(29-12-2010 02:15 AM)d.James Wrote: and religion is something we need to overcome come smack-dab in conflict with my desire to volunteer at homeless shelters, participate in family functions, etc.
If I wanted to help the homeless(something I do on occasion), and if it seemed like the charities in my area were predominantly religious, I'd give the religious charities a miss and get out there and help in what little way I could. If I wanted to take my desire to help others further, I'd consider starting my own secular or non-religious charity; similar to what the guys at atheistshelpingthehomeless.org are doing. Where family functions are concerned, why not try organising a regular family get-together that doesn't involve religion; perhaps a barbecue, holiday or trip to the cinema. Try taking a leading role.
Still, being atheist shouldn't prevent you from attending or participating in family events like Christmas. Just don't take part in the religious element of the event.