Atheism and Sense of Community


Throughout my blogosphere travels over the past few weeks, I have encountered a number of posts by newly professed Atheists who are lamenting the loss of community that religion once gave them.

I can understand this feeling, only partially. Actually, when I was a believer, I deplored church, but I believe myself to be something of a strange breed when it comes to certain kinds of gatherings, even apart from church. Nevertheless, a sense of community is, indeed, something to consider when establishing an outlook on life, especially as it is based on conclusions drawn from the inner-self. We humans are social creatures and we need each other to survive.

For my own experience in making the attempt to find community among the Atheist and Skeptical communities, what I found turned out to be a rather sordid affair. No one really greeted me; people were hogging conversations; a time limit on the gathering was not established and thus, I sat there for a while until I had to interrupt to find out if and when the meeting was going to end. The whole ordeal was rather unorganized and cumbersome, and I found myself not wanting to return.

However, when I look at the phenomenon from a scientific perspective, it’s easy to see how the Internet has been a driving factor in the acceptance and growth of Atheistic practices, wherever these may occur. And just how long has the Internet been among the human population? For myself, since 2006; but on a general level, I’m sure that thousands of years from now, the turn of the century will be marked as the advent of mass communication.

From this point, this would indicate that the correlation between Atheistic acceptance, the communities that follow in its wake, and the advent of the Internet has been in a seeming process from, say — let’s just mark it as the year 2000. The conclusion to be drawn from this speculation is that religious communal entities have about a 2,000 to 5,000 year lead in the practice in of community organization. I say give our sector a chance to grow.


Again, I can understand how this generation must feel as the world of reality continues in its fruition. Loneliness. Loss. Isolation. Polarization. But I think that because the phenomenon is so new and attendant upon us, that it will be some time before a true comfort stream can emit from the organizational prospects that the Atheist and Skeptical communities will ultimately have to confront. We already have groups like the Sunday Assembly (though I will admit, this sort of thing might not be my cup of tea); and the many organizations that stem from groups like the British Humanist Association seem innumerable. The Sunday Assembly itself does appear to work for many people, and I think that as time moves forward, a couple hundred years of working out the kinks will have future communities providing a more approachable venue for those non-believers who want a place to be among friends.

Now, if I could figure out a way, I’d invite everyone who follows my blog to a party, because that would be an exquisite experience. I would love to meet all of my fellow bloggers in person, but for now I guess we’ll all have to live ours lives as we’ve made it thus far. This, knowing that future generations may find matters a bit easier in which to thrive.

 [Addendum] Here are a couple of videos about the advent of open Atheism.

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21 Responses to Atheism and Sense of Community

  1. “The conclusion to be drawn from this speculation is that religious communal entities have about a 2,000 to 5,000 year lead in the practice in of community organization.”

    This is a very good point. Personally, I don’t want to “congregate” or have “fellowship” the same way they do it in most religious gatherings. I simply want to enjoy the company of others without god being shoved down my throat. Perhaps the only benefit I see for such a gathering of unbelievers, under one roof, is to meet other like-minded people. However, Meetups are good for that and are generally well organized.

  2. I just finished watching the documentary. It was excellent. Thank you for sharing. I noticed that it did mention the Meetup groups in part two. How awesome it would have been had I been able to attend a camp like Camp Quest when I was a kid. I also appreciated what some of the non-believing type “churches” are offering for both adults and children, e.g., science projects/experiments and scientific education, as well as personal development.


    • LEjames says:

      Thank you Victoria, and I agree with your assessment. I had found the video after I posted, and felt like I had to share. The things that are happening are inspiring and I hope I can fit in somewhere eventually. It seems to be a kind of trend, where people come to grips with their Atheism, but then feel like, “What do I do now?” And the people who are doing these Camp Quest kinds of efforts are among those who are way ahead of me and others like me. Anyways, I’m certainly glad you watched, it is an excellent production.

      Btw, I’ll have you know that I am purchasing a copy of Contact because of your blog.

      : P

      I’ve never seen it, so I can’t wait to share my thoughts on your post.

      • It seems to be a kind of trend, where people come to grips with their Atheism, but then feel like, “What do I do now?”

        I agree. For many, there is a transitional period. But in all honesty, the transition wouldn’t be so difficult if atheists, humanists, agnostics, freethinkers were not feared or despised. They are especially in the South (US). When I was a believer, I was lied to about the characters of nonbelievers, and so many people believe what they are told without checking it out for themselves — usually because they are told to not associate with “evil” or the “appearance of evil”. Just look at what happened to the women who founded Camp Quest. She did wonderful things for her community. Such disturbing and disappointing behavior from believers ruled by their limibic system.

        Being a nonbeliever can get lonely, so I fully support these types of gatherings and hope to see more spring up.

        Btw, hope you like the movie. ;)

  3. Alice says:

    I was never big on the idea of church either, and quite found it more of a hindrance in my “spiritual walk”, so I don’t miss it one little bit. I can understand though, why some who grew up in that culture would be very lonely without it.

    • LEjames says:

      Very nice to see you, Alice. I think at some point in time I thought I was supposed to unite the two — my spiritual walk with my communal gathering behaviors. Oddly, when I did so, this is when the beginning of the end initiated its phase. For those who’ve lived their lives like that, though, and I think it was a Jewish blog that I am thinking of, indeed, I could really notice the heartbreak going on inside of her.

  4. Howie says:

    I’m also looking forward to seeing more of these groups sprout up. I always enjoyed the community as a Christian, and especially enjoyed the gathering together for self reflection and to share things deeper than just how the weather has been.

  5. Steven Clear says:

    I could have written that third paragraph. I tried an Atheist Meet Up in my area, and it was as you described, though I was caught by a few other things at that dinner that I didn’t expect or find appealing.

    basically, I think religion is intellectually, socially, and personally harmful, but I would have a better time at a religious event/ service than I have at the available Atheist groups in my area.

    I avoid the religious alternative because I can’t reconcile the acceptance of fiction over fact. Unfortunately, I avoid the atheist groups too, for other social reasons.

    there is more to be said here, but I am on my phone, and I don’t want to ramble.

    This is a great post, I will definitely read more on your site.

    “We have the justification, religion has the social structure. For both, there are psychological implications.”

    • LEjames says:

      I remember quite a few years ago I attended an AA meeting. They had a preamble, preparatory discussion, a guest speaker, and a topic for the meeting, and then people in the meeting would share thoughts accordingly. The end of the meeting was the signal to talk to others on a more sociable level, then we all went home.

      I think I was looking for this kind of structure when I went to the Skeptic’s meeting, but as you mentioned, matters were abysmal. I think I’d like to create something with structure, if I can get situated somewhere…I’m sort of in limbo.

      “I avoid the religious alternative because I can’t reconcile the acceptance of fiction over fact.”

      Very well said my friend, we are of like mind. For my blog, thank you for saying so, and I will certainly check in to see how things are going in your corner of the net…

  6. tyy says:

    I have never felt a need to belong to a group, as an atheist I mean. Maybe that varies from country to country, I am from Finland.

    Most Finnish people belong to same church (Evangelical Lutheran, 75% of population) and most of them only because of the habit, being de facto agnostics.

    So religion in Finland is kind of lame ;)

    • LEjames says:

      This is very nice, to have you being from Finland and looking at my blog. I am in Northern California, so you seem really far away.

      “…being de facto agnostics”

      This is an amazing fact, and the statistics about how society functions in Finland must be very interesting to study.

      At any rate, thank you, I can’t wait to visit Finland!

  7. Steve Morris says:

    I’m not sure you can really build a community around atheism. Why would I want to hang out with people who also don’t believe in God? It’s as silly as spending all your time with folk who believe in the literal truth of ancient texts. Far better to build communities around positive activities like reading groups, walking, choirs, etc.

    • LEjames says:

      Hi Steve,
      I enjoyed your post about the strange nature of American beliefs. It seems that when free to choose, people opt to stick with what they’ve grown up with.

      As for your thoughts here, I’m not sure I agree. When I think of things that are “silly,” I think of things like Ace Ventura pushing a Slinky down the steps of a Buddhist temple to see if it will make it all the way down to the bottom. I don’t see the idea of people meeting to discuss matters that are important to them, religious or not, as “silly.”

      There’s a group who meets across town that meets, and though I suspect they are Atheists, the meeting is for those who are skeptical. They don’t read books or walk or sing, but they discuss ideas about things that are seemingly difficult to believe.

      For myself, my ideas about community stem from having had life difficulties. If a person is seriously caught in a muddle, why is the Salvation Army the only place to go? Humanist organizations with a strong secular front should exist so that people don’t have to be forced into a church in order to get help. From this point, I think groups and organizations should exist where a standard non-believer can go to talk about life issues without the specter of religion overshadowing the conversation.

      Anyways, thank you for speaking up so that I got a chance to participate, your thoughts are always welcome.

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