In atheist organizing, we talk a lot about the need for community and what we can do to help create community for the non-religous. A lot of atheists lose friends or valuable communities when they come out and are honest in their circles about what they think. And there are a lot of things that UU congregations could do to help, but there are some issues getting in the way, and a perception among atheists that they couldn’t belong in any kind of religous community — even a liberal religious community.
Here are a few tips based on my experience with the atheist community and with my UU congregation.
- It’s not enough to just say it’s ok if you don’t believe in a god. That’s just a start. Merely being tolerated for your views in a community doesn’t mean you belong there, and it’s belonging that we need. We need to be able to speak and be heard and welcomed in the same way that you would welcome members of any faith.
- Many atheists have come out of toxic and damaging relious environments, and we need for UU congregations to acknowledge and accept that. Some of us are angry both at damage done to ourselves and to the harms done in the world in the name of religion. Don’t expect us to act like faith and religion and religious language is always a good thing.
- DO encourage the humanization of members of different faiths. We need more tolerance in the world, and we need reminding that even religous believers with whom we have serious disagreements are still people. From what I’ve seen, you do this well.
- DO reinterpret the old religous interpretations that have been damaging into more humanistic stories. Seeing the old stories though a new lens can be incredibly healing. You do this well too.
As an atheist organizer and a UU member, I think our communities could benefit from more cooperation and cross-pollination.