convention” “lecture series” are the same thing…

  • Hjj

    Have You been to meetup.com? It is an organization with a lot of different groups. I belong to an Atheist Parents group and we do a lot of what you described. We go to the park. We have pot-lucks at other peoples houses. We go to *cheap* restaurants for dinner. We have Halloween parties. And it’s not just to discuss atheist topics. It’s just so we can hang out together knowing that someone isn’t going to want to pray before a meal or other such nonsense.

  • s hallard-Metcalf

    it seems strange to me (as an englishman living in australia) that atheism is even a ‘movement’ at all, never having lived in a non secualr soceity it baffles me as to why as atheists we would need such support groups, maybe i should just count mself damned lucky that belief (either for or against) has never been an issue in the world i grew up in

  • Zachary Moore

    The biggest event at the Fellowship of Freethought in Dallas (http://meetup.fofdallas.org/) is free of charge, and always has been. Easily half of all the events on their calendar don’t require any money. Sure, there are pub nights and restaurants, but there’s also outreach events and a bicycling club. We provide events for a wide demographic, including singles, families, and people on a budget.

  • http://profiles.google.com/tychabrahe Lauren Eve Pomerantz

    When I first moved to Chicago, the CFI offered a monthly lecture series.  It was free with CFI membership, $5 without.  I heard some great lectures, met some very interesting people, and learned that you can sing Oh Little Town of Bethlehem to the tune of The House of the Rising Sun.

    About 18 months ago they just stopped, and I can’t get anyone to explain why.  

    There is a monthly dinner meeting, which I attended once, but it was so noisy that I couldn’t hear anything from one end of the table.  The other end was talking about reality television.  If I liked that crap, I’d be home now, watching it.

    There’s a group called Secular Singles.  I happen to be single.  I also happen to be pushing 50, so I don’t fit in with the young-and-flirty crowd (although to be honest, I didn’t fit in with it when I was that age, either).  Bars and comedy clubs and Sunday morning brunch just isn’t my thing.

    My two best friends in this city are Christian, and while I love to get together with them (we share a passion for books, good food, and knitting), I’d love to discuss the latest book with someone.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

    At this point, what I’m taking away from this article and the comments is that A) there are social people, semi-social people, and introverts who are atheist; B) there are wealthy people, middle income people, and poor people who are atheist; C) there are people who like to organize thing and people who prefer to sit back and wait for something to be organized, be it because they are busy or are introverts; D) there are people who want to hang with other self-identified atheists and there are people who don’t care what label their associates adopt for themselves; and E) there is a mix of all of these types of atheist people who read this blog and comment.

    Good to know we are a well-rounded group! 

    Amanda, I hope you find a group you like that does things you like for little to no cost.  I’m sure there are others near you who are looking for the same thing but unless someone is willing to organize the group, you may be out of luck.

  • Paul S.

    Ohh how I wish we had Amanda in our group, The Humanist Community in Thousand Oaks, Ca. But she could still find a group by looking up a local Ethical Society or Am Humanist Assn chapter.

  • http://twitter.com/jbey Jamila Bey

    I didn’t know there was any “movement” until I showed up at a talk and met some cool people who invited me to come back.  
    They told be about a family event where my child would be welcomed and I met other families.  Other black folks.  Other women of color.  Other parents.  Other like minded-people who I love, adore and miss terribly when we don’t get together. 

    This post is wonderful.  This post makes me sad that I live in a city where our taken-for-granted outness and community is as rare as it is.

    • Simon

      Just means we gotta keep working at it Jamila :-)

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/BPR2OEV4OXBWV44RDYZLDKYM7A Didgya

    I was going to come down on you as a whiner but I realize that is unfair.  You are just expressing how you feel about the situation.  I suggest you join secular organizations and if it does not affect you job or life, then take the opportunity to talk to others about being an atheist.  I admit that I do not talk about it at my full time job, but at my part time job I will when the opportunity presents itself.  I get a lot of “God Bless You’s” if I give some one a sweet discount (I’m a checker outer :)   I usually smile or say thank you but then I follow it up with a little conversation or comment with other close by employees.  “Too bad I don’t believe in that stuff.” or  “I guess they don’t know that I’m an atheist.” and the young people don’t even bat an eye and that is a simple way to tell people that it is ok. 

  • Neil Terry

    I really feel for many of my fellow American atheists. 

     Even when I lived in more conservative areas of California, religion was not really worn on peoples’ sleeves unless you were dating a daughter from a conservative christian family.  Where I live now, it’s extemely rare that it’s an issue at all, and if somebody starts making a “jesus scene” in public, even the other christians are embarrassed.  We have a shit-ton of churches per capita, but they’re all half empty and only a few people take church into daily life.  There are all of TWO christian crackpots who are always getting their letters to the editor published, and they are nothing but an embarrassing laughingstock.

    Between my girlfriend of 15 years, my dog, and a few close friends, I have just about all the social life I need, and most public social events have no religious component at all.  I even go to a free theatre “open mic” event once a month and play my crappy little anti-religious songs in front of 80-100 other theatre fans(some of them UU’s or similarly liberal believers) and even though I can barely play and I often get a bit irreverent and even insulting with my lyrics, I get a lot more applause and compliments than anything else.  The ones who don’t like it just shut up and deal. 

    However- unlike a lot of people who have had similarly secular lives in California, or New York, or big city areas, I realize that many, many places in the U.S. are not nearly as accepting.  I’ve travelled a bit and I have friends and family in the midwest and south, and southwest….almost all of them either eventually turned religious or have much more limited social lives as a result.  Some of them outright depend on their churches for social connections, services and friends.  Most of the mainstream public events have a religious component, and you often just cannot get away from the preaching and evengelism unless you only go to Marilyn Manson concerts or other counter-culture type things, or go to the movies by yourself.  It’s sad, disappointing, and unnecessary, but there it is. 

    My point is….It’s really annoying to keep hearing clueless jackass atheists yammering on about “Quit trying to make atheism a religion!!!”  “Just go hiking, DUH!!!”  Not all atheists live in secular strongholds.  Not all atheists make good money or have lots of free time.  Not all atheists have even the basic social support they need.  Not all atheists are happy with a small to non-existent social circle. Not all atheists-raised kids have enough friends and secular-friendly events to go to. 

    In some areas, getting ANY event to be more-or-less secular can be a challenge, and finding like-minded people can be extremely difficult.  Not everyone is as good at making friends as I am.  Many are poor like me.  Many have WAY more responsibilities than I do.  While I hope that more will try to get out and organize something themselves, and realize that “the movement” can’t do everything for everyone, we can at least try to be helpful instead of dismissive, and realize that some of us have it much, much easier than others.  I’m poor and don’t even have a car, but in many ways I’m still MUCH better off than middle-class atheists in
    in highly religious, conservative areas.  So I try not to be a jerk about it.

    Peace, and good luck to all you non-believers trying not to choke on the fumes of  a hyper-religious society.  If I come up with any brilliant ideas, I’ll certainly try to share.  As some of the more helpful commenters have suggested, you’ll probably have to do most of the work yourselves, and it IS doable…but at least the online community should be trying to give good ideas and share successful strategies, not give dismissive advice that doesn’t apply at all.         

  • RodChlebek

    My group, Michiana Skeptics, has adopted a trail. We clean that twice a month. No fees/costs. Also, usually once a month we’ll reserve a room at the library (free) and someone will lead a discussion.

  • Stacey

    I agree with you, and many commenters here. We shouldn’t have to treat atheism as a religion to get the same kind of social connections. It would be great, however, if god-talk wasn’t always popping up in normal conversation making me feel uncomfortable to have to decide whether I just shut up and ignore it, or to just laugh and frankly say what I really think. Example today on facebook: Thank god I was held up at work or I might have been in that horrible car accident. Yeah, some lady ended up in the hospital. Oh, god must have been protecting you. – My comment: “Yeah, God must really hate that other lady, huh. Lol.”  
    I used to wish for an atheist community for all those good reasons, but I also think it’s good that atheists aren’t a cult-like group. We are everywhere, we do everything, we’re just people without an imaginary friend-overlord.

  • Mlerma54

    In my area the Ethical Humanist Society provides an environment that may be appealing to secular people who miss the social aspects of religion.

  • rg57

    I agree.  While some protest that atheism “is not a religion”,  it IS a belief system.  We just believe different (or fewer) things, than theists.  Not all atheists agree on everything, but neither do all Christians. So I fail to see why the tax and other financial advantages that are attached to religious ritual, community, promotion, and whatnot should not also apply to atheists, who also have a worldview, just without gods.  Leveling the playing field would help quite a bit.

    • Agnostic

      So will Dawkins be the founder of a new religion?

      • Agnostic

        Oh, I forgot that religion is the reason why the glass is half empty and not why there is any water at all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cameron-Willadsen/550975056 Cameron Willadsen

    You’ve hit on the #1 reason why I can’t be as engaged in the movements to the degree(read ANY) that I would like. I live in the Seattle area and would love to attend a event not too far away in Oregon but with struggling just to make it every day. There is no practical way I could. And while atheism lies at the root of the involvement. The practical issues of worries over our economic, moral and political future as a nation branch out from those roots.

  • http://www.thethirtyyearitch.com/ George Lichman

    This is an excellent post, very well articulated, and something I’m trying to work on in my efforts to start the Northeast Ohio Humanists group. I do, however, have some questions/comments.

    The post started out as if Amanda wanted to be involved in activism for the Atheist cause, which I would presume would include removing religion from government and schools, working against discrimination of Atheists or non-religious people, and other separation of church and state and civil rights issues. There are several inexpensive/free events or organizations that need volunteers to help spread the word. Some include Humanist/Atheist/Freethinker organizations, but there are political candidates and other organizations as well, like the American Humanist Association, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the ACLU, etc. But the post seemed to shift gears towards social needs that aren’t filled by the Atheist organizations: food for new parents, help transporting children, picnics, movie screenings, book clubs (ok, I added the book clubs, because I would enjoy that!). Those are needs that are often filled by members of a church congregation or parish, which as atheists, we obviously lack. I, too, would like to have a social network that is there for my family and me. However, to expect that is perhaps to confuse what atheism with a religion; it is not. That is not to say that there can’t be groups and organizations that provide a sense of community for like minded people; I would love to have that and is why I’m trying to work towards that in the Cleveland area. I know a few atheists, my brother among them, who don’t believe anything like an Atheist Church should exist; he fears it could grow to be just as dogmatic as religion has become. Additionally, while followers of a religion often have a similar world view, atheists are less so, which could make it difficult for such an organization to thrive. I, on the other hand, long for this human connection and interaction, and for my family to have similar interaction with people who believe the way my wife and I do. The Humanist Society provides some of this in training and managing of Humanist Celebrants to preside over traditionally religious ceremonies like weddings, funerals, and baby-naming ceremonies. This is a good start.

    The solution to Amanda’s concern is not to “deconvert”, which implies going back to religion/church to fill the void she feels. Instead, it is to become involved in a local Humanist/Freethinkers/Atheist organization and make it what you want it to be. Steer the group through leadership positions or by voicing these desires. I assure you that you’re not the only one out there who wants this camaraderie with like-minded people. These groups are what their members want them to be, and can fill different needs for different people. If to this point your local atheist group is more into meeting at expensive bars to reiterate what we already believe, or don’t believe, then suggest the next meeting a family picnic at a local park. Suggest starting a different account for gifts for birthdays, when a member becomes a parent. If they are not open to that, start another group that is. Having atheist organizations that provide this goal is important for our membership, but it will also serve the advance of atheist and Humanist values just by its members being an example to others and making other aware that there are alternatives to religion and churches that will meet social needs.

    Thanks, Amanda, for the post. It was, as you can tell, thought provoking!

  • http://twitter.com/DevitekPond Devitek Pond

    This is PRECISELY what I started my site for! You couldn’t have summed things up better, well done!

  • BJB

    Yes, atheism is expensive –at least for me, a SS widow in her mid-70s. The only conference I ever attend is the one held in Madison, WI, I believe every 3 years. I save like mad from conference to conference so I can drive myself there, afford the hotel room, eat modestly over that anticipated weekend. Because of my age, I’m not interested in “fun” things – I can do those with acquaintances who are also quasi-Christians, gungho Christians, etc.  if my loneliness comes to the point of being unbearable. I need companionship with freethinkers with whom I can meet for coffee or lunch once in a while and speak openly about my atheism, what I’m reading, questions I have, etc.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/KR3WX4DCBEOLDZGUYKKXNDGP44 SOD

    amanda do I ever agree…I moved back to MN to take care of my parents (both have terminal cancer) and they are very religious.  I have not attend none of the atheist groups becuase it means a ride up to the Twin Cities and then spend more money on food and drink.  All the support groups in the area are religious based for people dealing with dying family members.  Its very frustrating listening to the bullshit and when they pass the bullshit is going to be worse.  Where do I go and what do I do???????????????????????????????????

  • MadSeamstress2000

    I agree–where ARE the covered dish dinners! At least our small town secular group has it’s monthly meetings at the library (free). I suggested a picnic or pot luck, and no one responded. We did go outto eat  after the meetings a few times, but there again–some people were lft out because of $$$.

  • http://www.facebook.com/CathySeipMcLean Cathy Seip- McLean

    Churches have an unfair advantage over us. They are able to build tax free structures where they can meet (tax free) and enjoy “fellowhip.” They might have pot lucks, women or men fellowship, youth groups. All free and clear of the money we have to spend for meeting places. Perhaps we should pursue a tax free status and start opening atheist centers around the country and world. It seems only fair. 

  • http://www.SecularCensus.US/ American Secular Census

    Amanda, your feelings are shared by many other women who are finding barriers to greater participation in the secular movement. In fact, money is the #2 obstacle women cite on the American Secular Census survey. (#1 is TIME.) See http://secularcensus.us/analysis/2012/07-31 (Six obstacles standing between American women and the secular movement).l

  • Morgan

    Australia had an atheist conference. Just one, in Melbourne. I almost paid for flights to attend before finding out that tickets themselves were $300. Ridiculous, no young student atheists can afford this

  • Margo Viger

    My biggest issue with the community is that it just isn’t enjoyable to be around for the most part. Locally, we have a combination of young men (20-29) that are strident, aggressive and beat you down with sarcasm while the rest just go on and on and on about evolution. It’s really dry stuff and after having gone to a meeting or two I just knew it was never going to be for me, so I just help out in the community around me now, go out for walks and movies and if the topic of my beliefs come up I label myself a Humanist, explain my disinterest in religion as a whole and try to lend a hand where I can.

    I’m hoping to see a “Mellow and Humanist” branch pop up at some point, where people don’t feel SO required to be issue-oriented, but rather people oriented, but am not holding my breath…

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/5AU7DJ4GGBKTNOMWD3HBZVBGZ4 Randall

    So atheists are jerks just like everyone else.  snicker

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=759720170 Bryan Smiley

    it was just a few years ago that this would’ve been the same situation for those of us living in the Indianapolis area.  When I ‘came out’ as an atheist in 2003, there was a very small ‘humanist friends’ group and nothing else as far as I could see.  But that has changed.  A handful of people started forming groups – usually meeting at restaurants…but then 1 person in particular, Reba, decided to take it upon herself to spearhead the effort to create the Indianapolis branch of the Center for Inquiry…which is now a community center to provide for the social experiences asked for in this article.  There are free ge- togethers at CFI Indy.  There are events for different age groups and different interests throughout the month.  There are additional informal groups in the Indianapolis area and CFI Indy serves as a communication hub to tie us all together. 

    When I ‘came out’ what I saw needed was a community center for secularists.  Reba and the others willing to contribute did this for us. 

    Yes, it’s nice when someone else does this…but to make it happen, it takes one person to take on the responsibility to make it happen for all of us.  Someone has to start it.

    Atheism hasn’t failed anyone when it comes to social experiences.  If we don’t have  a community center, it’s because we failed to organize and create a community center.  We need people in all geographic locations willing to step up and build community centers for secularists.  Those that have the financial resources need to donate the money to create and maintain the community centers.  Those that don’t have the money, donate their time and effort.  It takes many different people donating, time, energy and money.

    If it doesn’t happen, it’s not because atheism has failed  us.  We have failed ourselves. 

  • Home Base

    I’m sorry to hear that. I’m NOT just a Gnostic Theist but I’m also the one that had seen and felt His presence. He is a powerful spirit. I could sense Him physically. I don’t want to list down what I have seen or felt, that will be too winded.

    Many so-called theists have NEVER seen or even ‘felt’ His presence because He chooses to reveal Himself to the one that He desires. In the old testament, He could be seen and talked to. Moses, Jesus, and some other prophets had seen and talked to Him. I too have talked to Him. I questioned and He answered. It’s very strange to those who have not experienced this before. It’s almost unbelievable. But, it’s true. Therefore, He is God and there is God.

    This also means that MANY will NOT get to see Him. And this is a BIG problem to believers. You can’t be encouraged to believe if He continues to be passive or in a “don’t care” state or hiding somewhere. As you can clearly see that the Earth is NOT an atheistic one. Atheism is like paddling against the flow of nature because nature is theistic. That’s why they hardly win when it comes to debates. Dawkins, the high priest who had left atheism for agnosticism knew it well enough why He chose to leave atheism. ID was another nail into the coffin.

    If God continues to hide from you, then ask Him why. It’s between you and Him. These people here cannot help you.

    And I’m sorry to say that atheism is nothing to offer but as anaesthesia to become senseless and numb to God. You will realize that such numbness do have side effects.

  • Paula M Smolik

    Last summer, I lost my job, which effectively killed off any possibility for my husband and I to have extra spending money.
    Never mind the bad grammar…isn’t she saving money by not giving it to church????