I have been involved with a few atheist and skeptical organizations, in and around various communities that I have lived in. My involvement in such groups has been very enjoyable, but I do find myself alienating people I talk to about these experiences. Often believers and nonbelievers alike ask me what the appeal is of gathering with people to discuss things we don’t believe in (or as one friend of mine put it: “do you sit around and talk about how overrated God is?”
For me it has always been about more than that. More than anything else my involvement in atheist organizations has been a means of getting to know like-minded or otherwise interesting people. Religious people in a new city can make friends, in their churches and us non-believers do not have this. As such, it is a positive development that we are developing our own alternatives. In the atheistic and skeptical communities, I have made numerous life-long friends, found a few romantic partners, and discovered people I can turn to, when things get tough.
What more, I tend to like the fact that, I am with people who will not mind, if I occasionally bad mouth religion or show some irreverent humor. It is quite liberating. I also find that atheist types share a lot of the same interests, I have including interests in wildlife, science, philosophy, and politics and music. Getting to know people with such similar interests has exposed me to many new ideas, and allowed to get involved in interesting conversations I would not have otherwise. Through interaction with other atheists I have developed an appreciation for such individuals as Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, Douglas Adams and many others. It is just a great to find gatherings, of people who are happy to nerd out over things that most other people are not into. Of course atheist groups, have also led to me attending super bowl parties, going to concerns, discovering musicians and engaging in outdoor activities that would otherwise have been off my radar.
Additionally, my involvement in atheism has led me to meet people who are in many ways quite different than me. I have known many who have come from really unusual religious upbringings, as well people who have such radically different views from me, or life experiences, that it leads to great discussions or friendly debates. Understandably, these interactions have taught me a great deal about the world we live in, and myself as well. I am sure that all this can be achieved through other venues, but atheist organizations make it easy for me to find (which is nice for a guy who moves around a lot).
In addition to the community, learning experiences, and fun opportunities, atheist organizations have allowed me to get involved in my community. They have allowed me to work in widely read blogs, podcasts, protest events, food drives and trash pickups. Additionally, the atheist movement has allowed to get involved, or at least show support for organizations that are fighting for religious freedom and social freedoms, which is highly important for all Americans. This is especially true in a place like Arizona, where the Religious right holds so much sway.
So there you have it. This is my testimonial, I hope it lead to a better understanding of why we nonbelievers, like getting together so much.