My Christian friend tells me that an atheist community could never provide the support, lasting friendships, and loyalty that a church community provides. Of course, as an atheist, I disagree. However, churches have a thousand years of head start on us as we begin to form atheist groups. Broward County Florida, where I am, has several active groups and they provide some of the community activities that people crave, no matter what supernatural beliefs they have. My question is:

Is the development of a community important and what are some examples of successful groups around the country that you participate in?

If there is anything that is good about religion, it is the community, friendship and social aspect. Is it possible for atheists to develop a similar community without developing the harmful group mentality of us against them?

Tags: Community, activism, church, friendship, meetup

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Let me tell you at little about our local atheist 'community'. We set up a meetup group less than 12 months ago and we meet once a month for dinner. Since then, one of our members, Jim, lost his wife - I attended her funeral on behalf of the group, and the others have been emailing and posting notes of support. Yesterday, Jim visited the shop of one of our members, Warren, and they sat for over an hour talking.

At the same time, in the same shop, another member, Vicki, was babysitting Warren and Kirsty's new baby so that Kirsty could be free to do some work. Apparently, Vicki has been coming in for a day every week to help out in this way.

When the baby was born, all of us in the group got an excited phone call from Warren saying, "It's a girl!" I immediately got online and bought her a tiny "Pastafarian" t-shirt!

Another member has just become engaged, and has had both our support as he talked excitedly of his plans to 'pop the question' and our congratulations when he finally did it and she said, "Yes!"

Yet another has had some serious medical problems and, while there is not much we can do, we are all concerned and trying to keep informed.

When Warren's mother was visiting recently and was at a 'loose end', we invited her up to our house for a walk in the garden and a nice afternoon tea.

These are all small things, but they are the small things that add up to community. I am amazed at how quickly a group of people who met simply because they do not believe in a supernatural deity, have bonded and become close friends. I can honestly say we really love each other.
Thanks Kristy. I guess I should share too. In Broward County we have three active groups. FLASH (Florida Atheists and Secular Humanists) meets socially 4 nights per week in various locations (Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Coconut Creek, and Palm Beach). Those meetups are in bars, restaurants and coffee shops. There is always something going on including picnics, Darwin Day, Solstice parties and more. The Center For Inquiry Ft. Lauderdale has their "First Supper" one Friday per month plus many other educational events. The James Randi Educational Foundation also meets once per month to socialize and even meet the great Randi himself. These three groups combine to give us heathens a lot of choices. The groups are pretty close knit but we are still fairly new. We are currently recruiting other members with a prominent billboard (which you can see on my profile page). FLASH has also started a Parents group that is setting up family friendly activities on Sunday morning (a very good day for atheists!) and that is great for those who have a hard time getting out.

I am proud to be a part of it. I do find the meetups to be discussion oriented more than social which is fine but that does not stop people from becoming fast friends. Does anyone know of a location or format which lends itself to mingling instead of just sitting at a table. Home parties sound like fun but with 300 potential guests (300 members on meetup.com, but only about 20-30 show up at the meetups) it can be a little daunting for the host. I am glad to hear that your group has become very close knit.
Anyone who's seen, say, the death of a diehard Chicago Bears fan knows that God is not necessary for a healthy and large community.

The only thing religion has over secular groups is divine guilt if you don't show up, and I don't think that is a positive.
I don't know about a community where I live, but I do know how much it's helped me to find people I can talk with on the internet without having to hide a part of me. atheistnexus.org is a powerful force for good.
Gathering atheists is a bit like herding cats! Many are "in the closet" because of the high levels of discrimination out there. Many don't even know that there are other people who think like them. Many are reluctant to give up the security of family and church if they were to come out as atheists. Not only that, atheists come in many shapes and sizes too. Some prefer to vent about the injustices of the religious right or church state issues. Some prefer to delve into the details of astronomy or evolution. Some are libertarians who are economically conservative which always makes for lively debate. Some are ex-religious who need help transitioning out of an abusive situation or years of hiding. Some are lifelong atheists who are simply interested in the sociology of religious. Some are just contrarians who are interested in the logical arguments against religion, scripture, and faith. Some are very reluctant to join any group because they mistrust such organizations (which led to their atheism in the first place). The biggest problem may be that atheists have forged their convictions in private and they may just prefer to avoid the controversy and stay home. With all of these factions it is not as easy as church goers have it. Their families have already chosen their denomination for them. Atheist must be willing to accept and enjoy the company of all of these different groups. Not only that, atheists do not actively convert people because there is nothing to convert them to! You won't find atheist groups going door to door Jehovah's Witness style recruiting new members. It is not as easy as just setting up a barbecue and advertising in the paper. The billboard has driven a lot of new traffic to our group and our web site so that is one effective thing but it is very expensive.

I think that the key is just portraying atheists as regular people who are kind and welcoming. Once people see that there is nothing to be afraid of (except the total rejection of everything supernatural) atheists will be off to a good start.
"Lasting friendships", for many of the theists, means "until you convert, at which point they snub you". This is not something you tend to get with atheists. Besides, a community based on false delusions isn't exactly a sound one

...or maybe your friend would like to explain how Norwegians and Swedes get on perfectly fine with each other with a 70% and 90% percentage of atheists respectively, bearing in mind the low crime rates, low divorce rates, and the fact that they are high up on the peace/happy nation lists
I'm part of an Atheist meetup group as well and I feel that I have a different relationship with my Atheist Community than any of the other important in my life. If Atheism is to become a true movement, I think that the building of even stronger communities will be the most important project we can take on. Community is one of the most basic emotional human needs and churches are usually the only game in town.
I have found that if you really press a religious person on their faith, they will try to avoid questions about the space wizard and fall back on their church and family and the positive relationships that they have. This is usually their best argument for their belief: it makes them part of something and it help them make a connection with this world. Atheists need this too.
Precisely.



(Also, sorry about the typo's. I rarely proof read.)
Our group passes the plate around at the meetings. I always laugh when we do be we seem to be strikingly similar to a church! I will say this: I trust that the Atheists group treasurer will use the cash honestly and effectively more than I would trust any church to do the same.
What do you spend the money on?
We use it for our events (like Darwin Day, Solstice Party etc.), web site admin ( http://www.floridafreethought.com ), our billboard, a planned scholarship and whatever else we need.

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