Atheist Community and the Lack Thereof
Community organization is the one major thing I think religion got right and the one major thing that the godless are missing out on. Atheists are well known for their lack of organization, “herding cats” is a common term for trying to organize them. I think that may have been the case in the past but not anymore. In the last few years, the atheist subculture has gone mainstream with the bestselling books by Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens; the Out Campaign; and the widely popular “call in” TV/streaming internet show The Atheist Experience hosted by the Atheist Community of Austin(ACA).
While Austin may have a very active atheist community, many cities do not. For instance, Belleville, IL, the city I live in, has a population of 41,410 and the statewide estimate on the percentage of non-religious is 16%, and would imply a population of 6,600 “none” in Belleville. There isn’t a single atheist organization on this side of the river that I’ve been able to find. There are a few small groups in St. Louis, Mo, which is a 30 minute drive away. I find it very depressing there isn’t even a Meetup group for the Illinois side.
In my own opinion, every city with two or more atheists should have a local group that meets on a semi-regular basis. I don’t understand why there isn’t, especially in the liberal northern states. I think one of the reasons is a misconception about atheist meetings. I’ve heard atheists ask on occasion why they would need to meet up with people to talk about “nothing”.
I don’t think it’s about that, I think it’s more about fellowship, getting together with people who have a common interest and making new friends, having a good time. For some atheists it’s hard for them to be themselves in public. At an atheist meeting they could be who they are with no worries, a refuge of sorts. Meeting with other atheists would allow some to help strengthen their own opinions or help correct misconceptions. Not every atheist convert came about it in the same way and everyone can bring something valuable to the table of debate.
Now for the hard part, because I feel so strongly about the need for atheist communities I’ve decided I’m going to have to take the initiative and start one here in Belleville myself. Ugh. I don’t have the slightest clue where to begin but I’m betting the ACA is more than willing to give me some advice. If any of you have any good ideas on how to advertise this kind of meeting, maybe some do’s and don’ts I would greatly appreciate it. I don’t think this is going to be an overnight thing and will likely take quite a while to get set up and moving but I’ve got to start somewhere. I’m envisioning something like meeting at a local coffee shop to start this sort of thing off.
If you are an atheist in St. Louis Metro East area and you’d like to help me start this group or at least attend the outings please email me with the address provided on my contact page.