My basic point here is that facts don’t lead to conversions to atheism or reality based thinking.

Humans have needs and they will compromise on facts in order to meet them.

Atheists therefore need to create communities and a culture that meets the needs of humans – all humans – not just young single humans who like living on the net – or ones that can type well – or intellectualise etc.. but children, computer illiterate people, busy people etc…

Christians have churches

We need community halls

Christians have festivals and rituals that meet the needs to share celebration with people of like minds – we need something similar that meeds our need to share with community and celebrate life. Let’s do what the christians did and take over their festivals with something atheistic.

I need suggestions but things like the Hubble take off anniversary or Darwin’s birth or other such celebrations of importance to the growth in our knowledge of the world based in science. Was Darwin born around December??? : )

We need to get away from the indoctrination of Christmas and Easter, but we need to replace it with something that is suitable to our world view.

I have an interest in converting others to atheism. I don’t really know why – but I suspect its something to do with the fact that I have needs – social needs – that aren’t being met – and perhaps the additional normal reaction that I would prefer it if more people shared my world view.

I live with a theist, all my friends have some form of supernatural believe – so why am I an island – my father is an atheist and he brought me up as such. Although it took me until I was 31 to actually let go of any supernatural belief from my mothers religion or supernatural thinking friends. Why? My theory is that because it didn’t meet me needs.

Now I have 3 children. I’ve managed to persuade the eldest who is 9 that there is not God. I suspect that this may stick. IF it continues to meet his needs to do so.

Since deciding that I was an atheist and encountering Naturalism on the net and gaining support on the internet from other atheists around the world, mainly in American and the UK – and since also reading lots of books on the matter of evolution, physicals, etc – I now have a good grounding in science and scientific understanding of the world.

BUT still my needs are not met.

I need real people to spend time with, a culture, social scene, connection. The local atheist group meet at 7 pm at a pub on a week night. They drink beer. How is this useful to my dinner, teeth, book and bed routine? How is this useful to my need for my children to socialise with others of a like minded world view?

We not all determined to have atheist friends and family – I have one – my father – who lives a very long way away.

It’s all very well shouting the facts from the roof tops – but that clearly doesn’t convert people. Harris states in The Moral Landscape that our beliefs and reasoning and faith is all mixed up in the frontal lobe (although yes, he puts it way more logically and eloquently than I do) – this relates to another article I’ve read that basically tells us that facts don’t change minds – values change minds. That we all start with a bias and basically build on that bias – it takes ‘spiritual’ experience to change our bias or beliefs.

I think we need atheist halls – we need atheist culture – we need atheist community that is inclusive of all – old, young, poor, rich, able bodied, disabled, educated, low skilled, black, white, literate, illiterate – a community and place that is inclusive of all.

My basic take on it is that people have basic needs. They get their basic needs met through many avenues. Sometimes – in fact often it is more effective to get needs met if we submit to having supernatural beliefs or faith. This means that supernatural belief is more attractive to people in order to meet their basic needs – to have a religious faith.

I get a list of basic needs from Marshall B Rosenberg’s book – Nonviolent Communication –

Autonomy Interdependence Spiritual Communion
• to choose one’s • acceptance • beauty
dreams, goals • appreciation • harmony
values • closeness • inspiration
• to choose one’s • community • order
plan for fulfilling • consideration • peace
one’s dreams, • contribution to the
goals, values enrichment of life Physical Nurturance
(to exercise one’s • air
Celebration power by giving • food
• to celebrate the that which • movement, exercise
creation of life and contributes to life) • protection from life
dreams fulfilled • emotional safety threatening forms
• to celebrate losses: • empathy of life: viruses,
loved ones, dreams • honesty (the bacteria, insects,
(mourning) empowering predatory animals
honesty that • rest
Integrity enables us to learn • sexual expression
• authenticity from our limitations • shelter
• creativity • love • touch
• meaning • reassurance • water
• self-worth • respect
• support
Play • trust
• fun • understanding
• laughter • warmth

What I’m proposing is that if an atheist culture or community – however it was created – covered meeting these basic needs then we would have a lot more chance of converting people to thinking of reality in terms of reality and not of supernatural thinking.

What incentive does someone have of changing their beliefs or letting go of theistic beliefs when it would mean that they would be letting go of their basic needs being met.

So if belief is needs based – how can we better change others to seeing the world more as it is – as opposed to through the lens that is obscuring the reality in order to meet basic needs?

We need then to provide the same services as the church does, in our atheism.

Right now, I have a family with kids and the local atheists meet at the local pub at nights late and drink beer. How is this conducive to supporting my needs to mix social with others of my world view? How is this meeting my need to have my children grow up with adults who can share a real view of the world with them? It’s not. It’s exclusive and un supportive.

IMO if atheists want to get with it – they need to create a culture that is inclusive of ALL parts of society – until then it will be confided to young single people or old professors who are lucky enough (determined) to have friends and family sharing their views.

We need to start buying buildings and creating community gardens and activities that include old people young people children, single people married people gay people disabled people and so on…

I know we have online communities – but these are for a narrow group of people who have time to sit on the internet and can read and can type – and even can intellectualise.

How can we increase that support base to include all aspects of our society and meet a much broader set of needs?

Views: 265

Replies to This Discussion

My problem is that I don’t have any mothers groups that will include children for atheists.


Is this perhaps because atheists are thin on the group and tend to be produced by Universities – more specifically philosophy departments?


If all these groups were more inclusive and met the needs of mothers with children, then they could expand their numbers – and create a supportive and way more diverse community.


The way it’s currently set up is limiting.


The humanist group I attended didn’t want any children present, as they had a speaker – and it again was held late on a week day.

Anyway – this conversation so far has given me some confidence to confront my local group with more than just nice requests – I’m now going in for the kill with some critical thinking moral and ethical pertinent questions about the viability of their group.

@Alice, that is good thinking, don't give them a pass. @Jonel, we are not all bad, although I have seen the behavior and find it perplexing at best and deplorable at worst. Don't exclude us all though, I don't want to hang out with those guys either :)
That would be the main reason why I plan on eventually trying to start my own group and organize some of my own meetings/gatherings. I think I can do better.
Alice, I completely agree with you. Being an atheist has been a very lonely experience. Just now at age 62 I am discovering the social networks, the organizations like FFRF, the podcasts from FFRF and Skepticality, and of course the literature from Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens and more recently an excellent book by the pen-named Atheist Camel. These are the beginnings of a new culture. But you are right that there is no substitute for being with people and for having cultural markers in the year that young people can participate in. These must be built up over time. So "Darwin Day" could be a great start. Or how about four Darwin days at the solstices and equinoxes? We just use the names of 3 more Enlightenment heroes....How about Galileo, Descartes and Dawkins? We can all agree to celebrate on the closest Sunday whether or not the government ever gets around to making any of it official. For the rest of this year it would be June 19th, September 25th and December 18th. Perhaps we could conceive of a simple dinner service like Passover where a story about humanity's emergence from ignorance is told and discussion is invited. It would be fun to create the framework for such a service and young people could help. Over time, there could be a small literature of different versions that get shared on line. There is no reason why atheism and ritual grounded in truth must be viewed as incompatible. Some simple steps like these might advance the cause of creating the community we all need. We don't need to wait for permission.



You bring up many issues that our community fails to support – but church communities do – such as helping homelessness, counselling hotlines, supporting poor people, mental health problems and providing community space for sport or other communal sharing – such as fares or fun days or markets or family picnics.


A church historically did bring the community together – as did other more ancient religious practices.


I like the idea of Wiki – as it’s editable by anyone as far as I can work out…  although it is also subject to religious suspension I would imagine – in that they might dispute our posts and put the site on hold?


I don’t know enough about it.


Would you be willing to find out about it and see if it’s appropriate for us to use it to post a ‘hand book’ of atheists?


I think I’m going to be lobbying my local group to broaden it’s horizons in terms of being inclusive – I think (inspired by Harris) that we have a moral obligation to ensure that atheism is available to all – not just the single white middle class male intellectual.



Thanks for your post.  I think your notion of celebratory days is fabulous.  I think what’s important is that the culture of the new atheists is broadened to include more basic needs – such as the need for celebration – and more diversity – such as women, non-intellectuals, ethnic minorities and so on.


It’s just a question of how to promote such a culture so that it has weight and it is universally adopted – creating meaning for us as a ‘people’?


The idea of story telling is fabulous and links in wonderfully with our human brains that are built to hear and remember stories.


We need an evolution day – the day that we celebrate our evolution into humans – the day we learn more about the nature of evolution.


We need a big bang day – when we learn about the origins of our universe.  They can evolve as we learn more – unanswered questions can be included in the story – potential new findings can be included in the story regarding quantum mechanics and so on – but the overall effect will be that children learn these stories and start a tradition of telling their children.


I would especially like to have a day about critical thinking – as this is indeed a very useful skill – and weapon against supernatural indoctrination.


I really want us to develop these ideas further and come up with something.  I do have 3 children and so don’t have all the; time in the world – but little by little we may be able to build something that’s worth while and even publishable in the future – if we can all add something it will build over time into a really good start.


Any ideas about how we might go about this process?


It might be like a company or foundation – where we have a vision and an aim and objectives to work from – and then evolve our mission.


For me it would be some sort of hand book that covers many aspects of our lives and looks to create a culture that is inclusive and based on scientific values.



LOL re wanting to be included – I think that single, white, middle class male intellectuals are very valuable assets to our ranks : )


But if we let the culture go its own course based on the needs of white middle class male intellectuals, other groups won’t flock to atheism because it lacks the form that can meet their needs.

Really interesting debate that takes me to the point that I use with theists: god (or paradise, or nirvana, or any trascendant religious concept) is an human need. Some people covers it with the big beard man, some we do... living!

I mean, I have hobbies, interests, valors, etc, and I don´t think that is because my lack of any god. Maybe here at Europe, or at my community, when we meet, hang out or party, god is not a subject of our conversations, usually.

Anyhow, a good atheist community would not hurt anybody, sure.


PS: I am single, white, middle class male intellectual :-)))

I tend to agree that it'd be great to have atheist organizations akin to churches. While religion might be wrong at best and dangerous at worst, having a support community is a very good thing to have.
I know this is long. But it gives some more specific ideas about how to create a community for people who consider themselves Humanists Atheists Agnostics and Free Thinkers, with a particular eye to the concerns Alice expressed about families with young children. There is a generic wiki website that could be used to create this if someone was willing to set it up. The following is also attached as a Word file.

DRAFT 4/27/11
Humanists Atheists Agnostics and Free Thinkers (HAAFT)
A Beginning Blueprint for Families and Local Communities
By and for people of all ages, races, sexes, ethnicities,
and former religious affiliation,
with an eye to the needs of families with children

A: Holidays - Days of Celebration and Action - See attached Calendar for 2011
1. Days of Reason : Darwin Day and/or Solstices and Equinoxes
(March, June, Sept, Dec: Nearest Sunday)
(Could have fixed person or idea names, or rotating names as in Chinese "Year of the...")
See attached celebration design
2. Earth Day (April 22nd)
3. Human Rights Day(s) (could be Martin Luther King Jan 15th - Gandhi Oct 2nd -
Mandela July 18th - Actual date or Nearest Sunday - or Single date that celebrates all)
4. Animal Rights Day (Dec 10th )

B. Ways to connect and come together
1. Family gatherings: holidays, birthdays, graduations, weddings, funerals (compile non- sectarian scripts for some of these)
2. Local discussion groups
3. Community Mutual Support Group(s) (by geography, age, family type, problem etc.)
4. Existing membership organizations, podcasts and events

C. Individual Values and Practices (as a personal guide and a guide in parenting)
1. Greeting and welcoming
2. Connecting with others
3. Helping others
4. Caring for the planet
5. Thanking those who help us
6. Thinking / meditating
7. Learning about the universe
8. Working on what needs to be done
9. Creating
10. Playing
11. Exercising
12. Eating right

Holiday and Celebration Calendar

January 1: New Year and New Possibilities Day

January 15: Martin Luther King Day

February 22: Darwin Day

March 20: Day of Reason: Equinox Celebration (nearest Sunday)

April 22: Earth Day

June 19: Day of Reason: Solstice Celebration (Nearest Sunday)

July 18: Mandela Day

September 25: Day of Reason: Equinox Celebration (nearest Sunday)

October 2: Gandhi Day

December 10: Animal Rights Day

December 18: Day of Reason: Solstice Celebration (Nearest Sunday)

Beginning "Days of Reason" Celebration Design

A. Preparation
1. Decorations (appropriate to person and idea)
2. Menu planning
3. Reading appropriate to the occasion
4. Choice of service readings and activities (see below)

B. Family Dinner Service

1. Basic Opening: Glad to be together; Who we are missing; My name and
something that is important to me today.
2. Standard Before Dinner Story (to be created and to become family tradition)
3. Choice of Specific Story (See some ideas below)
4. DINNER is served
5. Discussion of story ideas and lessons
6. Basic Closing: Think for yourself. Do the right thing. Do things that make a
7. After dinner fun activities (See some ideas below)

C. Some story ideas: These could be created and added to the Wiki site. Think of these as
campfire stories. They should be short, and understandable by young children. They can be
told by adults or children.
1. Story of people and discoveries (Darwin & evolution; Galileo and the moons of
Jupiter; Watson and Crick & DNA etc.)
2. Story about the SIZE of things and our place in the universe: Universe-Sun; Sun- Earth; Earth-Person; Person-cell; Cell-DNA; DNA- atom
3. Story of human rights, oppression and liberation: Women's rights, Slavery and Civil rights, GLBT rights, Free thought rights, Separation of church and state, etc.
4. Stories of ethics: people who did the right thing and the wrong thing.
5. Stories of caring for each other: Creation of charitable organizations like Doctors
without Borders, the Red Cross, etc.
6. Stories of how we take care of the earth: the balance of nature; conservation stories, current dangers and responsibilities
7. Stories of how we take care of other animals: SPCA, Whale protection, species
preservation and extinction etc.
8. Stories of evolution and life: how humans evolved, the diversity of life, the story of
dinosaurs, insects and flowers etc.
9. Stories of....

D. Some ideas for fun and educational activities
1. Have a telescope and microscope present
2. Evolution activity - pass around a piece of clay and let each person change it a little. Do this two or three times.
3. Art - Music -Dance etc.

Good work, Mark.

I note that you have December 10th down as "Animals Day".


Last December I wrote to the Editor of the London Daily Telegraph as follows (the letter was not published). A matter of discussion in Britain lately has been what best to advance as the date for an additional public holiday.


SIR--On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
December 10 would be a most appropriate day to institutionalize as a new public holiday.   
Dr. G. Terence Meaden





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