How To Grow Your Atheist Group April 29, 2009

How To Grow Your Atheist Group

How do you grow your atheist group?

It’s simple, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about a college group, a MeetUp group, or a national organization’s affiliate group.

I’ll quote Dr. Bruce Flamm, an atheist group leader himself:

“Our group started growing when we realized people wanted to go out and enjoy life, not sit sound and talk about Spinoza.”

I’ve sat through a number of those philosophical meetings… ugh. Am I the only atheist who doesn’t give a $#*! about what academics/philosophers have to say about God? So boring (Daniel Dennett, excluded). If it takes more than a Twitter to explain your position, you’ve probably lost me.

The most successful groups I know actually switch off. They may meet every week, but if that’s the case, one week is discussion-based (e.g. how to come out to your family, how to combat a Creationist, etc.)… and the other week is a bar outing, or a bowling night, or atheist karaoke.

That’s all in addition to putting on events, doing volunteer work, or listening to a speaker.

Another benefit to “actually doing stuff”: younger people might come to your meetings.

Anyone else have better suggestions? What does your group do that works so well and draws in a bigger atheist crowd?

(via August)


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  • bill

    the annual baby-eating contest usually gets a big draw. atheist competetive eaters from all around the world come to see who can consume the most babys in 10 minutes. last year the winner set a record with 19. this year espn may televise it. its funny how eating that many babies can make a person look pregnant…

  • stogoe

    Am I the only atheist who doesn’t give a $#*! about what academics/philosophers have to say about God?

    I dunno, it’s kinda interesting, but it’s more appropriate for a blog than a meetup, definitely.

    I would absolutely show up for atheist karaoke. Or any karaoke, for that matter.

  • Nick Wallin

    We do various things, like game nights or movie nights, as well as hosting debates or presentations. However, we go out to dinner after every meeting, which may be what draws people to our events. It’s probably just that we’re all friends and hence want to hang out anyway.

  • beckster

    Our non-religious parenting meetup group in Raleigh, NC has Sunday brunch where the adults get to hang out and chat and the kids get to play. Very fun. We also go on family hikes and meetup at playgrounds with our kids. We have an occasional discussion group.

  • Ron in Houston

    I tell ya, we’re social creatures and modern society makes us feel cut off. One of the reasons I think people go to church is the connection to other folks.

    I like the idea of week on – week off type group. I think there are a number of issues that atheists have to face where having the benefit of others’ experiences are valuable.

  • Kate

    Our atheist group at NCSU used to just talk…not about deep, philosophical issues but just talk as people who shared something in common. I wouldn’t be drawn to a philosophical group – the main point of the group I was in was just to share experiences and feel comforted knowing that you weren’t alone.

  • Jared

    The group I go to either goes to a restaurant or watches a atheist related movie(or in the case of last time when we watched the first Left Behind video to get a laugh).

  • The vast majority of our meetings are discussion-based. I think the discussions are interesting (with some exceptions), but then, maybe that’s because I’m the secretary. We have social activities too, but they’re usually done spontaneously after meetings.

    If it takes more than a Twitter to explain your position, you’ve probably lost me.

    Ha! I don’t think I could ever Twitter myself, because I don’t get the micro part of micro-blogging.

  • Tina

    Honestly, I don’t go to a local group because . . .

    1. I’m afraid of being too young (27) because in my mind it is a bunch of 45+ year old sitting around discussing philosophy.

    2. I simply want more social events like BBQ’s!!!!

  • FresnoMikey

    Jared,
    What is a “first Left Behind video ?”
    I have five serious diseases and always need a laugh.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Another way to grow your atheist group: offer them indulgences for attending meetings.

  • For Minnesota Atheists, the biggest draw are the monthly meetings, featuring a speaker, or panel discussion on subjects as varied as science education, separation of church and state and sex ed.

    BUT, just because those events have the largest draw at one time, doesn’t mean that they are the most popular. More people probably go to happy hours, book clubs, pub crawls, “Newbie Nights,” and participate in Charitable Works, but formed in groups of 20 or so at a time.

  • Oh, and younger people, start infecting local groups!

    Once we get in charge, we can make the events more diverse, so more people can do things they like together.

  • As an example, happy hour at a chinese food restaurant last night, 5 hours of people hanging out, talking about everything from quantum physics to trashy tv. It was great!

  • Jebediah

    If it takes more than a Twitter to explain your position, you’ve probably lost me.

    The Creationism for profit group LOVES your type.
    They are working feverously right now to create arguments in favor of creationism that are so absurd it takes more than a twitter entry to explain back… and they know that people like you and most tithing Christians will get lost in thoughts about food, television, Lindsay Lohan, etc. before a sound response can be made to the absurdity.
    At this point I figure I lost you at Lindsay Lohan.

  • I’m so proud to be a part of Dr. Bruce Flamm and his wife Jan Goings group, The Inland Empire Atheists. They are both amazing people. I feel like I finally has a family that totally accepts and understands me.

    Our group has so much fun! We do hike, meet at resturants, go to movies, have a gaming group, and do some activism! Amazing group! I hope others catch on to what Bruce and Jan are doing! A big thank you to all their efforts!

  • jen

    Hey tina! don’t be afraid to join a group cause you think you are too young…we have a diverse group of people,young, old-er, and old…lol and we love them. we also did farmers market night to let people know we are out there and we attracted a lot of young people…so go! you may just enjoy yourself.