Gathering atheists together, it has been said, is like trying to herd cats. We think for ourselves, and don’t need to go to the equivalent of church to be told what to think. Criticisms of the Global Atheist Convention from outsiders often went something like “What are you all going to do, get together and talk about how much you don’t believe in god?”.
But god wasn’t what we talked about. God may not exist, but religion does. To generalise, the speakers highlighted issues in our society where religion is having a negative influence, and what we can do to fight back against that. How do we get people to realise the harm being done? How do we get these people on our side? The fact is that being organised is an advantage, and religion is organised. And to fight it effectively, we’re going to have to be organised too. And I think as religion tries to encroach on politics more and more, atheists are starting to realise this, which explains why there were 4000 of us at the GAC.
And there’s no need to throw out the baby with the bath-water. I’ve never been religious, but I can see how it might benefit one to go to church. A sense of belonging to a community, a sense of comradery, and the social aspect of it, meeting people, doing activities together, doing charity work together and getting the self-satisfaction that comes with that. Except we don’t have to mistake that feel-good for being touched by Jesus or some such nonsense. There’s no reason a group completely separated from religion couldn’t have all of those benefits.
I’m quite sure there are many people who have grown up with religion, and have since become atheists, but dare not tell anyone and still regularly attend church because to stop would be to abandon, or even be ostracised from their entire community, and there is no other community for them. We should let those people know they are not alone, that there are others like them, and that we need their help to free more minds from the matrix and bring them into the real world.
So since the Global Atheist Convention, I’ve been riled up, and hungry for more of similar. I’m keen to get our coordinated hunting pack together, as my favourite blogger PZ Myers said in his speech. And I loved being embroiled in intelligent conversation with everyone I spoke to there, so the idea of micro-GAC’s that I don’t have to travel to Melbourne for are quite exciting to me.
So after a bit of internet trawling, I eventually found out about Townsville Humanists (and friends), and I went to a meeting tonight. And I’m glad I did. The meeting was largely about building up the group, presenting atheism in a positive light, being welcoming and not just religion bashing, getting registered as an official non profit group, getting organised, website, tshirts, etc. and how to win hearts and minds. Along with some not necessarily on-topic intelligent conversation. Exactly what I hoped.
The majority of atheists, I would say, are mostly apathetic toward religion, and I reckon it’s because they don’t realise just how poisonous it is to society. I forget where the quote is from, but “If you’re not outraged by religion, you’re not paying attention.” So that’s our challenge, we have get people to pay attention, and to show why religion is not a good thing, whilst at the same time giving people a much better option.
So if any atheists from Townsville happen to be reading this and it sounds interesting to you, I’d recommend checking it out. A website for the group will be coming shortly, but if you’re on facebook there’s this page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Townsville-Humanists-and-Friends/205107346193064
Or you can reply to this post and I’ll be glad to get you the details of the next meeting as they emerge.
If you’re not from Townsville, then wherever you are, have a look around on google and see if there’s a similar group in your city, help make our voice louder.