Lucy Jain's Personal Blog

An Atheist community???

I had a nice conversation with a catholic priest today, now we have to take into account that he was at my workplace and I was cutting his hair so I couldn’t really bring up all that I think is bad about the catholic chuch.

On my workstation I keep a pile of leaflets with info about my local Skeptics in the Pub. Mr Priest picked up a leaflet and was really interested in it. I encouraged this and talked about past meetings, mainly Jon Ronson, homeopathy and UFO’s. He was genuinely getting really into the conversation, he agreed we ought to be more skeptical about things and wants to come to a meeting.

He was a lovely chap. After he had paid we had a chat and a laugh in the back room with the rest of the staff. He was telling us about an experience he had when an old lady holding an umberella was standing with her skirt tucked in her pants and he didnt know whether he should have have told her or not, what with preists track record with all things sexual. He told us about an embarassing moment where he told a fellow priest in a cafe a woman on another table was attractive to which the other priest shouted her which made him embarrassed!

I then asked if he was going to visit his German boss when he visits the UK, he said no and didn’t elaborate. I said I wouldn’t either but then I am a skeptic. He redily replied by saying he wasn’t skeptical about that.

What I don’t get is how someone with such an interest in my skeptics leaflet, who agreed quite enthusiastically about our chat on being skeptical, can be so adamant about his faith. It must be nice to be loved and respected by your community, it must be nice to have a community where you play a major role and your influence has a positive effect on that community. I am not talking about the bad parts of religion here, putting aside child abuse and massive power that can be corrupted. I am talking about a community that strives to stick together and defend a cause.

If we take religion out of the equation, would those communities still exsist?  People are no longer so neighbourly, people tend to keep themselves to themselves. I know I do. Its a shame we no longer bake cakes for our neighbours and have street parties or be able to have neighbours to babysit.

I think religious communities still do these things.

I brought this up once at a skeptics meeting, I think it was when Ariane sharine was speaker. I said that Atheists/agnostics/skeptics etc miss out on this. We have our monthly meeting and we have secular societies but the bulk of our community is online behind a computer screen. I am not sure people caught my drift really as a secular society member said that that does exsist within the secular society. Maybe thats enough for most but there isnt anything in local commnities. I also have no way of making it to the secular society meetings as I cant get out in the evenings and I have no ideas of how what I feel is missing  can be resolved.

There are quite a few societies that make up a skeptical/athiest community, the Secular society, The humanist association, Skeptics in the Pub, Atheist conventions, AAI etc,  which are great but they dont bring us together as a whole. Maybe we don’t need to be a whole, maybe the internet is our home or maybe there just isnt enough people who are willing to defend being rational and skeptical because they are seen as black sheep. Maybe its just a case of people cant be bothered with even thinking skeptically and plod along without giving it a proper thought. I don’t know how others think but i do know I sometimes feel like i’m in a tiny minority and wish that would change.

I feel sad that we miss out on the community that the religious enjoy. In fact I would imagine its the community that the religious need more than then their God.

Me xx


5 responses

  1. Geoff

    Lots of food for thought there, Lucy!

    Now follows some largely incoherent waffling…

    First, about the priest and his “selective scepticism” [derail] “skeptic” is the USA spelling – we don’t do that here! 🙂 [/derail]

    The thing there is, in order to be truly sceptical, one has to have no preconceived ideas/indoctrination (either never having had any, or being prepared to abandon them), which presumably allows him to be open-minded about other “woo” while holding his religious faith as not something to be sceptical about.

    As far as socialising goes, that’s a lot more complicated (naturally!), I think. The “herding cats” aspect is part of it, but I think more important is simply the fact that we’ve got better things to do. For most of us, I think, our atheism isn’t such a defining part of our lives as religion is to the religious. In fact, if it ever did get to that stage, it would give some justification to those of our critics that think atheism is just another religion!

    As an example: it’s not necessary for us to have anything in common, other than a lack of belief in a sky-fairy. Some things do tend to be more common amongst atheists (better educated, less prudish, more tolerant, etc), but they’re not compulsory. In contrast, religious people, generally, will necessarily share similar outlooks on a lot of other things, simply because those outlooks are mandated by their religion, which by its nature tries to impose itself on every part of their lives.

    Much as I’ve loved the various meetups we’ve organised amongst ourselves, and value the many good friends I’ve made, I don’t consider those meetups to be a crucial factor in my atheism, unlike the way that god-botherers would regard, say, a prayer meeting. I just rank them alongside meetups of any of my other interest groups – which comes back to my “better things to do” statement earlier.

    Your final sentence hits the nail on the head, though.

    July 2, 2010 at 22:27

  2. Connor

    I agree about the lack of community being a shame, but think that when a ‘community’ becomes big enough it creates power structures, sets of rules, and ultimately dogma that shall not be questioned. Not really consistent with skepticism…

    July 3, 2010 at 03:33

  3. natselrox

    This is so true. Living in a country of 1 billion people, I can definitely testify to the power of religion as a social adhesive. In small villages in India, the only thing that brings people together is the temple. Similarly, in case of Islamic communities, I see that when they go to the namaz, they chatter along the way. This definitely helps in bringing the members of a community together.

    I have no problem interacting with religious people as long as they are not talking about their faith. But as you have rightly pointed out, atheist, being the minority they are, really miss out on the social bonding provided by religion.

    July 3, 2010 at 06:37

  4. I agree Geoff (although i prefer Sceptic with a K!),
    Most people do have more things to do than be part of a community, but If there was a community then maybe more of the religious would become more skeptical because they would still have that community atmosphere where they live. Us rational thinkers want people to become more open minded but have no tool to help people become more open minded. We have religious playgroups/ schools/ fete’s. Couldn’t there be science based events like these where people can learn about Darwin and Evolution, astromony, nature etc organised by skeptics etc. Not brain washing events but fun educational community events.

    You say that we dont have to have things in common, but you know as well as I do that we do have lots in common. We probably have more in common than the religious because all they share is their God. I have found that most of the online friends I have share lots of interests that are important. We would all agree that science/ truth/ love, caring and nurturing/ nature and the planet/ reason and morals and good education are important and I would think we all have these things in common.

    I agree the meet ups wouldnt be a crucial part of our atheism because atheism is just a word. But I am sure if those people you met,(me for on! I would hope!) lived in your community, they would have become a bigger part of your life and you would have had a shared a community atmosphere with them within your community. I am also quit sure you would all enjoy it.


    July 3, 2010 at 19:47

  5. Geoff

    Hmmm. A lot of religious people are interested in those things too, you know..not all of them are home-skooled fundies!

    I go to a lot of community events of different sorts, whether organised by sceptics or anyone else, but I don’t see how an “atheist community” would organise any of them much differently from how they already are run. As I see it, any social event not run by a religious organisation is, by default, run by an atheist one – if only in the sense that religious beliefs won’t be a part of the event.

    Sooo..when I go to, say, a music concert, a beer festival, a rugby match, a nature walk, a museum trip, whatever; as far as I’m concerned they’re “atheist events”, but not really doing anything to advance the concept of an “atheist community”. To me, the only atheist social events that count as such are the RDF/Rationalia meets (and equivalents), and the friends I’ve met there (yourself very much included) are some of the bestest friends I have, even though we meet so rarely!

    I think there’s a “critical mass” problem, as Connor & natselrox imply, in that most towns won’t have sufficient numbers of atheists to set up the equivalent of a church community. Yet.

    I’m encouraged, though, that stats in most countries do show our numbers increasing.

    July 3, 2010 at 20:51

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