I found a really cool play-place the other day through a friend.  She's a lapsed Catholic, but not interested in organized religion, and the first thing she told me was "This place is run by a church, but they won't proselytize."  I cringed, but we're so damned bored with the regular places and it was so cold, so I decided we'd bite the bullet.


I joked with a non-theist friend that if she heard about a mom with a child being struck by lightning, she should go ahead and repent, but otherwise, we were golden.  Then I packed up the kid and off we went.


And it was cool.  This place was fun.  And it was free.  And they had a cool little cafe with delicious coffee and cheap lunches and the proceeds went to building wells in Africa.  And they had free clinics on the third Sunday of every month at which people could come and get their eyes and teeth checked, have a hot meal and get a little prayer if they wanted.  And I thought "If all Christians were like this, I might not have become disillusioned with religion."  That disillusionment which led to questions and more disillusionment, which led to my break with belief.


I thought wistfully of my Sunday School days with the community, the singing, the pretty dresses and the going out to lunch afterwards, and I felt kind of sad that my daughter would never experience those things.  I mean, she's lucky to be missing out on the indoctrination, but she's missing the community of like-minded people.  And that makes me a little sad.  Maybe I should create a church.  The tax breaks would come in handy.

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Comment by Joy Cody on May 9, 2011 at 5:19pm

Wanda and Sabio, thank you for your comments! 


@Sabio, I think growing up in a fairly liberal church made me believe much longer than I would have otherwise.  The community and sense of belonging was incredibly important to me as a child, and it was only as a teenager/young adult that I truly began to actually seek answers to my questions.

@Wanda, to answer your questions - How can people, young and old, form communities that offer a needed social outlet in which to interact with one another without turning the participants into social clones?  I think as atheists, we have a unique ability to resist being social clones.  Since we're already outcast from the social norms, it might be easier to be in a community of like-minded people without having to believe everything everyone else believes.

And can an atheist community succeed at providing such a structure?  I think so.  The problem is that we're so used to being quiet about and alone in our beliefs and perhaps afraid of ridicule or being shunned by friends and family that we don't take the steps necessary to create such a community. 

And don't we have to provide one in order to be viable?  There definitely has to be structure to succeed.  Someone just has to start the ball rolling.

Comment by Wanda T on May 9, 2011 at 8:47am

The loss of community seems to be one of the biggest issues with apostates. I have been "faith-free" since 2006 (officially) but began questioning religion and god when I was 12, around 1970. I did leave the church at that time, so the community issue didn't affect me so much. But as I write this I realize that it did affect me, in a very profound way. I just didn't realize how much until years later.


My family attended a Southern Baptist Church in Charleston, SC. I was in the choir and it was avery good one with a music minister who seemed to recognize the potential of those with vocal talent. I considered myself one of those, as did he it seemed, and I performed regularly in solos and duets. We also toured other churches in SC, NC, and GA during the summer. Life was good and I was having fun and loving god.


Then the issue of dress length was raised by some of the good ladies of the church. The rule was that a girl's choir uniform, these cute little blue dresses with red and white accessories (symbolizing our patriotism, of course!) were to be no more than 2 inches above the knee. Recall that this was 1970. We were children, so of course we rallied against that mandate. In retrospect, there were many ways this could have been handled to arrive at some satisfactory resolution. What did end up happening was that it turned into an all out war of words between the youth of the church and the good ladies, who resorted to name calling (ie: slut) and the tension between the two groups ultimately split the church apart. I stopped going altogether. I never returned to music.


Shortly after that my father, an Air Force enlisted man, was transferred to Texas, where he ultimately retired, so I'd have left the church then anyway. That church, at least. But as a result of the events in which I had been involved I had many doubts about a religion that sanctioned this kind of activity. The adults were behaving as childishly as the children, if not more so, and the children could plainly see it. I also questioned the value of a doctrine that mandated this level of conformity. So I never returned to any church and just put organized religion behind me. I still believed in a god, but I didn't see any value in expressing that belief in an organized manner.


Well, it was the 1970's. I was a new kid in a new school and had no “community.” I no longer had the only thing that was really of value to me (music) and I think I was mourning that loss without realizing it. My parents – well, who knows what was going on in their minds. They weren't bad parents; they took care of me and were kind. I suppose they were just people who had no idea how much things were changing and how a lack of direction would affect someone trying to grow up in that world. I don't think they “got it” any more than I did when my son was growing up.


Anyway, having no community did affect me, more so than I knew at the time. I did all the things kids did in the 70's. I was sexually active by the time I was 15, and I won't even go into the recreational drug use. It was 1970; use your imagination.


So, the whole point is the importance of community. If there is one thing that religion does well it is foster a sense of community. The downside is that it relies on conformity and a profession of faith in god in order to be a part of it. How can people, young and old, form communities that offer a needed social outlet in which to interact with one another without turning the participants into social clones? And can an atheist community succeed at providing such a structure? And don't we have to provide one in order to be viable?

Comment by Sabio Lantz on May 9, 2011 at 5:29am
I think your insights are very valuable !!
Those of us who were in versions of Christianity that were blatantly repulsive for whatever reason made us generalize.
Don't get me wrong, I think all versions are wrong. But they are only wrong in certain areas and right in many others (But do they have benefits too? I think so.
I made
a chart illustrating my intuitions on this:
I am sure I got much wrong but I hope this analysis can help in the dialogue.
Let me know what you think.">I charted my ideas of their benefits vs harm).
So, if you had known a friendlier, more helpful version of Christianity, your mind would have been able to more easily rationalize the irrational beliefs -- and that may have offered your daughter some different benefits than she has now. But I am sure she has lots of benefits on the other side. :-)



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