A few weeks ago, I went to a seminar at an Ethical Society near my home. The seminar was about raising children without beliefs in gods. I’ll write a different post on that topic later, because the seminar was outstanding and helpful. For this post, though, I want to share my feelings of simply being in a room, for the first time, with about forty other nonbelievers.
I haven’t met a lot of atheists in my real life. Sometimes I come across people who are questioning organized religion, and I really enjoy talking to them. But I don’t run into people willing to share that they are atheists. I have a feeling that atheists are all around me, but that we’re all too far in the religious closet to feel comfortable exposing ourselves. When I was at the Ethical Society, sitting next to nonbelievers, I was overwhelmed by the feeling of belonging, the sense of community, and the power of not being alone. I realized as I sat there and listened to other parents sharing stories and feelings very similar to me own, that I have been seeking community. Atheism is lonely.
I don’t think it has to be lonely. We can find community with one another if we have the courage to acknowledge our convictions. Easier said than done, though.
Organized religion is powerful because it provides community, culture, pre-established rules and laws, and a way of living that’s out-of-the-box. It’s stickiness over history is because it doesn’t take a lot of effort to figure out and there are scores of people who believe similarly. Atheism requires effort, including a rejection of established norms. And that means building traditions, cultures, philosophies from scratch and often alone.
Just as much as the Baptists living next door to me, and the Catholics across the street and the Jews down the road, I need community. Sitting among fellow nonbelievers for the first time a few weeks ago, I realized what I have been missing.