I've been an OUT atheist for over 25 years, but grew up Lutheran and went into a slow slide of other denominations of Christianity during the last 5 years of my Christianity.
The longer I remain an atheist and look back into the idea of gods, the stronger I feel I was correct in my decision oh-so many years ago, but. . .
. . . But, I miss the strange, family-like feeling that churches hold for its members. I suppose that is one of the more enticing aspects of religion and cults-- a feeling of belonging. Having a place to meet like-minded people one (or 2 or 3) days a weeks. To this day whenever I smell hot coffee and cheap cookies, my mind flashes back to the Sundays of my childhood.
I MISS that feeling of family, but as many before me have pointed out, trying to organize atheists is like herding cats.
Even if atheists DID organize into some sort of non-church affair, by definition, we don't have a dogma to preach and discuss. We're not ANTI god... (most of us), we just don't give any of the gods a thought.
I'm a very spiritual person-- maybe a discussion point for another thread-- and I'm sure some of you area as well. How do you cope with our lack of any cohesive group? Without that sense of 'family'?
James, I've been thinking a lot about this lately too. Although it isn't that I miss my congregation or feel that I'm missing my family. It is more that I feel that there are many fewer or less popular options available for educational opportunities to share with my family. I am looking for a place that has similar activities to churches without all of the god propaganda. Wouldn't it be great to have a non-profit that offered sunday school and child care services(free) that didn't preach bible stories and instead offered science, crafts, and secular music activities for the kids while the parents attended sessions with guest speakers on various topics of interest? I'm thinkin, perhaps, topics could include healthy cooking, local activities for secular folks and atheists, politics, science, news, philosophy, etc. Local college professors could be called upon to speak or just knowledgeable citizens.
I think there must be enough interest out there to get something like this started...
Just adding a boost to the suggestions that it's worth checking out the Unitarian movement. I have a girlfriend who's a UU member, and while church was never my thing, I've been to services and not hated them (actual religious services tend to leave me seething - I can't even go to weddings these days).
I like the concept of a church that doesn't tell folks what to believe, and I think they do good stuff. Definitely worth checking out if the sense of being part of a congregation is what you're missing.
The bigger problem with UU and this may not apply to you but does indeed for me is that the Wiccan/Pagan nutjobs are, at least in the experiences i have had with UU, extremely prominent and vocal.
I, too, miss the sense of community that church brings. I like M's suggestion of volunteering, which I do. But it makes sense for me to decide what I like and find people of similar persuasion. Seek out clubs of musicians, performers, jazz lovers, etc. Or book clubs, or computer clubs, or gardening clubs. Whatever you like most, probably lots of other people like, too.
Music has the advantage of replicating/replacing the group prayer, chanting, recitation, incantation rituals which seem so valuable in promoting social unity in a theistic setting.
Thanks for writing this, James. My wife and I de-converted just one year ago. Before de-converting, we led a family-oriented small group in our home every Friday evening, and I led a Bible study for small business owners every Tuesday morning.
I don't regret de-converting in the least, it really was inevitable. My wife and I are 'community people' though, and we really miss being a part of a larger community. So much so, that we've considered moving to more liberal and open minded parts of the Country, like Northern California, or even Seattle! (We currently live in a very conservative/homogeneous part of Texas.)
A few months ago I read about an Atheist group that actually met on Sunday mornings for fellowship at a faux church service. I think instead of a sermon, they watched TED Talks videos and then afterwards all went out to lunch at a nearby restaurant. As funny as that might sound, I completely get it. I'd love to participate in this type of thing where I live.
The problem is of course, like you point out, that Atheists are generally very inclusive and consist of a wide range of people types so getting us organized can be very much like herding cats.
So far, my wife and I have one set of neighbors that we've been able to hang out with. We regularly watch each others kids, and will mow each others lawns or trade vehicles if the needs arise. After a few years of this, I sure hope we have numerous families in our little community of unbelievers.
I'd love to hear how you get this worked out. I do understand that there are many atheists who go to church just for the community aspects, but I'd like to believe we can do better than that. Please keep us posted.
as a slight reply to Flower here also, why cant our common emotional focal point be making the world a better place instead of the religious view of only helping yourself, letting god guide you (great generalization, but mind me). why not have an atheist "church" run about making the world a better place?
I haven't read the responses to this post, but I have really enjoyed being a Unitarian Universalist for about 20 years now. I consider myself an atheist, a humanist, and a UU. I even taught RE (Religious Education, commonly referred to as "Sunday School") when my kids were younger. The beauty of UU is that you can be an atheist, and not feel like a hypocrite when you walk through the door.
I have been a member of the UUFA (Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Athens) and UUCA (Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta), and really enjoyed both congregations. My wife and I really, really loved our minister at UUCA, and he has since retired (Reverend Emeritus). Because he knew our family so well, he came out of retirement to preside an marry my eldest daughter, whom he has known since she was a baby.
If you decide to check out the UU congregations in your area, keep in mind that every UU congregation can be wildly different from one another - from some that feel very "Christiany", to some that are largely humanist/pagan (both UUCA and UUFA fall into the latter category). So, if you don't like the first one you check out, go ahead and check out some others to see if you an find one that "fits" you.
I know exactly what you mean. I grew up in a non-denominational church. I loved going to church on Sundays. I had so many friends there. It was such a good feeling of family. I always felt safe there. I miss it. I haven't been able to find the same sense of authentic openness with any other group that I have tried.
I haven't found anything that remotely comes close to the church family that I had.