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: 253

Replies to This Discussion

Mark, why did you pick on 22 February for Darwin Day?

Charles Darwin was born on 12 February 1809 (in Shrewsbury, Shropshire). 

Thanks, Terence,

You're absolutely right about Darwin. Please change the document I sent to make Darwin Day February 12th. My mistake. Sorry.

Regarding Animal Rights Day, I looked this up on the web and found numerous references to Dec 10. Here is one One site actually referenced the 50th anniversary of the UN human rights declaration as the reason for picking that date.  I have, as they say, no dog in this fight. So a different date would be fine with me. But there seems to be some history now to Dec 10.

I suppose we could make 10 Dec Human and Animal Rights Day. (Or perhaps more fittingly Human and Other Animals Rights Day.)


This sounds like exciting stuff Mark, but I struggle to buy into the basic premise that we need to organise to reinforce our atheism. Dare I say, what is proposed sounds almost like a religion! I accept that communal activity, shared experiences and ideas, being around like minded people etc. is important – even a need as Alice describes it. Maybe I’m very fortunate that I can meet that need without religion through the social and professional circles I revolve around. See, my atheism is no big deal. I rarely think about it. I get angry when I hear about what is done in the name of religion, and I get frustrated because I don’t understand blind faith. But I relish the fact that I’m not reliant on belief in any kind of deity to dictate to me what is right and what is wrong. If people need a pretend friend to get them through the day, that’s fine by me! As long as their whacky beliefs don’t impact on my human rights they can build their churches, say their prayers and sing their hymns. I’ll campaign and fight for what I believe in, but that’s not framed by my atheism. I have no ambition to ‘convert’ theists. I’ll fight religious zealots politically if I think they’re wrong on stuff like abortion or women’s oppression but that won’t be because I’m an atheist and they’re Christians or Muslims– it’s because I think they’re wrong. I think it’s a great idea to celebrate scientific achievements and celebrate diversity: to organise music festivals, craft fares, alternative lifestyle events, gay pride marches, and celebrations of different cultures. But I feel uneasy when it’s done in the name of atheism or with the aim of bringing people around to our way of thinking.
Thanks David, No problem at all with what you're saying here. It is a pretty good description of the way I think about this too. While I do feel the need for connection with like minded people, I don't feel like I need an atheist church. I responded to Alice's concerns with the community building proposal for several reasons. First I am basically in support of community building wherever and whenever we can do it. Our modern society has often left us far too isolated and I don't think that is healthy. The second reason has to do with the special challenges this isolation poses for families with children. Social networking is even more important for these families. Churches do serve to build useful communities but the price of admission, faith in a supernatural deity, is unacceptable. If people want to create that kind of community experience without the deity, I'm all in favor of it, whether I would personally join or not. A third reason for creating the HAAFT community proposal was the idea of a separate set of holidays and more importantly a way to structure an atheist ceremonial dinner for families with children. This comes in part from my very fond memories of our extended family Seder when I was young. It was a great experience even though no one, as I recall, took the religious part too seriously. I think it is possible to create a similar experience for children with the messaging shifted to free thinking, ethical behavior and social responsibility. I would be thrilled if some families were willing to try it. I can imagine having tried it when I was raising my three kids. These kind of innovations if practiced on a large scale could help to build a bulwark against the political and social oppression by the religious majority in the US. (A mighty fortress is our pod.) You are lucky not to have much of this problem in the UK. Society in a large swath of the US is like the Middle Ages with cars and appliances.
Yeah, this sort of thing meshes up pretty well with my feelings on the subject, too.  I think the attempts to make an atheist Bible, set up atheist churches, and similar things will play straight into the hands of the idiot fundamentalists who say that atheism is a religion, too.  It's not, and any attempts to pick up the trappings of religion with 'rational' dogma and rituals (how the hell does that work, anyway?) will just weaken us.

Well, there are a few places, like ethical societies, or humanist centers, that are like churches, sort of.  Some of those might suit your needs.  There is Darwin Day, and HumanLight(I think that is what I saw).  And, a person can celebrate anything they like whenever they like. 


You are right. There are some humanist centers. Here are two references:

They seem to be a relative rarity.

We've got one in Chapel Hill, actually.  It's kind of ... boring, really.  I hated church back when I was Catholic.  I can understand how it's a nice thing for people who actually miss church, though.

Here's the problem. Atheists have one thing in common and one thing only...we/they don't believe in god/s. That's it. Other than that we can have many different personalities, beliefs, morals, etc, because we're NOT a religion. We don't (and hopefully never will) have a book or doctrine telling us how we have to behave. I have many friends who do and don't believe in god. Personally my better friends who do believe are very liberal and never push it. I don't push atheism either. If some atheists believe that makes me a bad atheist...too bad.


Of course, I live in a province of Canada where the last statistic shows 33% of the population does not believe in a god (that includes agnostics mind you). And for the most part (although I admit there is some exceptions) people just don't care what others think here. As result I may not face the same difficulties as some, such as the southern states, but still...


As for holidays, I enjoy pointing out the "real" history, behind some of the major christian ones and how they really aren't christian (^_-). 

That's cool. The ideas I posted about creating communities and celebrations is just for anyone who wants to follow that path. You put your finger on it when you said you don't push your atheism and your friends don't push their religion. If the whole world worked like that we wouldn't need this website. The problem is definitely worse in the US, where the numbers I've seen for non-belief are in the 8% to 12% range. Sometimes it feels like the f**king middle ages. As for "christian" holidays, someone recently pointed out that the word "easter" does not appear in the bible. Neither I believe does the word "bunny."

The word Easter comes from the pre-christian Saxon pagan goddess Eostre. The name is a North European form of the Mid-Eastern goddess name Astarte. 

Citing Barbara Walker (The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 1983, Harper and Row, page 267):

"The Easter Bunny was older than christianity; it was the Moon-Hare sacred to the goddess in both eastern and western nations. Recalling the myths of Hathor-Astarte who laid the Golden Egg of the sun, Germans used to say the hare would lay eggs for good children on Easter Eve."

The origin of the Medieval English word "bunny" is of high interest for linguists deeply interested in word origins, which I'll explain if someone pushes me to do so. 



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