While browsing through my favourite meme site the other day, I came across this:
While Mr DeGrasse Tyson is a great mean in many respects, this statement misses the point, or more accurately, points. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while now, since my brother posed me a similar conundrum: why am I part of atheist groups? What do we do? What’s the point?
I propose there are 2 primary reasons atheists join together, and these both offer a third, less explicit, but more important reason. Many atheists are happy to just hold that opinion, it’s just a position they hold that doesn’t really demand any action. But some of us feel action is required, at two possible levels.
There’s ones like me, who simply want religion to stop pervading facets of everyday life it really has no business being in – generally speaking the separation of church and state, but also schools and science lessons and all that fun stuff where things really should be secular. And note the important word here is secular – we’re not saying everyone should be atheist, only that one religion shouldn’t take preference over any other in how we teach our kids or run our countries. You’re certainly welcome to be religious in any particular brand you choose on your own time (and indeed, some non-atheists advocate this position too, although I don’t think it’s too common).
Some atheists, the more Richard Dawkins type, take it a step further and argue no religion should exist – we’d be better off without it and it generally does more evil than good. Now, I’d be happy to discuss that until the cows come home, but it’s not a position I’m prepared to campaign on behalf of. But I think what’s important is to consider where the campaigning impetus comes from, for either of these positions. I think the answer is that many atheists are not raised atheists – they have to “come out” at some point, and they often do so against the grain. And here’s the third reason atheists group together: support. Coming out is not always easy, especially for those raised in religious families. Rejection can be faced by those close and those in general – remember, even in Greenpeace-birthing Vancouver atheists are as distrusted as rapists.
So we group together to share our stories and know there are others the same as us; these are human things to want, and there’s a comfort in socialization and action with people who think like you. That’s not to say atheists are homogeneous, as I’ve already pointed out there are divisions in aims, but generally, they are people who have come to similar conclusions for similar reasons, and they have faced relate-able situations.
Now I’ll admit, I, in general, have not faced those situations. I was raised perfectly secular, in that my parents never said either way, but still we sang hymns and said prayers in school, and it was there that I first started to realize something was up. But I figured out the support thing in analogy to how I coped with depression. The best thing for me was a kind of group therapy, where the participants largely ran it by talking about the issues for them that week and the others offering support. But for me the suggestions of the others wasn’t the most important thing – it was simply hearing that other people had gone through the exact same things as me.
Atheists are human, and we group together to satisfy a very basic human need; to feel like a part of something. Those of use that have joined also want to make sure that something remains, for those who want to join us. We are strong together so that those hiding “in the closet” can see a brighter side to being themselves.