The Great Courses

Stop Apologizing For Doing What Humans Do

Sep 9, 2015 at 1:56 PM

Can I clarify something for those eager to claim that any gathering of atheists is "church?"

1) People gathering together to enjoy a common interest isn't a religious thing. It's a human thing. If you insist that any communal activity is "church," then Comic-Con is church. Bowling night is church. Rock concerts are church. Corporate meetings are church. Stand-up comedy clubs are church. Tailgate parties are church. Chess clubs are church. Movie theaters are church. Etc.

2) Human beings are (usually) communal creatures, gathering, socializing and working together in groups. While the church does "community" very, very well, it doesn't own the idea of community, nor does it predate the practice of community.

3) Atheists who gather don't blindly follow or accept the ideas and actions of those presenting ideas and actions (despite the inclinations of the religious to assert we're listening to preachers), nor does any presenter consider himself/herself off-limits from scrutiny or criticism. Just as a student isn't listening to a professor "preach," we're not glassy-eyed sheep to be led by the shepherd. Any "leaders" in our movement (and we appreciate their work) remain accountable to substantiate his/her data.

4) Conventions and freethought gatherings are hubs for ideas, opportunities for education, forums for challenge, and ultimately, a place where many isolated by religious cultures can find encouragement and support. Asserting that a "truly independent thinker" would never seek out those of similar interests is, frankly, stupid. Atheists living a superior self-isolation are welcome to that island unto themselves - as is their right, but most people gain great benefit and joy from another face, another voice, another hand, and I remain convinced we're more effective together as we fight the well-oiled, well-organized and well-funded religious machine.

Bottom line? Stop apologizing for getting together, and stop allowing the church to paint a natural and human activity with religious labels. Religion may claim ownership of community, but this doesn't - and will never make it - so.

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