I had the radio on for a few minutes today, long enough to hear part of a talk show where the host was interviewing some cat from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.  Now, I didn’t listen for very long because I can think of few things more tedious than a conversation between a religious conservative who thinks religion is an important part of public life and an atheist who thinks religion is the most destructive force in public life.  I suppose someone has to have those conversations.  I’m just glad it isn’t me, and I’m glad my radio has an “off” button.

But it reminded me that I’ve been missing the atheists at the Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe as of late.  They used to meet the last Wednesday of every month, but they haven’t been there for a while.  I was curious, so I went looking for them on the internet, and I found out that they now rotate their meeting locations.  I know you’re all as relieved as I was to learn that the group hasn’t split up; they’re just broadening their horizons.  Maybe they’re collectively trying to lose weight, too, who knows?  Anyway, it’s too bad.  I’ll kind of miss them.  I mean, I could never get much writing done while they were in the cafe because, you know, of all the talking.  Groups of people tend to talk.  But at least their conversations were interesting–to me, anyway.  Because you don’t often see a bunch of atheists getting together to share their secular-ness.

So I guess the PC term for atheist is “Freethinker.”  That term sort of makes me roll my eyes, but as Freethinkers have been rolling their eyes at the likes of me for centuries, I’ll just suck it up and deal.  So these Freethinkers in our fair suburban city have started a community to support secularist people living and raising families in a society greatly influenced by religious beliefs.  I think this is very smart of them.  I for one don’t know how I would get by without my religious community.  All spiritual issues aside, religious communities are very handy things to have, for the purposes of making friends and finding babysitters and receiving practical support in times of need.  Also, they give you something to do.  But you don’t see a lot of atheist get-togethers, you know?  Not like the churches, which are always having barbecues and hosting AA meetings and whatnot.  Probably because a) there aren’t as many atheists as there are non-atheists, and therefore, b) atheists have a hard time finding each other, because c) if you find it difficult being an atheist in a non-atheist world, are you really going to bring up the subject in polite company?  I wouldn’t.

The atheists at my chocolate cafe were talking about starting a school, last I heard.  I think this is an excellent idea.  This country needs more Freethinkers united for a common good.  I hope to see many Freethinker schools and homeless shelters and 4-H clubs as time goes by.  Because once the Freethinkers have carved out their collective niche in society, they can stop boo-hooing about how alone they feel in their rationality.  Sorry, couldn’t resist.  Seriously, though, organized Freethinkers can only mean more competition in the marketplace of ideas.  And that’s good for everyone, wouldn’t you agree?

It was interesting to hear the atheists Freethinkers discuss their obstacles when it comes to forming these coalitions and completing ambitious programs.  As one of them said, churches wield great power over religious people because they can always threaten you with hell if you don’t do what they say.  (I’m paraphrasing.  I promise you the Freethinker said it nicer.)  Religious people have the threat of eternal punishment and the promise of eternal reward for doing x, y or z.  This Freethinker also said, “Even in groups of atheists, you have people waiting to be told what to do.  They’re not all rude and obnoxious like me.”  (Haha.  We all laughed at his self-deprecating remark.  Who says the godless have no sense of humor?  Not you.  Not anymore.)

They talked about the unique opportunity atheists have to promote greater awareness of a reason-based worldview and how this would not be accomplished by sitting around kvetching about religion, but by doing things that are affirmative and positive.  People are turned off when you ridicule others and oversimplify their beliefs.  Atheists need to attract people in more positive ways.  At this point I marveled at how much like a missionary training session this meeting was turning out to be.  Well, that’s the way you do it when you’re in a movement.  What do you expect?

Then somebody said, “Well, I’m ready for a eulogy.  Who wants to pray?”  And we all laughed again, because atheists praying is pretty ironic.

They didn’t pray.  Instead they made arrangements to meet again and wished each other Reasonspeed.  Or something like that.

So I’ll be missing them, my Freethinking, cocoa-swilling brethren (and sistren).  I hope that they find success in their endeavors, but I do wonder how they will overcome the inertia that plagues all too many human beings who otherwise have the best of intentions.  Someone at the meeting said that
only 1 percent interested in non-religious philosophy seek out others and get involved in organization, and that atheists need to figure out why this is. Religious organizations have the whole carrot-stick/heaven-hell routine, and people fall into line.  Seriously, if other religious people are like me and the religious people I know personally, the flesh is often weak–but where the flesh is weak, the spirit is willing to open up the can of whoop-a** known as Crushing Guilt and keep wailing until the flesh stops making Baby Jesus cry.  (Or, you know…Abraham, or somebody…depending on your faith tradition.)

Not that people without religion don’t have guilt, but where are their guilt enablers?  Well, perhaps Freethinkers are so awesome, they don’t need guilt enablers.  Maybe all they need is Barack Obama.  (But what if they’re Republicans?  Children could be left behind!)  As the self-deprecating Freethinker said, “All we have is reason.”  Is reason enough?