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: 287

Replies to This Discussion

Have you tried the West Alabama Freethought Association Meetup?



Yes, well I’m perhaps a bit slow off the block with that then…


It really came out of my own late conversion to atheism at 31 years old, despite my father informing me of all relevant material at around age 6.  I was seduced by theistic thinking due to my need to feel secure – have my basic needs met – from cradle to grave – I didn’t have this security from atheists I had this security from theists including my mother.


So it’s two pronged – changing cultural habits – such as festivals that are celebrated and shared – and creating community culture – which meets all the other needs we have.


Christmas must be a time to share time with family – to celebrate the joy of having each other – to share gifts and food – perhaps more in the pagan way of celebrating the winter solstice – although this is silly for us in the southern hemisphere.


I’d really like to get some think going here – in fact I’m sure there is a book in it – “the social and community practises of the atheist” or something like that – it would be well worth researching and creating a handbook of sorts that allowed us to share something in common with atheists from all around the world and therefore allowed us to be more attractive to theists wanting to jump ship.  It gives them a ship on which to jump to – rather than a number of poorly put together rafts that are often linked with the theistic ship anyhow for getting some basic needs met – eg going to Christmas with your catholic family….


Thanks for the post – and the candid honesty – I totally agree with you…

To generalise and stereotype – atheism is dominated by young white middle class males – and led by older white middle class males – often with Prof or Dr at the beginning.

Perhaps we can draw more than one similarity with the Christian church………

What to do?

I just had an inspiration – I want to write a book called: The Atheist Handbook

Which will basically be our bible – something that covers everything we need as humans….

It includes our world view – which is open to updating based on current findings of new facts…

It covers all our major holidays and celebrations – all atheistic in nature and with a rough idea of what they are about – eg – our late December holiday / celebration will be about getting together with family enjoying fun and food and gifts

It should also cover how we can meet our basic needs…

And then I’m not sure – some suggestions about how to meet basic needs?

How to find others in the community?

How to generate community? that is inclusive of all members black white, rich poor, bright, not so bright….

I think we need women-focused atheist groups. I may try to start one once I'm in a larger city, focusing on writers and crafters as well as nerdy chicks who don't believe in a god--I've also played with the idea of a knitter's group to help expand my circle of people. I also want to look into starting a women's hiking/camping group.

Also, stuff like group hiking on a simple trail would be a great idea for families. Group camping could also be great for families, along with someone brought along for a small lesson in biology or history of the area you're hiking in--there's a few places in the south where paleontology is possible and that'd be epic to do for a camping trip, especially for little kids.

And yeah, basic needs--we don't particularly -need- a secular building, houses can work, but I know churches raise tons of money a year to build various sports buildings, and in many cities, these are the best places to go and play basketball or hang out on Wednesday nights, especially in small towns(which may explain the religiousity of small towns). So if it was possible--it'd be nice to find a series of people who could host until enough money is raised to build a public building somewhere that's kept safe and open at all hours--it'd be nice if it could function as a shelter after emergencies, as well(many churches and schools serve this function).

And the inclusiveness--it needs to literally have similar structure to churches--the once a week meeting, the other special meetings, promoting our(coincidental) values, scientific expansion, learning, group solidarity and humanity, as well as simply doing normal things with like-minded people. A board out front on the building advertising when the coming week's meetings are happening so people know when to stop by is a good idea.

If you want to do something for charity be sure it's a secular charity you donate to--for your local groups, it'd be smart(and this was something I suggested to the local group last year and was quickly ignored) to adopt a family and have members gather up a few things for their thanksgiving/christmas if they might not otherwise have one--it could be food, it could be clothes, small toys for the kids. Also, at the start of school in September--since we promote learning and education, gather together school lists from various needy schools and ask if the schools have a program to give backpacks or school supplies to certain students who might not otherwise have them(You can get an amazing deal on  most school supplies at the start of the year--don't just buy them all at once, or at one place--wait for something to go on sale somewhere and then stock up on it, you can also assemble backpacks with supplies or box up supplies separately). Do be up front with these schools that you're not doing it as a religious organization and you're doing it because education is important to atheists, as is humanity and equality.

And a handbook would be handy--pardon the pun--I suggest you make a wiki online of it, actually--just an atheist organizer's wiki, with various possible gatherings that could be held, ideas and suggestions for buildings to gather in, as well as holidays(darwin's birthday! the day DNA was discovered!) all on a google calendar that anyone can subscribe to or print out. Also you can set it up for anyone to edit it or for members to edit it, etc. It'd take time, but it'd be a communal project--which is how I think atheism should be--no governing authority, but a group democratic decision on various things. You could even have pages for individual groups, locations, as well as links to the pages of each group.

The fact that wikis are searchable lend to the use of it by anyone, and in case someone is looking for something specific, they can easily find the section they're looking for. If you google around you can probably find a site that lets you host a free wiki on it.

Which will basically be our bible – something that covers everything we need as humans….

It includes our world view – which is open to updating based on current findings of new facts…


I dunno, this seems like a really bad idea.  Atheism has no dogma ... no tenets ... no worldview ... and while we have people whom many atheists agree with and aspire to, we don't follow them the same way that theists follow their leaders.


You can't attribute anything positive to Atheism; it's only a response to theistic claims.  To gain any positive statements, you have to add in something like Skepticism or Humanism.  Once you've done that, anything positive you have to say should be attributed to the other term.


Plus, anything you presented like this would be rejected out of hand by probably more than half of atheists.

Good questions and I hope you get that book written Alice. Keep in mind, people who have somehow avoided chaining thier mind to something "mindless" only are about 5% of the population of our planet! : (   The needs you address are in all of us and standing alone is not a fun thing to do!


I've looked everywhere for the same thing! There are groups out there but very small groups - Libertarians, objectivists, The "Brights", There's a group out there that calls themselves believers of "The Flying Spaghetti Monster" and there's is a church in Los Angeles that calls itself "the united Church for Recovering Catholics" !

Keep up the good work Alice, People like you are bright stars by which free minds might choose to follow!- and learn! 

Thanks for your encouraging comments Craig - it's nice to be valued :)


I've heard of the flying spaghetti monster - perhaps I'll join them - as long as their a comedy group and not about to have a communal suicide...


I'm busy being a bright star for my kids, husband and a few close friends/family at the moment.  But I would really like to write a book some day - I think I've got it in me - we'll see how much time I've got left when I've finished with raising my kids... :)



I think that the religions have got one up on us because they all have one book that they are working from – that’s why I thought that having our own ‘handbook’ would be a really excellent starting point.


We need a book that gives us a common culture.


It needs to include:


  • A list of human basic needs
  • A list of atheist festivals and celebrations and the whys and what fors
  • A basic statement of atheism – and other significant findings or disputes such as free will / determinism etc contemporary to our knowledge but still open to being updated in future additions of the book
  • Simple ideas about how to set up local groups – protocols etc that lead to ethical and moral community sharing – I’m not sure about how this would go – but we can look at others for examples – and then recreate them suitable to our diverse needs as atheists.  So basically sticking to our MBR basic needs list – and keeping it simple


EG we all have a need for celebration – so we have atheist festivals and celebrations


We all have a need for community – so creating atheist community


We all have a need for beauty – so having some sort of creative workshops or art exhibitions or some other way of expressing or viewing beauty – this is different for all – but we all share the need to have beauty in our lives – it might be that we value the beauty of landscapes and so entourage walks in nature that support a few needs for physical fitness etc.


I suppose there are Utilitarianism and the other one that do similar things – but I’m still suspicious of their motives…


The bible is basically such a book that was written quite a while ago – it basically tells people how to live…  we could take quite a lot of that and add it to the book in our own words – eg it’s not great to kill people or cheat on your wife…  refer to Sam Harris book The Moral Landscape on why that’s not such a good idea – although I’m not overly keen to add bible contents to our book…

Joseph – LOL… very funny – I’ve got no idea where all the women and children are at these things – I asked my group if they might have a BBQ afternoon, but no – they like the weeknight evening pub meetings…


I think that the hand book will have to include courtesies about looking after group members needs and not just go for the most common need being meet leaving the outer peoples needs by the way side for them to get sucked back into theist states due to unmet needs.




Thanks for your post.  I was a member of the Humanist society in Adelaide – although I did find them highly intellectual and therefore elitist – not sure why – perhaps that’s just Adelaide humanists.


I suppose there are a lot of atheists who just live normal lives and don’t get involved with community much at all.  They have their needs met already.


I suppose that we are so thin on the ground that someone meeting you would think that all atheists are moral but don’t like children…


That’s one of the dangers of being a lone figure when thinking about conversion.



I think it is a failure of atheist community to be inclusive and thoughtful of you at meetings.


And then Richard Dawkins and his mates wonder why they aren’t flocking over to our way of thinking –


If you talk from an elite place and have the Brights vs the rest – who are obviously not so bright, what do you expect….

Well as well--for families with children--if your child likes the free pizza and soda and playing billards on Sunday night with other kids--they don't particularly care about the philosophy being pushed, they just want the pizza.

Atheist communities have to take into account that it's not just the philosophy that Christians are pushing--it's the whole package. I have horrible memories from every church I've ever visited--even when I was trying very hard to be a good christian, I was treated like crap, so if my memories were rosy I may not have realized what bunk it was so early.

and you're right, if you want everyone to be an atheist you have to make atheism available for the common man via educational means and group gatherings--currently it's a lot to ask someone, especially women, to give up their entire social circle for a group of people who may not meet as much or provide as much social support.




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