James lamented the tendency of freethought communities to devolve into “screw god” groups and suggested the need for more or less religiously neutral “community help groups.” James, I share your ambivalence toward those who get together primarily to bash those “silly believers” and their religious faith. And I think it’s healthy to be part of a community with a common goal to make the neighborhood and the wider world a world a better place, without bringing religion or non-religion into the mix.
So Holly, when you wrote about your son’s involvement in the Rotary Club, that gave me cause for optimism that there might already be an opportunity to plug into a preexisting infrastructure without an overt religious or sectarian identity. However, the pressure imposed on your son to align himself on the religious side of the Christmas clash (rather than giving him the freedom to use whichever phrase he’s most comfortable with) is a little unsettling. (By the way--a little off topic--I recently noticed a bumper sticker that said, “Keep Christ in Christmas” and wondered how the owner of the bumper sticker, probably a Protestant who doesn’t celebrate Catholic mass, would take to a Catholic bumper sticker saying, “Keep the Mass in Christ-Mass.” But I digress.) I’m heartened to learn from Wikipedia that they’re a secular organization, though their membership is by invitation only for business and professional “leaders,” so I’m not sure whether the Rotary Club (or other similar groups like the Lion’s Club) is a perfect fit for the growing number of everyday individuals needing social interaction after leaving the church. In any case, I’m considering contacting one of this clubs in our local area to explore the possibility of joining. Thanks for the tip, Holly!
Thank you for your thoughts, too, John (by the way, I know John in person; we live in the same metropolitain area). I’ve considered visiting the freethought group you’ve attended and enjoyed, and I think I’ll give it a try next month. I understand this group is involved in community service projects, so it sounds promising. I tend to agree with you that we former believers could benefit not only from acts of service but also from “fellowship” with those of like mind. It would be ideal to be part of a group that splits its time between acts of service and social gatherings with unbelievers who aren’t overly bitter or antagonistic toward the believing world.
Tim, I like your idea of joining special interest groups unrelated to religion. It just seems for me that religion, philosophy, and counter-apologetics have defined my existence for so long that I’ve had difficulty moving beyond these matters and just taking up a healthy hobby with others. I have a bad back, so running is probably not for me, but bicycling is something I might consider. I’ve seen cyclists rolling down the road in packs on a Sunday morning; sounds like a good alternative to letting my muscles atrophy at home!
All in all, I think I have more to learn from you all in maintaining this blog than you have to learn from me! Thanks so much to all of you for chipping in and sharing your thoughts on this most important topic!