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The atheist community May 27, 2009

Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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What types of atheist communities are there?

There are atheist meetups, local organizations, national organizations, conventions, podcasts, drinking skeptically (I think, I haven’t seen it for myself…), and a range of books and online sources. There is a community, and it is growing.

Humans are, after all, social beings. We tend to crave some sort of community, acceptance, and people to seek understanding and support from. And for many, probably most in many parts of the world, religion–whether it is church, temple, or whatever place one goes to worship–fills that need in our lives.

And there are religious congregations all over the map. There are snake-handling, tongue-speaking, and body-shaking congregations as well as gatherings of those who may not even share the same theistic beliefs who come together once a week to hear sermons on the various aspects of life, love, and death from the perspective of a more secular worldview.

But whether you are a Pentecostalist or a Unitarian Universalist (or anywhere in between or outside these ranges), you understand the importance of community.

Now, I’ve never liked church. When I was a kid, my parents tried to attend a Lutheran church once a week in order to…well, I really don’t know why, but they did. I never liked it. I didn’t believe the mythology, I didn’t like the songs, but the people were pretty nice, overall. And for a little while I got a glimpse of what it was like to be part of a community around where we lived. My mom was re-married in that same church, and I even attended Sunday school for a little while, but that was short-lived. Those who ask too many questions don’t end up fitting in for too long.

And that was the problem. I had problems with fitting in with communities. I asked too many of the “wrong” questions. I wondered why. And despite the genuine desire for understanding in some religious communities, to question the very basis of faith is often an ostracizing force, even if subtly so.

Where could I find people that were like me? Why couldn’t I find them? Well, eventually I did. Atheists are people like me. Atheists tend to be people who ask questions, the impertinent ones that people don’t tend to like.

Wait, did I get that backwards? Perhaps; maybe it is the people that ask the impertinent questions that become atheists? Maybe that’s the case, although I certainly know people that ask the questions but are not atheists…yet.

Come to an atheist meetup, a local nontheist group, or find a website with a discussion board that talks about religion and you’ll find places where atheists talk. And when we find communities of people like ourselves, we are able to stop biting our tongue, stop deferring to religious ubiquity, and we can allow ourselves to be ourselves.

And while we can find our own communities, we find that we tend to only have one thing in common, mostly; our lack of belief in any gods. Beyond this, finding similarities is accidental. Our opinions are all over the map. You will find socialists, bankers, engineers, writers, homosexuals, people married with children, people who hate kids, people that don’t drink alcohol, people that can’t wait for their next beer, and those that wish that the atheist meetup location had some good beer and can’t wait to get to the Belgian beer bar down the street after the meeting (that would be me).

We are a collection of individuals, having found our place in the world as non-believers in superstition early in life, after retirement, openly, or kept hidden from co-workers and family. But we find each other. We must because it is part of being human to do so. Even the shy, the quiet, and the introvert will end up finding their place, even if it is just to sit quietly and listen.

Because organizing atheists may be like herding cats, but we still seek each-other because we are human, just like the rest of you.

And if you are looking for a community near you, and can’t find one, start one. There many be others out there looking as well.

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