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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Heard

Building a Community: How Atheists Connect with Like-minded People

atheist community

In a world where the majority still adhere to some form of religious belief, atheists often find themselves in a unique position when it comes to community building. The absence of a unifying belief system or a central religious institution means that atheists often have to take a more proactive approach to connect with like-minded folks. It's just not as easy as going to church every Sunday, right? You gotta put yourself out there. It's a challenge, especially when making friends as an adult is already harder than Han Solo after Darth Vader turned him into a consolation trophy.

So, I've put together some key points and advice for building community as an atheist. It is very possible to build community as an atheist, so let's take a look at how.

1. The Importance of Community for Atheists

Before diving into how atheists build communities, it’s crucial to understand why these communities are important. For many atheists, especially those in religiously dominated societies, finding a community provides a sense of belonging and a safe space to express their beliefs and doubts. It can also offer a support system for those facing discrimination or ostracism due to their lack of religious beliefs. For individuals who have escaped cults like Jehovah's Witnesses, the LDS church, or fundamentalist Islam, finding these safe spaces can be a true lifesaver. So, while more privileged atheists like myself are happy to announce that we're introverts and prefer to stay home with a good sci-fi yarn, others need to find some way of connecting with like-minded people, and sometimes their life depends on it.

2. Local Atheist Groups and Organizations

One of the most common ways atheists connect is through local groups and organizations. These groups often organize regular meetings, discussions, and social events like Skeptics in the Pub. They provide a platform for atheists to meet others who share their worldview, discuss issues pertinent to the atheist community, and engage in activities that align with their values. Most of the time, it's just a bunch of friends hanging out without having to worry about hiding this one aspect of who we are. These organizations can range from small local clubs to larger national organizations with regional chapters. My suggestion is to search for your city or town and variations of the words atheist, secular, freethinkers, Exmuslims, etc. You can also do the same on Facebook to find groups and pages representing local organizations.

3. Online Forums and Social Media

In the digital age, the internet has become a crucial tool for atheists to connect with one another. Online forums, social media groups, and websites dedicated to atheism and secularism allow individuals from all over the world to interact, share experiences, and offer support. These platforms are especially important for those who live in areas with few atheists or where openly identifying as an atheist is challenging and even dangerous.

Here are some starting points:

4. Conferences and Events

Atheist conferences and events offer another avenue for community building. These events, ranging from local workshops to international conferences, provide opportunities for atheists to gather, learn from prominent speakers, and participate in workshops and activities. These events also serve as a platform for networking and establishing connections that can lead to lasting collaborations and friendships.

Here are some great conferences to attend:

5. Student and Youth Groups

Student and youth groups play a vital role in community building for young atheists. University atheist or secular student alliances offer a space for young people to explore their beliefs, engage in debates, and connect with peers on similar journeys. These groups often tackle issues specific to younger atheists, such as dealing with religious families, exploring secular identities, and promoting rational thinking among peers.

Start here to find your local group: Secular Student Alliance

secular students

6. Volunteering and Charitable Work

Many atheists find community through shared efforts in volunteering and charitable work. By participating in or even organizing community service and philanthropic initiatives, atheists can engage in meaningful work that reflects their values while building connections with like-minded individuals. This approach not only strengthens the atheist community but also helps challenge stereotypes about atheism being synonymous with amorality.

Here are some non-profits that are secular:

7. Creating Safe Spaces

For many atheists, especially those from religious backgrounds, finding a safe space to discuss their doubts and beliefs is crucial. Community groups often prioritize creating an environment where members can openly share their experiences without fear of judgment or backlash. This aspect is particularly important for those who are questioning their faith or are in the process of leaving their religion.

8. Celebrating Secularism and Rationalism

Atheist communities often focus on celebrating and promoting secularism and rationalism. This can include hosting book clubs discussing atheist literature, science clubs promoting scientific literacy, or groups dedicated to philosophical inquiry. Through these activities, atheists not only build community but also engage in enriching intellectual pursuits.

One such activity is your local Skeptics in the Pub - these are hosted all over the world, so search for your town and that phrase, and hopefully, you'll find a group already meeting.

9. Support Networks for Specific Groups

Within the atheist community, there are often specific support networks for particular groups. This can include groups for ex-members of specific religions, atheist parents seeking advice on raising children without religion, or support groups for individuals who have faced ostracism due to their atheism. These specialized groups provide tailored support and advice, addressing the unique challenges faced by different segments of the atheist community.

Here are some places to start to find groups like this:

10. Advocacy and Activism

For many atheists, community building also involves activism and advocacy. Whether fighting for the separation of church and state, advocating for science-based policies, or campaigning against religious discrimination, these activities unite atheists around common causes and foster a sense of collective purpose.

Here are a few places to start your advocacy and activism:

11. Informal Social Gatherings

Sometimes, community building among atheists takes a more informal route. Casual social gatherings, such as dinners, hikes, or movie nights, can be equally important in fostering a sense of community. These gatherings allow atheists to connect on a personal level, share life experiences, and develop friendships outside of structured group settings. Such informal interactions often provide the social glue that keeps the community together, allowing members to bond over shared interests and experiences beyond their atheism.

12. Online Content Creation and Sharing

In the age of digital media, many atheists, like myself, take to platforms like YouTube, podcasts, and blogs to share content related to atheism, secularism, and rational thought. Content creators often build communities around their platforms, fostering discussions and debates that attract like-minded individuals. This content not only serves as a resource for those exploring atheism but also helps in normalizing atheism in the public discourse.

Here's a great place to start:

13. Celebrating Atheist and Secular Holidays

While some atheists may not participate in religious celebrations, many create and celebrate their own secular holidays and traditions. Events like Darwin Day, Carl Sagan Day, or the Winter Solstice are celebrated by some atheist communities. These celebrations offer a way to acknowledge and honor the natural world, human achievement, and scientific discovery, providing a sense of ritual and tradition that strengthens community bonds.

14. Overcoming Challenges in Community Building

Building an atheist community is not without challenges. Organizing atheists has often been likened to herding cats. The beauty of lacking dogma is that we are all so different from each other. Differences in opinions, approaches to activism, and varying degrees of openness about one's atheism can sometimes lead to conflicts within many atheist communities. Effective leadership, clear communication, and a focus on common goals are essential in navigating these challenges.

15. Mentoring and Guidance for New Atheists

For those who are new to atheism, especially individuals who have left their religious communities, mentorship and guidance are crucial aspects of community support. Experienced atheists often take on mentoring roles, providing advice and support to those who are navigating the challenges of transitioning to a secular lifestyle.

You can start here if you're looking for guidance with your new life outside of religion.

16. Utilizing Technology for Community Engagement

With advancements in technology, atheists have utilized various tools for community engagement and organization. From virtual meetings and webinars to social media groups and mobile apps, technology has significantly expanded the ways in which atheist communities can connect and collaborate.

17. Fostering a Culture of Inclusivity and Diversity

As the atheist community grows, there is an increasing emphasis on fostering inclusivity and diversity. Recognizing that atheists come from a wide range of backgrounds, with diverse experiences and perspectives, many communities strive to be welcoming and accommodating to all, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or cultural background.

Building a community is not easy. We're such a varied group by design. But it can be done. it involves creating spaces and networks where individuals can connect, share, and support each other in a world often dominated by religious narratives. It's about fostering a sense of belonging and solidarity based on shared values, secularism, humanism, and rational thought. From local groups to global networks, from formal organizations to informal gatherings, the ways atheists connect and build communities are as diverse as atheism itself. These communities not only offer support and friendship but also work towards greater societal acceptance and understanding of atheism. Through these efforts, atheists demonstrate that community and connection are not solely the provinces of the religious but are universal human experiences accessible to all.

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Jessie Mcgregor
Jun 16

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