Activities, Ceremonies and Gatherings

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Discussion by: sandeepn81
It is my observation that a large number of people are affiliated to various religions for the primary reason of the sense of community, gathering and ceremonies they get by going to churches, mosques and temples.

We are indeed social animals, and we crave for such kind of social activities.
For many it would be dreadful to leave religion, for it would constitute loosing these gatherings, ceremonies, festivals and holidays.
Atheists on the other hand have seldom such opportunities for social activities. There is a rather dangerous image of atheists going around in general that – all an atheist does on a Sunday is sit in front of his desk and blog.

It would be great for atheists and rationalists, to recognize the virtue in such social activities, and to provide with ideas for rational, scientific and, by definition, much better alternatives – alternatives for Sunday churches and other gatherings.

I think atheist communities in cities would do good to organize gatherings such as -
Organize talks and debates by notable personalities, organize scientific presentations on topics like astronomy, biology, physics, etc which would be greatly educational and valuable; organize physical and healthy activities like marathons, biking tours, hiking, etc; organize art exhibitions and competitions, organize social activities like clean-up-the-city, planting trees, cleaning a lake, etc.

Such activities will not only fill the gap and provide a platform for social gathering for people, but also further the scientific and social causes, and increase the image of atheists in general, would  probably also lead to raise some fund that could be used in positive ways.

19 COMMENTS

  1. In my city, which has somewhat of a reputation for being rather religious, we have several non-religious groups. I think that meetup.com provides a lot of these opportunities – the site itself was founded in order to foster more community. One group is good about bringing in speakers and has more of an activist role, and the others provide more social events, movie nights, hiking, brunches, and things like that. When I first moved here, these groups were a wonderful asset. I don’t know how I would have met like-minded people otherwise.

  2. Recognizing the need for a social element is huge. I recall reading the post about scientifically themed holidays some time ago, and I recall thinking that in that one specific case, there was an element missing, which I fear might be overlooked in this case. That is, take a church service; there’s some singing, and a sermon, but afterwards there’s coffee and doughnuts and people mingling, chatting each other up. Debates and lectures might be stimulating for many, but social organizations for the sake of socially organizing might have a broader appeal. Lodges or something akin to the Boy Scouts (without their bias against atheists, homosexuals, etc.), where folks could get together in some organized fashion, set up softball leagues or pancake breakfasts or what-have-you.

    In short, I think that isolating the sense of community found in religious organizations and promoting that would be wonderful, and you could strip the religion from it. I went to Sunday school for years after giving up Christianity, simply because I had a good time seeing my friends there.

    This is just my two cents. I think that debates and lectures can be fascinating, but I admit I have to be interested in the topic, and I wonder if they will have sufficient appeal to the masses.

  3. The social element must be a very powerful incentive to keep people “in the fold” long after they have stopped actually believing. Many ceremonies are now becoming secular, eg weddings & funerals now seem to be mercifully devoid of jumbo-jumbo, and there are many events, talks, debates etc that draw people together without the pretence.

    Since retirement and the kids leaving home, I really had to look around a bit, for that sense of common purpose. It took a while, but book groups, the occasional lecture and the U3A (University of the Third Age) have filled the gap. Singing in a group is an uplifting experience as well, and I’m sure there are local choirs to join if the urge becomes great.

    There are many secular holidays and festivals in western societies, in fact perhaps most, with the exception of Xmas and Easter. We have just celebrated Australia Day . It has become a very popular blip on the calendar , with people going so far as to wish one another Happy Australia Day.

  4. The churches with their church halls and tax-free charity status, ( with earlier tithes paid to them ) have historically been able to monopolise local social activities – especially in thinly populated rural communities.

    Personally, I prefer the regular gathering of musicians and bands, for a sing-around in one of the our village pubs!

    Even so, many secular social events, ranging from dances to gardening clubs, use church halls because of the tax-subsidy and cheaper rents for rooms.

  5. I found all the Community I need in Motor Sports, which has a multitude of ways to get involved. Having been intimately involved in many varieties, both rallying (all legally) on public roads on on many kinds of tracks and surfaces.

    We have clubs and meetings, you can join at or in any kind of event, there is an all-inclusive atmosphere filled with diversity and equality – apart from some friendly jibbing about those other ‘crazy guys’. There are as many types of vehicles as you can handle, on 2, 3 or 4 (and more) wheels, members of the community everywhere, and events several days a week in some (lucky!) places – in all kinds of weather, in all seasons.

    Getting outside and aerobically challenged in working, or getting to good spots, and seeing everything & everybody around the event, is healthy. I don’t spectate much except at car club Old Farts Day at the Vintage Races, since I have many different ways to participate.

    It’s a great way to spend a Sunday – or any day (1-15 per event for me!) – with all the visual, aural and nasal inputs, various ceremonies, mechanical music, many arts. sculpture, engineering, science and talents on show – and all the hundreds of friends, for up to 40 years for me.

    Of course, there is a huge on-line variety of things going on, and when I watch any kind of event on TV or PC, I’m aware of so much that’s going on, having done most of the positions I’m watching.

    I also mentor and teach at different positions, so indoctrination also goes on, and it’s very bloody infectious – almost a religion to some, and most of us have no time for other religion stuff….

    I call it Terminal Motor Sport Disease, and I don’t want to be cured. 8-) Mac.

  6. This all sounds very worthy in principle, but my concern with setting up social/community gatherings with the label ‘atheist’ is dangerous in that it could be interpreted as an attempt to promote atheism as an ideology which replaces religion. It is not. It is the lack of religion.

    Therefore any social event which does not have a religious context or agenda is therefore an atheist event. Music festivals, concerts, poetry reading, non-religious plays…etc. Religion has been made an irrelevent component.

    I would say though that I live in the UK, which is growing culturally more secular, and my group of friends are all graduates, hence religious belief is the exception rather than the rule. If you were an atheist in bible-belt America and felt isolated due to your lack of beliefs, I can see why attending something with a stated atheist agenda might be extremely important.

  7. It’s an interesting idea Bob, but I would personally avoid a gathering labeling themselves as ‘atheists’ for the sake of being atheists, for a couple of reasons; one, I live in the Northeast US, which is fairly secular, but you can’t even go to a metal concert without being told you’re going to hell (granted, it’s one looney toon with a cardboard sign, but still). Can you imagine what an atheist gathering would foster, especially in a less tolerant area? I’d be going to have a good time, not make a stand (there’s a time and place for that, certainly, but personally I wouldn’t want to mix intellectual engagement with fundamentalists, and my leisure time.) I think CdnMacAtheist has the right idea; here we have a club, a culture, something that a person can become immersed in yet religion doesn’t enter into it, nor is there some absence that must be filled. Concerts, comic conventions (yes, I’m a huge geek), and the like would be great, and without being contentious. For something with a different tone, there are yoga retreats which always make my wife feel incredibly relaxed, and philosophy can be explored without having to be debated.

    Just my thoughts; others may be more interested in getting a more rigorously themed group together, especially where they may face more pressure.

  8. I dont understand why gatherings have to be of a religious nature.. there are whole sporting groups and interest groups out there that have nothing to do with religion..

    ive always been athiest so I’ve never understood the need for this group religion thing

    I find my social experiences through a cycling club, and as it turns out everyone who rides with us is also Athiest, we are almost all euro/US/Australia/SA expatriates in a middle east country, a country with very strong religious communities..

    We even have Iranian guys who also have no beleif in religion, so I think if its possible to find non religious groups in a country like this, then it must be possible almost anywhere..

  9. That’s an excellent idea sandeepn81, the trouble with atheists is we are naturally independently minded people and tend to stray from the flock and not conform or go with the flow so,even though its a good idea its harder to organise atheists to meet up, its a pity the ‘heavens gate’ flock were not a little more independent when their leader who was rotten with cancer convinced is followers to castrate themselves and then take their own lives.

  10. I’m. Very interested in astronomy but none of my friends have any interest even though they are not religious. But we just enjoy our beers have a laugh, religion is never mentioned because its boring and meaningless we don’t talk.about Santa or the easter bunny either.

  11. In reply to #13 by ARW1971:

    I’ve always been atheist so I’ve never understood the need for this group religion thing.

    Hi ARW.

    I’ve never had religion either, but learned how it functions from various books, etc.

    The God Virus by Dr Darrel Ray (RDFRS Store) clearly explains how religious viruses operate, and the important thing is that they work to benefit the religion virus, not the virus’s victims.

    Just like various parasites alter the bodies and brains of their hosts to benefit the parasite – even by making the host sick, crazy or commit suicide – so religion only appears to be doing good for its slaves.

    Gatherings and ceremonies allow the religion’s guards and shepherds to perform their hypnotic rituals, to inculcate and spread the meme-plex – for the survival of the god meme.

    Having pals who are serious pedalers, I know cycling is a great, and inclusive, community. Mac.

  12. The fact that religion has so successfully adopted the mantle of the provider of social cohesion is largely an accident of history. In a world where most people must use their time and energy to get the things they need to live, it’s hard to imagine how to successfully provide for social support and community building in a way that would be financially self-sustaining, let alone profitable.

    That is the great success of religions – to have developed a means of making a successful business out of creating cohesive social infrastructure. In a society where religion is to be reduced in profile, it is crucial that such institutions become available outside of the framework of blind faith.

    I feel that such efforts need to be fully inclusive, rather than being tied to Atheism. Simply to lack the superstitious aspect would be enough to make it a broad-based effort that could be enjoyed by the full swath of society.

    We could learn a great deal about how to achieve these things by studying the goings on in churches as well. Study groups, activities, musical performance and celebrity figures are all crucial to getting and keeping members in churches and they would be as well for reason-based community structures.

    To me, all this is the next phase in ‘Reasonizing’ our cultures, and we ignore it at our ultimate peril.

  13. In reply to #17 by WayOfReason:

    The fact that religion has so successfully adopted the mantle of the provider of social cohesion is largely an accident of history. In a world where most people must use their time and energy to get the things they need to live, it’s hard to imagine how to successfully provide for social support and community building in a way that would be financially self-sustaining, let alone profitable.

    That is the great success of religions – to have developed a means of making a successful business out of creating cohesive social infrastructure. In a society where religion is to be reduced in profile, it is crucial that such institutions become available outside of the framework of blind faith.

    That is why the religious right, is so hostile to social policies which support people in need, or build supportive communities. (Universal health insurance etc.). They don’t want any woo-free competition!

    I feel that such efforts need to be fully inclusive, rather than being tied to Atheism. Simply to lack the superstitious aspect would be enough to make it a broad-based effort that could be enjoyed by the full swath of society.

    It is probably not a coincidence that the highest levels of “nones” is in socialist Scandinavian countries, and the high levels of fundamentalism, are linked to US Republican states.

  14. Some atheists are resorting to things like this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21319945

    Personally, I can’t be bothered.

    There is however one aspect of ‘faith’ that bothers me. In a few cities and towns in the USA, if you are not a member of your local prevailing church, you are effectively shunned in the community. People will not do business with you. Conversely, if you are a member of the church, you get all the business.

    Congregations of any type can take on a sinister side. “Never Underestimate the Power Of Ignorant People In Large Groups”.

  15. I posted a comment on this that, it seems, has not gotten through moderation for some reason. I specifically advocated an institution that caters to people with conservative values and tastes, since many tend to be repelled by the large portion of atheists who are left-leaning.

    I’m aware of the old witticism that atheism is no more a religion than not playing golf is a hobby, but I would say humanism can be seen as an ethical worldview comparable to a religion. And there are anti-humanist atheists after all (look at some extreme greens for example, such as the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement). Within humanism I would then propose a sub-set, call it a denomination if you like, of Conservative Humanists, who agree with Margaret Thatcher that “the facts of life are conservative”.

    By making it “safe” for people who oppose abortion, the gay-rights agenda, etc., who favor a muscular foreign policy, who favor Western civilization over Politically Correct multi-culturalism, etc., to “come out” as atheists, by providing them a safe haven to go to rather than be confronted with hostility not only from their fellow conservatives who are religious but also their fellow atheists who are liberal, I think you’d go a long way to helping move atheism forward.

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