I just listened to an interview with Michael Shermer on the Mile High Sanity Project podcast. Shermer brought up the point that for some people there is a large social cost and thus deterrent to becoming (not the right word but I can’t think of the one I want) an atheist. I didn’t go through this because I was never a member of a church. But I am feeling some of it now that I’m trying to meet more like minded people to hang out with.
The atheist groups that I am aware of in my area are more purpose driven. The meet more to provide information than they do to socialize. While I completely agree that we need to help spread knowledge and provide others with the tools to think skeptically, we could do more. I think we need more social activities (happy hours, whatever) to make it easier to those that might be leaving something that makes them feel safe and included.
What do you think and do you have any suggestions?
It's been said before that organizing atheists is like herding cats. Which makes sense, since one of the criteria we try to live by is independent thought. As to sites like A|N and others, Scott is correct. They're purpose driven insofar as we exchange ideas, share information, and listen to and contribute about opinions relevant to atheists.
As to social gatherings, I tend to agree with JF. If you want to find people to hang out with, join an astronomy club, bridge club, motorcycle club, or other social organization. Me personally, I tend to avoid those types of groups where there are structured activities. "At our next meeting, Susan, Joe, and Bill need to bring a covered dish, and we'll take about our next outing." Not being critical, but it's just not my cup of tea. If I want to go out for a beer, I'll meet some friends at the local watering hole.