Why Do Atheists Need to Get Together? December 1, 2010

Why Do Atheists Need to Get Together?

Marcia Segelstein has a piece at OneNewsNow about all those atheist billboards that are “bashing” religion:

I guess I just don’t understand. Christians (along with Jews and Muslims) gather in groups to worship. Atheists don’t gather not to worship, so why seek out members? What’s there to be a member of? And why should atheists care about stopping worshippers who are just “going through the motions”? Do they think they might get their hands on money once pledged to churches?

Trying to tear down the belief system of the world’s foremost religion — Christianity — is what seems intolerant to me. Placing prominent ads declaring the birth of Christ to be a myth seems downright hostile. To my mind, these campaigns feel defensive, as though atheists are weighted down with chips on their shoulders, or feel left out of some club.

No one’s trying to be hostile. It’s a question of truth. Christians think they have it but they don’t. They don’t have evidence; they cling to their “faith” precisely for that reason. Atheists are the ones shouting “The Emperor has no clothes!” and we’re frustrated that people usually don’t listen. Those people love listening to those pastors, though, who offer them false hopes and warped history wrapped in a wink and a smile.

When we find out someone else isn’t duped by all that, we get excited. Someone else doesn’t believe in a god?! We want to talk to them. For once, we don’t have to censor ourselves. We can talk openly about the mythology we learned in our churches and mosques, and the silly holy books and rules that everyone else actually based their lives around, and the absurd theories about science and history which were propagated by our pastors.

It’s refreshing to be around people who are honest about the way the world works.

You can joke about how atheists come together to “not pray” but we do so much more than that when we get together.

Maybe Segelstein can drop in on a local group’s meeting and see that for herself.

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  • Liz

    I wonder what definition of “foremost” she is using.

  • Rebecca

    I remember seeing a cartoon about this last year but I can’t find it. Some guy is walking along, whistling and smiling at the ten commandments posted in the classroom. Smiles at the god written on his money and then sees an atheist billboard and goes ape shit.

    We are not out to silence the opposition. We just like to remind them that we are here and have every right as they do to “advertise” our presence.

  • Don Rose

    Like she said: she just “doesn’t understand”.

    The hostility is all theirs. They started the whole thing, with their insane beliefs, which they want to inflict on everyone. When we simply disagree, and ask to be left alone, we’re “hostile”…..lol.

    I am loving the rising voice of atheism right now, and each and every one of the small victories I hear about every day.

  • fuzzybunnyslipperz

    I do have to admit that is the one thing I miss about going to church, the feeling of community and just flat out having a good time and enjoying the “fellowshipping”. The potlucks weren’t bad either. 😉 But I don’t miss it enough to go back to a church.

    I think Marcia is more afraid that Atheist clubs will draw people away from churches, because they won’t be the only “club” in town. Oh and someone should point out to her that Christianity, despite what they would believe, is NOT the “foremost” religion in the world. The way it reads to me is that the Christian church (at least her church) wants Atheists to feel alone, its easier to sway one person than a whole group.

  • Kristian Gore

    The Unitarian church here in Jacksonville has an Atheist discussion group that meets every Sunday to discuss current events and other interesting or important topics. I’ve attended a few myself and have even attended the Unitarian services a few times out of curiosity. I was surprised to find that nearly half the members of this church are actually Atheist and even considered joining as I do participate in the charitable functions of the church. I did not end up joining and although I do attend the discussion group often I, like most of the Atheist members, continue to be involved in the community outreach things like the organic community garden and charity fund raising. I have always enjoyed doing things to help people and have too often had to surround myself around religious people in order to do so. It has been a refreshing change to be able to do some good with other people who have a similar lack of belief in god or gods.

  • The lady is deluded more than the average Christian if she thinks hers is the “foremost” religion in the world. Islamists have her beat in that category, and nobody really knows the numbers involved in Hinduism.

  • Luciferadi

    Many people are treating these campaigns as though they’re just about recruitment. While it would certainly be nice to see more people deciding to give reason and logic a chance, I think it’s just as important that these ads are reaching out to people who are already unbelievers. The “you are not alone” message is one that atheists don’t hear enough. Segelstein really doesn’t understand.

    But then, so few people do, it seems. Or am I just feeling isolated because of the lack of atheist ad campaigns in my neighborhood?

  • James

    Usually when a person pulls the “Largest religion” card I explain that christianity is not the largest. But in this persons case, if you take all christ based myths, then yes, they are the predominant religion.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_religious_groups

  • Why Do Atheists Get Together? For the same reasons Religionists do – to be with people who share a similar worldview, who share a similar passion.

    As the pew poll demonstrated, its not as if most of the Religionists get together because they actually understand any of the mythological drivel they purportedly believe – they like the feeling of community.

    Personally, I think getting together to talk about politics, religion, and science with other non-believers is awesome. It’s too bad she just doesn’t get it.

  • Justin Ward

    “And why should atheists care about stopping worshippers who are just “going through the motions”?”

    I personally don’t care much about stopping worshippers who are just “going through the motions”. For me it is about comming together as a group to stop the continued infiltration of religion into all aspects of society. If we (Atheists) do not start standing up as one we will live in a world where Creationism is taught in schools as fact and Evolution as a lie from Satan…..we can’t allow this to happen.

  • anti_supernaturalist

    “freedom of conscience” is necessary in a secular society

    In the US, about 16 % of the adult population is uninterested in religion, agnostic, or atheistic. The proportion in Canada is surely higher; it certainly is in Britain and on the Continent. (The Pew Foundation tracks the data.)

    The anti-god(s) ads are, of course, a marketing device and more importantly an exercise in free speech.

    Many people do not know that there are voluntary associations through which non-theists and anti-supernaturalists can get their views seen and heard. (Xianity is a institutionalized ponzi scheme — I would like to see all clerics at the back of the unemployment line with their “houses of worship” turned into homeless shelters.)

    Freedom of conscience includes these rights: not to believe in any god, and to say so without fear of censorship or reprisal.

    Also, anti_supernatural ads are a minor response to non-stop xian propaganda backed by government tax credits and used by political scum who feed upon fundies’ hatred of “worldly wisdom” to win elections (in the US).

    Daring to defy the god-lobby takes courage — the xian Taliban in the US kill people.

    the anti_supernaturalist

  • ben

    I don’t have a need to “get together” with other atheists. I can support humanist & secular organizations and causes but I don’t need to hang out with other atheists. What are we to discuss? Not believing in god? Being more smart and looking down at others and mocking them? Hanging with other atheists always changes into liberal progressive politics….I’ve done that and its boring.

  • Kristoff

    Once the state where I used to live takes down billboards that state “HELL is Real” and stop giving people like Ken Ham a springboard from which to spout his anti-science, I may see the point you are attempting to make. I am not intolerant, but I am hostile to anyone who wants to undergird their subjective beliefs with antiquated ideology and then turn around and say that anyone hostile to said beliefs are the ones with chips on their shoulders. Grow up, get a pair, spank your inner moppet, I don t care. I no longer live a life dictated by dogma, I would hope that anyone with a cerebral cortex sufficiently developed could understand words like “intolerant” but perhaps my hopefulness stretches beyond the reason one should possess if dedicated to the cause of a society in which we may equally reap the fruits of freedom and liberty.

  • We also like to set an invigorating example for our young people. Unfortunately, many “atheist groups” comprise a bunch of post-secondary graduates who want to flex their debating and intellectual skills without regard for a social need for the “atheist family”! We are making strides with our Milesian Society concept even though we are experiencing the “we don’t need to belong to anything that looks like a church” group.

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    Perhaps she’s afraid we might talk about her, and Christian/Believers’ Supremacy groups and other realities. Religious temperance influence on health care and drug policies, anyone?

  • Steener

    I’ve often wondered about that too, not the getting together part, I understand that people who share a common bond be it a religon, atheism, an addiction, whatever because they enjoy being around people who feel the same way they do. I guess you’d classify me as one of the “agnostics” who athiets look to reach out too, someone who just isn’t sure so I’m honestly not asking in a cocky way but why does it matter to you guys what Christians believe? If you think its not true (which deep down I do too) why don’t you just let them be? I understand that they won’t let you guys be, but if thats the reason let them be the pushy judgemental people they are and show the world you are kind and don’t judge.

  • NotYou007

    I don’t even know another atheist where I live. I know of a small group that gets together now and then but when they do meet I cannot make it.

    The majority of people I call friends are Christians. The majority of people I interact with on a daily basis are Christian as well.

    I would love to have more atheist friends but I live in small town Maine where being an atheist is frowned upon. There are atheist living in Maine but most of us don’t live near one another and if we do we have no clue they are around.

    Maine does not allow billboards and I as I said once before the public transportation system is very limited so I won’t see ad’s anytime soon on the side of a bus either.

  • I looked and could not find a way to communicate with her. So maybe she is not into communication. This weekend I will be installing emergency lighting at the new Humanist Community Center in Mesa Arizona. Its the first community center owned by a humanist group (Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix – hsgp.org) in the United States and we are having much fun finishing the facility.

    We are not interested in bashing Marcia, her friends or anyone else. We are working hard (yes, its intense meeting deadlines and inspections) getting the center ready for our winter solstice party. And then, its party like a humanist.

  • Cents

    The thing that kills me is that religious institutions don’t pay any taxes. That is simply and plainly wrong. Relgious institutions are “special” interest groups. Until they lose their tax exempt status, I will complain as vigourously as I can. Talk about discrimination against all the other interest groups and the rest of us who pay taxes (the cost of supporting our society)!!

  • Oh, noes, she’s scared and trembling, the poor dear. The wicked Atheists are talking to each other. Mustn’t let that happen. The Devil will be unleashed.

    Yawn. Must say she doesn’t trust her gawd to protect her very much. Wonder why.

  • exe

    Why do atheists need to get together? I didn’t think we needed to. But the religionists kept attacking and attacking us, kept harping on us and pushing on us, until they got us all backed into the same corner, and we realized they PUSHED us all here together.

  • Ben

    Why do atheists need to get together? I didn’t think we needed to. But the religionists kept attacking and attacking us, kept harping on us and pushing on us, until they got us all backed into the same corner, and we realized they PUSHED us all here together

    This. Some atheists might be apathetic to the idea of changing the way religion is institutionalised into politics, but others want to actively change the status quo and remove the religious bias. You can’t change public opinion or politics by acting alone. That’s why we need to get together — to get organised.

    Which is also why the Christians who want the law (via their politicians) to enact their particular brand of mythology feel like they’re being attacked by atheists. A billboard calling on people who know the Christianity story is bunk, to give up the tradition of celebrating a mythical person’s birthday, is taking away one of the last remaining holds they have on the doubters: familiarity.

    Once you give up the silly rituals and traditions of the church, there’s not much reason left to call yourself a Xian.

    Oh, and when I see articles whinging about us mischievous militant atheists and how we’re no match for their “faith”, the Shakespearean quote “thou doth protest too much” springs to mind.

  • martin

    Ummm, atheists do get together to not worship. Since the first statement which was for the most part was true in the piece, the rest of the piece full of nonsense and persecution complex ignorace is void… by the way, I didn’t know get togethers were only valid for worshiping purposes, guess I better leave meet-up completely since single 20 and 30s is obviously a front to gather and worship something (alcohol or the porcelin god by the looks of it)

  • Ash

    “Do they think they might get their hands on money once pledged to churches?”

    Actually, she is half right on this point. I think a lot of atheists do indeed want to see money going to churches redirected towards more constructive purposes. True, much money is for charity, but that often comes with a price…that same money could go to secular organizations without any religious baggage. On the whole, much of the billions of dollars going to religion is completely wasted on the propagation of a lie.

  • Richard P.

    Sounds like the same response you would get in the 1800’s.

    What do you mean the black guy wants freedom?
    We give him two meals a day and twos sacks to sleep on in the cupboard and he wants his freedom.
    Jebus, I just don’t know what the hell it this world coming too.
    Honey, go get my whip.

    The stupidity just never seems to end.

  • Atheists don’t gather not to worship, so why seek out members? What’s there to be a member of?

    This is a perfect case of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” When atheists work together to build community and provide support for one another, we get mocked for bonding over the things we don’t believe. But when we work together to persuade people out of religion, we get called intolerant jerks, and are asked why we don’t spend more time building community and providing support like churches do. And if we don’t work together, either to build community or to persuade people out of religion, people point out how valuable religion is because it provides all this wonderful community and charitable outlets that atheism doesn’t provide.

    There is literally no way we can win. So we might as well just do what we want. Build community, persuade people out of religion, or hang out by ourselves, as each of us is inclined.

  • Why do atheists need to get together?

    We don’t need to get together. We’re social animals and want to get together. If 7 or 8 out of 10 are claiming to be Christian then why shouldn’t we advertise to seek out those 2 or 3 who may hold similar views to ourselves?

    Trying to tear down the belief system of the world’s foremost religion — Christianity — is what seems intolerant to me.

    Well we’re not trying to tear down Christianity. It is falling apart all on its own. It isn’t sustainable in many of its current forms. If Christianity continues in a way that is compassionate, that doesn’t insist of privilege in society and doesn’t interfere in the lives of others who do not share their views then I am happy for them. If it is going to be the faith of the obnoxious then I’m happy to see it flounder.

  • Jeff

    There’s no point in dignifying anything that comes out of OneNeuronNow by even discussing it. Those people are weapons-grade stupid and/or crazy. The only purpose they serve is to bolster the argument for eugenics.

  • We are left out of the club – and it’s a club which was ours in the first place.

    Christianity wants to take over the Christmas season and have us all down on our knees worshiping their myths.

    This is offensive, when firstly, Christmas is a rip off of the original pagan festivals which, with their respect of the cyclical nature of the seasons and human cycles, has more commonality with humanism and science than Christianity ever could have.

    And secondly, she should look at how Christianity officially expects Christmas to be celebrated – it is nothing like how ordinary people, included most Christian do so. Snow, decorating trees, stuffing you face, presents, getting drunk, and partying – oh, and of course, December 25th: these are Christian traditions, are they? I don’t think so.

    Hands off our celebration, bitch – get your own. How about some time in March, which is far more likely to be when Jesus was born – watch out for the 17th though, that’s for us Irish to get drunk with St Patrick and we’ll fight you for it.

  • Atheists DO gather, but under the banner of skeptics.

  • TRex

    “Derp de der” is what I read every time I see these interviews and statements made by theists about atheism, which they know little or nothing about. Much like their own religions. Too bad for them that many atheists are ex-pats of one religion or another. Additionally, unlike theists, atheists have stepped back from the preachings and teachings of old men in dresses and funny little hats and scrutinized these outlandish stories and unsubstantiated claims. As a result, many atheists tend to have more knowledge of their religion, which has been proven to some extent numerous times. That scares them.

    Maybe she can explain to me why I continue to have to pay for the shortfall in my city/county budget created by the tax exempt status of her religious lands and buildings. Religious lands and buildings THAT I WON’T, CAN’T, DON’T USE!

    Hypocrisy and ignorance run rampent.

    Blood pressure rising. Time to go outside and enjoy this beautiful weather and leave the stupid behind for a while. Have a great day everybody.

  • i admit to “trying to tear down Christianity.” it’s ruining this country, it’s keeping the world back in terms of science and progress, it’s misogynist, hateful towards queers, and is steeped in violence and bloodshed. i feel the same way about most religions. if i could snap my fingers and make all christian leaders disappear into another universe right now, i would. they’ve declared war on my kind, and i fight back.

    that said, atheists who gather have every right to do so, just like everyone else in this country. peaceable assembly is a Constitutional right, and it’s in our Constitution precisely because the Founders knew morons like this woman, who, if empowered, would prevent people gathering in the “wrong” type of congregations. of course she’s afraid when atheists gather; it shows doubters and pre-atheists that they are not alone, and when we gather we share facts and information that helps others better understand why skepticism is the right choice.

    but like some on this thread, there are also atheists who feel no need to gather (although isn’t that what we’re doing here, virtually?) and that’s fine too. not believing can sometimes be… just not believing.

  • Just another case of atheists doing the same things religious people do, and being condemned for it.

    Religious people get together for fellowship. Atheists get together to plot and tear down.

    Religious people are “sharing the good news” when they proclaim the truth of their beliefs and the falsity of all others. Atheists are being intolerant when they express their lack of belief and challenge the truth of religious claims.

    Religious people are “saving souls” when they try to recruit new members. Atheists are “destroying America” when they put up ads promoting their organizations.

    Religious people are “promoting family values” when they try to push their beliefs into politics. Atheists are “causing trouble” when they organize to stop violations of the Constitution.

    And on, and on, and on…

  • I also just hate the idiotic illogic of this piece. Saying atheists don’t gather not to worship is like saying environmentalists don’t gather not to burn fossil fuels. Christians don’t gather not to worship Allah. Free speech advocates don’t gather not to censor books. What a stupid, stupid statement!

  • Everyday Atheist is quite right, I think. No matter what we say or do, some theists will perceive it as an attack or use language to convince others that we are on the attack.

    Case in point is the use of “Happy Holidays.” Say that to the wrong Christian and you will get your head bitten off with righteous indignation for not saying, “Merry Christmas.” My Facebook has already been blown up with whiners begging us to not take Christ out of Christmas by writing “Xmas.”

    My latest blog post is on Bill Donahue’s ridiculous use of the words “aggressive” and “militant” towards us. While I in no way wish to ever see violence done against anyone, I do wonder what these people would do if we did start physically attacking them, burning their churches, and shooting them in the streets. They wouldn’t have any words left to describe us because they’ve already used some of the worst ones they can find.

    I can only take solace in the fact that there are good Christians out there who will live and let live. It would be wonderful to see them put up some Christmas billboards reflecting this idea too.

  • jonezart

    she wrote:

    To my mind, these campaigns feel defensive

    LOL, that’s so funny. They all say stuff like that, when they get all defensive about the atheist billboards.

  • Danish Atheist

    Scepticat, you may translate “militant” and “aggressive” into “eloquent and possessing good points, plus very frightening to discuss with. And not at all humble enough to our taste.”

    Or at least, that is how I translate it.

  • Carlie

    Atheists don’t get together in groups to talk about atheism; they get together in groups to talk about pretty much anything without having to deal with religion intruding upon it. It’s surprisingly refreshing to be able to talk about things with other people and know that religion isn’t going to insinuate itself in anywhere.

  • CatBallou

    Atheists must gather, or join, or organize if we want to have any political or social impact. One hundred atheists going quietly about their everyday lives, communicating in private or not at all, have no effect on their community. The same one hundred atheists gathering publicly and speaking out can change laws and policies.
    We can be marginalized now because Twinkies like Marcia don’t have to acknowledge our numbers.
    And Steener, it’s not about being “pushy and judgmental.” You must have noticed that religious people are working constantly to inflict their beliefs on others through laws and school curricula!
    And it’s not just “our” values vs. theirs. It’s freedom vs. conformity. Reason vs. superstition.

  • Once in awhile, it is nice – really nice – to be with a group of people who view me as an equally worthwhile human. Why is this so damn difficult for people to understand?

  • I wonder why you read that woman. After all she also links homosexuality to pedophilia, although cleverly disguised.