Learning a Few Things from Religious Practices December 26, 2010

Learning a Few Things from Religious Practices

***Update***: Comments were accidentally turned off when I initially posted this, but they’re back on now!

Dale McGowan gave a great talk at the Secular Student Alliance 2010 Columbia Leadership Summit called “To Hell with the Baby, but Look at That Bathwater.”

In other words, yes, religion is a problem (and religious beliefs are untrue), but church culture has a lot of benefits and there are some things we atheists ought to emulate.

A lot of people who know god doesn’t exist are still afraid to leave the church.

They’d be giving up their social network, a place to go on weekends, a babysitter, a place to recharge their batteries, a place to discuss issues, a place to be told how to live life better.

It’s not just about Jesus.

And if atheist/Humanist groups could give people some of those things that churches always seem to have the money and resources to offer their members, maybe it wouldn’t be as hard to walk away from a church.

My favorite part comes around the 7:45 mark.

I’m paraphrasing, but it goes like this: We give religious people 300 reasons not to believe in god and are surprised when they don’t become atheists.

That’s like telling Chicago Cubs fans to stop being fans by showing them the stats.

That’s silly. If fandom had anything to do with the stats, they wouldn’t be fans. They support the team for entirely different reasons.

As a Cubs fan myself, that’s a great point. Losing season after losing season, there’s still very little you could do to get me to support a different baseball team.

What is it that churches do that you would also like to see Humanist communities doing?

(Full disclosure: I’m the board president of Foundation Beyond Belief, an organization for which Dale serves as the Executive Director.)


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  • Dale McGowan is absolutely right. I think fostering community relationships will make people who are leaving churches and religious communities more welcomed. For example, the Purdue Non-Theists do a weekly dinner event where we encourage people to come eat and chat. We also tend to talk about mostly non-atheist related topics. I think our club has become stronger as a community as a result.

  • steve

    McGowan (without explicitly stating it) makes the case for Humanist chaplaincies. It’s that simple. It’s great to see interest in organized atheistic communities rising and new voices lucidly speaking up.

  • The atheists I know, including myself, are just not “churchy” people, supernatural content or not.

  • They’d be giving up their social network, a place to go on weekends, a babysitter, a place to recharge their batteries, a place to discuss issues, a place to be told how to live life better.

    I’m sorry but if you need church — or a secular substitute religion such as, I don’t know, secular humanism, how fucking pathetic are you?

    In other words, I rather concur with PrimeNumbers. I’m just not a churchy person.

    Look, get out into this world and meet people. Go do stuff you’re intersted in and you’ll naturally meet people with the same interests. You know, if you like talk to them.

    If you have some tragedy you’re having trouble dealing with, go to a support group or see a shrink or you know put a period at the end of that sentence and move the fuck on. Man, shit sucks and is hard to get over but grownups suck it up and get on with life. If you can’t, seriously, see somebody. Church dinners aren’t going to do it.

    (Frankly, we need more shrinks like the one in that Geico commercial when his patient whines about the color yellow. Why do we baby grownups so damned much these days? We keep people from moving on by endlessly dwelling on the shit that happened to us these days.)

    Geeze, don’t you recharge your batteries just by relaxing at home? And if you’re too pathetic to make friends, well, hell there’s the internet for discussing issues. Isn’t that what we’re doing here?

    Seriously pisses me off when people try to turn Atheism into a religion. Humanist chaplains can go jump into a lake with all the other ones as far as I’m concerned.

    Oh, and boo hoo, if you’re so weak you feel you’ve got to have one. I really don’t feel sorry for you. But Christ’s sake, if you are, there are already numerous counselors available. Of the secular variety.

  • marylynne

    I know it will come up in this context – Unitarian Universalist. Many people are not churcy, as PN says. For those in transition or looking for the support but not doctrine UU is worth looking at. Many in my church are outright atheist; even the minister is sort of vaguely deist. If you end up in one that is more Goddy keep looking – they are all different.

  • marylynne

    This came up in a thead a little while ago – how does “I’m just not a churchy person” or “As an atheist I’m not comfortable in groups” (the comment from the other thread) translate into this diatribe against people who are looking for the social connection of a group?

    I thought this was kind of funny: “If you are too pathetic to make friends, there is the internet for discussing issues.” Which is more pathetic, doing your socializing on the internet or going out to find a community of people that you can actually interact with?

  • steve

    I thought this was kind of funny: “If you are too pathetic to make friends, there is the internet for discussing issues.” Which is more pathetic, doing your socializing on the internet or going out to find a community of people that you can actually interact with?

    Quoted for truth.

  • Two Cents

    I agree with Marylynne.

    Some people have a hard time making friends, especially if they move to a new area. True, you can join a book club or something of the sort, but depending on what kind of community you live in, it may not be the best place to meet new people. I’m all for making friends with other people who have different beliefs – but in a community where atheism is really frowned upon / judged (or something the community may consider “sinful”, for that matter), a group made up of atheists, agnostics or secular humanists might really help.

    I get really annoyed when people are up on their high horse because for them, its easy to make friends. They can afford a therapist, so why doesn’t everyone just go to one? They’re extroverted, so why isn’t everyone else?

    I don’t think theres anything wrong with wanting a group of freethinkers to get together and have dinner once a week or so. Just to forge friendships or even to get advice on things like secular parenting or the like. Some people like community. Some don’t. No one is forcing anyone else to join one of these things. Its pretty ridiculous to call someone pathetic for missing going to a weekly social event.

  • jon

    That bath water sounds like the making of an amazing baby soup. /drool

  • I’m sorry but if you need church — or a secular substitute religion such as, I don’t know, secular humanism, how fucking pathetic are you?

    And this is the attitude that religious ppl point to and call atheists elitist schmucks.

    What muggle is saying, essentially, is that, since her way of life ‘fits her good’, it ought to be good enough for everybody else. This is pretty much the argument we hear from the religious all the time, and it bothers me no less from my side of the fence, not the least when I share, on a personal level the lack of desire for ‘churching’, or rather personal social interaction.

    My personal social proclivities should not be a litmus test for what being an atheist means.

    On the same note, from another comment :

    As an atheist I’m not comfortable in groups

    Since when is social discomfort an attribute of atheism? I was uncomfortable in groups before I ever heard of atheism.

    One can make the case that not requiring a social network as much as others makes people more likely to look at the facts of religion more soberly, but that doesn’t mean that atheism is relegated to be the position of the social miser.

    It’s not as if anyone is proposing mandatory attendance to secular social events. No one is going to make you attend “atheist church” if you don’t feel inclined to.

  • Amanda

    I agree with marylynne on all counts, but especially about UU. I haven’t been to a UU service yet (I like to sleep in Sundays lol) but I’ve been active in the past with the UU student group on my college campus. I did volunteer work and donating through them, whereas the atheist group on my campus is more about socializing and debate (which is great) but did far less charity work. I see UU churches and groups as a viable alternative to church for myself. I love their focus on volunteering and giving back to the community, or “deeds not creeds”. 🙂

  • Lana

    I was once talking to a Catholic friend. He was bemoaning the fact that he couldn’t find a nice Catholic girl anywhere, and I said, “Well, go to the singles mass, or whatever Catholics do.” He was confused. I said, “Or maybe your singles dances? Singles activities?”

    Still confusion. Pretty soon, we figured it out: Mormons have a vast and interwoven social network. Talent shows, road shows, weekly youth activities, weekly family activities, BBQ’s in the summer, dances every month (later, every week).

    And it’s all free (well, pay your 10% tithing, but that’s private and you can still enjoy the activities if you don’t pay tithing). I miss that. I miss having a group of people in my age range and with similar life circumstances to talk to (and how much cooler would that be if we actually had beliefs in common?!?). I miss weekly get-togethers where we do goofy talent shows or put on mini-plays based to karaoke music. I miss volunteering as a group of friends for cleaning up highways or feeding the homeless. I miss learning how to dance and going on horseback rides and just hanging out with a big, inclusive group of like-minded, friendly people.

    And a good part of the reason why I was able to leave the church and become atheist was because after my husband and I married, we became part of a family ward. Now we were expected to stop attending youth/ singles dances, stop doing large group family home evenings, etc. Now if I went to a dance, I was supposed to be a chaperone — and I was only 22! All the activities dropped, and church isn’t nearly interesting enough on it’s own.

    But yeah, I miss all that. Sometimes I look around at humanist groups in the area, but I’m in a little tiny semi-rural town, a good 80+ miles away from the largest thriving humanist/ atheist community center.

  • Steve

    Mormons have a vast and interwoven social network. Talent shows, road shows, weekly youth activities, weekly family activities, BBQ’s in the summer, dances every month (later, every week).

    That’s because Mormonism is a cult – much more so than other Christian denominations. Everything is softly geared towards indoctrinating people further. They simply don’t want people to have extensive contact with non-Mormons. That could lead to questioning one’s faith and/or the doctrine taught by the cult leaders.

  • Samiimas

    It’s not as if anyone is proposing mandatory attendance to secular social events. No one is going to make you attend “atheist church” if you don’t feel inclined to.

    No, but I’ve seen tons of people claiming we’re somehow making atheism less popular because we don’t want to waste our time at a meeting where we sit around talking about how much we agree with each other that god doesn’t exist.

  • No, but I’ve seen tons of people claiming we’re somehow making atheism less popular because we don’t want to waste our time at a meeting where we sit around talking about how much we agree with each other that god doesn’t exist.

    Are these tons of people also atheists? Then they can have their meetings on their own, can’t they?
    In all seriousness, this aspect of churches, the reinforcement of existing dogma is not what we are talking about here, I think. We are talking about things like bake-offs, barbecues, lectures, regular scheduled dinners, childrens’ events. There’s nothing wrong with those, for those who wish to attend.

  • Alex

    Technically, the Cubs are a real team, even though they don’t seem to play that way. Now being a “fan” of fairly tales or illusions is another thing entirely.

    UUism might be alternative, but at least in my case they seem to encourage self censorship and prohibit open criticism of supernatural beliefs.

  • I don’t know. Does being an Atheist define most of you? Because that seems to be the case with Christians. Also, Christianity has a culture connotation. Most Christians from certain regions just so happen to like and do certain things. I don’t think Atheism is as much of a definer, at least not yet. Sure, we could say that most atheists are like minded when it comes to science and human morality but is that really the case? I’m sure there are more differences between all of us commenting here than there are likenesses. Should Atheism be enough of a definer in our lives to make us spend 2-3 nights/mornings a week together?

    I’m not saying that people shouldn’t create communities and do things to help themselves and others, but why does it have to be an Atheist thing? Why can’t it just be a, “hey, these homeless people have to walk across the city to get a meal, maybe we can start a soup kitchen over here? Who’s in?”

    I don’t know. Hrmmm.

  • Snuggly Buffalo

    I’ve never been much of a sports fan and could never really understand the arbitrariness of sports fandom.

    Like with sports, I understand some people have a desire for that community aspect, but it’s never interested me a great deal. But then, I always felt like an outsider at church, even as a devout Christian.

  • Nerdette

    My local secular humanism chapter and our regional Drinking Skeptically group join forces frequently for social events. Just at the beginning of December, there was a joint event of a Sam Singleton show (The Atheist Evangelist) with a dinner before hand. Last autumn there was a great picnic for many atheist groups in Virgina – food, talking, children running about, butterfly catching, dogs fetching – just good, social fun.

    Secular humanism chapters frequently satisfy the social need that many atheists still want – I know I want to socialize in a group where few topics (if any) are taboo, and not be afraid of judgement for my beliefs. We only meet once a month, in a book store, and there are rotating presentations ranging from Spinoza to aliens to pornography. There’s no judgement if you don’t want to join because you’re not social, and no tithes to join! I greatly enjoy it, but, hey, it doesn’t mean everyone will.

  • I’m sorry but if you need church — or a secular substitute religion such as, I don’t know, secular humanism, how fucking pathetic are you?

    What a nasty, small-minded person you are. If you’re not a “churchy” person then stay the hell home, you’re not wanted.

    A church-like environment can fill the needs of introverts, as well as people who want a way to build relationships that aren’t necessarily tied into a particular hobby, specialty, or health/psychological issue.

    Having access to a chaplaincy would also be beneficial for people who cannot afford to go to a professional counselor (but make too much money to get free care) or who have troubles that are not related to mental health; sometimes you just want to talk to someone who is a good listener, whom you can bounce ideas off of and who is not so close to you or the problem that they will offer biased advice. And it can be expensive to see a therapist or coach.

    It is my hope to start a humanist community center some day. Not that I have anything against the UU church, but the one I’m familiar with is still focused on ritual and spirituality. I would like to focus more on community and practical concerns.

  • Chris

    My son and daughter in law are secular humanist as I am and in the last year we have attended the UU church. for the community. My granddaughters were being asked by their Xtian friends to go to their churches and rather than expose them to all the Xtian dogma, they decided that the UU church, which has very open doors to atheist, humanist, LGBT and any other religion/non religion, would be the place to take their girls. This way they are exposed to several different religions plus the ideas of humanist/secularists/atheist and can someday identify with what “feels” right to them. They (my grandkids) currently identify as atheist. But, until we have established atheist communities this fits their needs. Also, the UU’s collect once every month for a local charity.

  • Annie (A Whore in the Temple of Reason)

    I’m the leader of the local Humanist group. What I most wish we had is a facility in which to meet. A “Temple of Reason”… I’d like to offer our community a lot of the “church” type classes and services that the fundies have. But we have to meet in the library and other public places.

    What we do now is a monthly meeting, in which we either have group discussions on a particular topic, or show a film. We have a second monthly meeting in which we read books of the group’s choice and then discuss over dinner. The Book Discussion Group has been very successful and has really helped to create a small community. I also host seasonal group dinners (solstices) and misc. events at my home.

    If we had our own facility, we could offer more frequent meetings, films, classes, lectures and discussion groups, musical events, a site for secular weddings and memorial services, and possibly a soup kitchen. Among other things…

    There are a lot of us who would like something that is “spiritual” for lack of a better word without being supernatural or religious. Many of us also desire a community that shares our philosophy of life. I’d like to see such centers created across the country. If millions of Xians can create small churches in every city, I don’t know why we humanists and freethinkers can’t do the same. “Atheist” does not have to be synonymous with “misanthropic loner”.

  • AxeGrrl

    Donna Hamel (muggle) wrote:

    I’m sorry but if you need church — or a secular substitute religion such as, I don’t know, secular humanism, how fucking pathetic are you?

    So human beings who desire community are ‘pathetic’?

    Wow……

  • AxeGrrl

    marylynne wrote:

    This came up in a thead a little while ago – how does “I’m just not a churchy person” or “As an atheist I’m not comfortable in groups” (the comment from the other thread) translate into this diatribe against people who are looking for the social connection of a group?

    I thought this was kind of funny: “If you are too pathetic to make friends, there is the internet for discussing issues.” Which is more pathetic, doing your socializing on the internet or going out to find a community of people that you can actually interact with?

    Bingo.

    The intolerance for the differing needs/desires for some form of ‘community and fellowship’ demonstrated by some here is almost bordering on dogma, if you ask me….

    If you have no desire for such activities/connections, then don’t seek them out. But to call others ‘pathetic’ for wanting it seems downright puerile.

  • AxeGrrl

    Two Cents wrote:

    I don’t think theres anything wrong with wanting a group of freethinkers to get together and have dinner once a week or so. Just to forge friendships or even to get advice on things like secular parenting or the like. Some people like community. Some don’t. No one is forcing anyone else to join one of these things. Its pretty ridiculous to call someone pathetic for missing going to a weekly social event.

    Thanks for your sage ‘two cents’, two cents 🙂

  • Lizzy

    Some of you may find it pathetic, but I long for the sense of community that I had as a Christian. I have only recently started coming out as an atheist and I can honestly say that I mourn the loss of my religious faith. I continued to attend church for quite a while after I stop believing because I truly loved the community. The members of my church supported me through high school and afterwards. They fed me, gave me a place to stay, and listened to me when I felt like I didn’t have anyone else. I miss everyone from the young people to the little old ladies. I could not continue to live a lie and eventually stopped going. I would be lying if I said that it does not still hurt sometimes. I miss the potlucks, the Christmas parties, and the conversations that I had with me church family. I often wonder what it will be like for my children to grow up atheist. They will not get the indoctrination that I find so wrong but they will also miss out on the Sunday school classes and the friends that one finds there. They will not go to the church camp where some of my fondest memories were formed and they will not have dozens of extra “grannies” at church who love them. While it’s certainly not for everyone, I would appreciate an active humanist community. I don’t even necessarily want “spiritual” guidance, just a group of people who share some things in common who would like to spend time getting to know each other. I’m a shy person so I find it hard to meet people outside of some group setting, I know that this type of thing isn’t for everyone.

  • Chris

    The community was the biggest reason for joining UU. Especially for my son, for his family. Kids of atheist feel a bit left out and to have a community where they can meet other kids with like minded parents can be a real boost for them.

  • F. Bacon

    Groups dedicated to the secular mindset are growing and strengthening, little by little. Coming generations will be able to avail themselves of the groups and purposes being established today, in place of a church if the secular groups make themselves known as community groups. It won’t happen in a vacuum of insular friendships but the larger movement is becoming more mainstream than ever before.

  • AxeGrrl

    Lizzy wrote:

    I have only recently started coming out as an atheist and I can honestly say that I mourn the loss of my religious faith. I continued to attend church for quite a while after I stop believing because I truly loved the community. The members of my church supported me through high school and afterwards. They fed me, gave me a place to stay, and listened to me when I felt like I didn’t have anyone else. I miss everyone from the young people to the little old ladies. I could not continue to live a lie and eventually stopped going.

    First of all, thanks for sharing your personal experience(s) Lizzy. I have a question for you: do you think that if you’d ‘come out’ as an atheist that your supporting, nurturing church-based community would have stopped supporting you and ‘being there’ for you?

    I definitely understand you not wanting to be a hypocrite and/or a ‘liar’, but I’m just curious to know what you think would have happened if you’d made your non-belief known….I ask mainly because I’ve never been affiliated with any kind of church community in my life.

  • Lizzy

    AxeGrrl, I’m not completely sure. I’m still in contact with some members of my old church and they haven’t totally rejected me although they do try to convince me that I’m wrong. I think that if the majority of them found out that I was no longer a Christian they would mostly be very disappointed and concerned. Sometimes atheist blogs lump all Christians together into a group of terrible, delusional people and that tends to bother me because my experience has largely been very positive. The Christians in my life are loving, generous, and kind people. I was raised in a few different churches (independent evangelical, Nazarene, and American Baptist) and none of them (individual churches that I attended) were of the hell fire and brimstone type so that probably colors my views to an extent.

  • AxeGrrl

    Lizzy wrote:

    Sometimes atheist blogs lump all Christians together into a group of terrible, delusional people and that tends to bother me because my experience has largely been very positive. The Christians in my life are loving, generous, and kind people.

    That’s the thing, eh? You obviously wouldn’t have missed that community so much if they weren’t kind and generous 🙂 And although I’ve never had any kind of church experiences, every Christian friend of mine is exactly as you describe those in your life.

    One would hope that such a community would still support ‘one of their own’, someone they’ve built a true relationship with over years, even if they had an honest change in belief….the idea of someone having to choose between their community and their (non) belief is very sad 🙁

  • Benjamin

    I don’t know there are hundreds of comunitys in my Area I could join that are secular: sports clubs, fan clubs, theatrical or musical clubs, folklore clubs, movie clubs, boardgaming communitys, age communitys, there are city centeres for elderly people and youth centres, live roleplaying groups,… I could go on for quite a while. Most people I know are part of one or more of these. Church attendence here in Essen,Germany is low. Except for Christmas less than ten Percent of believers regularly attend Church. Only roughly 60% Percent of the local Population is Christian, so Church attendance is below 6%.(Source(in German): http://fowid.de/)

  • Two Cents

    @Lizzy –

    My boyfriend used to worry about our future children in a similar way. He also used to be afraid that our kids would be teased for not having any set of religious beliefs.

    However, check out local camps in the summer that are secular. There are plenty of them – some focused on sports, some on science, some misc. Also, I have never been to a UU church, but I have heard good things. I know one woman who is deeply religious and attends one up near Boston, but there seem to be churches that are more focused on spirituality than others. Plenty of agnostics and atheists attend them too. Check it out for yourself first. Enroll your kids in other activities – martial arts, swimming, arts and crafts, etc. I’m sure they will form awesome memories through other organizations! 🙂

    If you want, check out Parenting Beyond Beliefs or Raising Freethinkers. I haven’t read them yet but I’ve heard very good things and they both have good customer reviews on Amazon!

    @Axegrrl-

    no problem!

  • Danny

    I was once a Cubs fan and after twenty years I just couldn’t do it anymore. It’s just too heartbreaking and emotionally exhausting. I’m now a baseball atheist. I don’t cheer for any team. Though I still like baseball. Hmmm…If I like the sport but don’t pick a team, does that make me a baseball agnostic? Or maybe a baseball deist? Anyway.

    I don’t think it would have been as easy (not that it was easy) to leave my fandom behind if I had a support system based on that fandom. When I became a Cubs fan as a kid, it was because I had a lot of friends who were Cubs fans. Now I don’t have many friends who even like sports that much. I live relatively close to Chicago (Dubuque) so there’s plenty of Cubs fans around. But the friendships I have just don’t involve sports. There was no feeling of community I gave up by losing my fandom. The only thing I gave up was another disappointing season.

    I’ve felt the sense of support and belonging a church can offer. The feeling I get when I attend an atheist/skeptic meeting is the exact same feeling.

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    Love the fandom analogy, I’ve never understood the mindless devotion to spectator sports, the tv worship, the hoopla, endless talk about nonsense, possessive identification and sometimes violent defensiveness of one team, the riots after games complete with overturned or burning cars and smashed windows and fights, missappropriation of public funds to build temples of worship, corrupting scholarships, etc.

    As for secular social gatherings and collective projects, more would be nice, bars get old and aren’t very productive. I cringe at anything with the slightest taint of woo, these days, so ‘chaplaincies’, UU, ministries, and all have a repulsive ick factor to me and probably others. Completely secular woo free community organizations would add to society I think.

  • Samiimas

    I don’t know why we humanists and freethinkers can’t do the same. “Atheist” does not have to be synonymous with “misanthropic loner”.

    I love how anyone who doesn’t want to come to your meeting is automatically a ‘misanthropic loner’.

  • And if you’re too pathetic to make friends, well, hell there’s the internet for discussing issues.

    Restated with emphasis added for commenters that seem to be unable to read a two letter word.

    Of course, I overlooked the fact that I have no problem socializing with those who believe differently than I do. What was I thinking? Of course, we must only socialize with other nonbelievers!!! /sarcasm

    The intolerance for the differing needs/desires for some form of ‘community and fellowship’ demonstrated by some here is almost bordering on dogma, if you ask me…

    Sure as fuck is. Especially if you dare openly disagree with them. Look at the viterol towards me for saying how pathetic it is to not just go out into this world and make friends of all sorts. Silly me. I just didn’t realize I was supposed to limit it to those like-minded to me. I’m pretty unique. I guess I shouldn’t have any damned friends at all. Please don’t tell my friends that.

    Friendly Atheists you’re not.

    Oh, and for the record, I mentioned support groups because even small cities/large towns have them completely free of charge for damned near every possible tragedy under the sun. You know, for those of you, who can’t develop a friend close enough to confide in and can’t earn enough to pay a shrink (somehow I’m thinking there’s a connection in there somewhere).

  • Two Cents

    @Donna Hamel-

    I don’t think people are suggesting that they can’t have friends with different beliefs – but some people like to have some friends with some of the same views, especially if they are looking to get advice on certain matters, or looking for people who can relate to the de-conversion process if they are having a hard time. Also, as I said before, it might depend on the community you’re in. If you live in a small middle of nowhere town in the bible belt and you’re an open atheist (and openly gay, or something else frowned upon), you might have some trouble making friends (at least at first). Suggesting a way to meet like-minded people (or people who may be more likely to be accepting) doesn’t automatically make you closed minded. Sure, there are also other organizations you can join like a sports team, book club, etc, but why would one more group hurt? If I joined one, I certainly wouldn’t abandon the friends I already have who are religious but it might be a fun way to meet new people that I hadn’t thought of before.

    I don’t think people are angry because you wouldn’t join a group like that or because you disagreed. I think people thought that you were sounding overly hostile (and therefore being an Un-Friendly Atheist). Some people are recent converts and some miss having community from church – they don’t come here to feel bad about it or to be called pathetic. You might not have meant it to sound as mean as it did, but unfortunately, the internet isn’t always a great way to get a point across easily – no way to tell what words are being emphasized, the tone, inflections, and so on.

  • AxeGrrl

    Two Cents wrote:

    I don’t think people are angry because you wouldn’t join a group like that or because you disagreed. I think people thought that you were sounding overly hostile (and therefore being an Un-Friendly Atheist). Some people are recent converts and some miss having community from church – they don’t come here to feel bad about it or to be called pathetic. You might not have meant it to sound as mean as it did, but unfortunately, the internet isn’t always a great way to get a point across easily – no way to tell what words are being emphasized, the tone, inflections, and so on.

    This.

    Sorry Donna, but calling other people ‘pathetic’ for having different needs/desires than you, and then painting yourself as the victim of intolerance when others simply call you out on yours, reeks more than a little of hypocrisy.

  • Chris

    You know as adults I don’t think there is a lack of activities if you seek them out, but atheist adults with children (in my experience) do have a more difficult time finding a niche where they will be accepted.
    I wish that atheist groups would do more family oriented stuff, I do believe that that may be why some people still hang on to their church family, even though they may not feel the “religion” anymore.
    We live in eastern Washington and have looked for inexpensive activities that we can do as a family with children and those activities are few and far between. Now at the UU church my granddaughters can do things like have game nights, movies etc. All without fear of being proselytized to.

  • Lizzy

    I must say, Donna Hamel the only vitriol that I have seen on this thread has come from your keyboard. I’m not sure why you find it offensive that others desire a community of like-minded friends. The vast majority of my friends are religious believers and I care deeply for them. They cannot, however, understand some of the things that I am going through as I accept my atheism. I long for the community that I had as a Christian and I would love it if there was a secular alternative for children. It boggles my mind that this desire makes you so very angry. The simple solution in this case really is, just don’t attend or help organize such a group. Not all of us are looking for a support group either. Churches often have a very social aspect with dinners, game nights, lock ins (for teens), camps, plays, dances, and sports teams to name a few. These often lack the competitive aspect of joining a city softball team for example. They are just an opportunity for believers to enjoy one another’s company and have fun. I would appreciate the same thing without the emphasis on belief in god.

  • cass_m

    One thing about being religious, almost any community you go to you can easily find a welcoming church where you know the routine and can meet people. It would be nice to have a something similar for non-believers; you don’t have to talk about your beliefs but you don’t have to watch what you say either.

    I moved from a city to a small (close minded) town and had a heck of a time meeting people. Not religious, in 30s with no children, not interested in hockey, unemployable because I was an outsider – one of those pathetic people muggles refers to – I would have happily joined such a group while I found my bearings. The internet doesn’t really encourage personal interactions in the community.

  • Donna, you call us pathetic, then claim we’re the ones showing vitriol? That’s comparable to Christians telling people they will go to hell, then claiming persecution when someone takes offense. Your comment has no credibility.

    What was I thinking? Of course, we must only socialize with other nonbelievers!!!

    And who made that argument? It’s not enough for you to come here and express your personal preference (you have no interest in a humanist-oriented community center; that’s fine) but you have to slag anyone who feels differently. And we’re the unfriendly ones? You have an enormous chip on your shoulder and the more you open your mouth, the more obvious it becomes that you desire to make other people’s valid lifestyle preferences sound like personality failings. The only person displaying pathetic behavior here is you.

  • MV

    I am somewhat leery of promoting church like organizations as an atheist. Ultimately if you want a church, go to a church. It’s pretty obvious that religious belief is not required. But if other atheists/Humanists want to do so, go for it. Just don’t insist that it is essential that others support it.

    I don’t think that it will help people leave the church by creating communities. People stay in their church because they don’t want to leave their EXISTING community. And there are real penalties for that. A new community won’t prevent or fix that. The only way atheist or humanist communities will help is if they create an environment in which they reduce the penalty for being an atheist more effectively than not creating such communities.

  • @MV

    But if you have historically found your sense of community in church and now you no longer believe it can feel very oppressive to continue going to a church that is full of people with whom you now no longer agree with the key issue that brought you all together as a group in the first place, and very isolating to consider leaving the fellowship.

    Besides that, your argument that people wouldn’t leave the church for a community of atheists because they are afraid to leave that particular community and not the church as a whole doesn’t really hold up too well. How do you explain people who go from one church to another in the same town? Or change denominations altogether? Plenty of people leave their existing community for another, for a whole host of reasons (one of which can be a difference in opinions on theological or philosophical issues).

    I haven’t seen anyone suggesting that it is essential for other people to support a group like this if they aren’t involved in it.

  • I feel so inspired!! Yay!!