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An atheist with no sense of community


Epicurean
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I'm an atheist, DH is an atheist. We have been for years. I wouldn't say it's part of who we are in the sense that a religion would be if we were religious--it's very incidental. Kind of like the analogy of being a non-stamp collector doesn't really say much about you. Sure, you don't collect stamps or go to church, but so what? It doesn't really say much about me as a person.

 

I guess it's because atheism isn't much of an identity label for me that lately, I've been longing for a sense of community that religion often brings. I'd just network with other agnostic or atheist homeschoolers (there's a group at the local Unitarian Universalist Church), but I feel like I don't have much in common with them. There is a distinct subculture there of, well, liberalism. Politics comes up quite a lot--and often it's rants of the "Those %#&! conservatives!" variety. Since my DH and I are extremely conservative, half the time we felt like frauds (haha, they don't know we're the enemy!) and the other half we were genuinely irritated by remarks that were made but kept our mouths shut because we were far outnumbered and didn't want to start an argument. Plus, it makes sense that they should have this little enclave where they all generally agree with each other philosophically (good for them).

 

I'm not sure I'm expressing this articulately, but it just didn't feel like we fit in there at all. I've found myself looking at the local group of Catholic homeschoolers from afar and thinking, "Those seem like a lovely group of ladies. Wouldn't it be wonderful we were Catholic, too, and we could join in?" I love the tradition of the Catholic Church. I love the Latin hymns and the fact that the Church doesn't condemn evolution and the enormous devotion of the priests and nuns who dedicate their entire lives to helping other people. I love the scholarly nature of the Jesuits and the nature-loving Franciscans. It's just the faith part that's absent. I like the idea of it but neither feel emotionally or intellectually that a supreme being exists.

 

I was talking to a friend the other day and he said, "I bet most people think you're religious."

"Why would they think that?"

"Well, you have really long hair, you wear skirts all the time, you're conservative, you want to have a big family and homeschool...you're like a walking cliche, except for the fact that you're atheist."

 

I know there's a lot more to being religious than these things, really I do. It's just that it feels as though our family culture coincides with religious ones on so many levels, except the most important one. And because of that, I feel isolated and sort of wish that we were religious after all. I mean, I don't like being an atheist. I hate the idea that there isn't a creator watching over us, helping us along, with a plan for humanity in mind. Not to mention, the idea that there is no afterlife is really tragic. I don't want atheism to be the reality, but I grudgingly acknowledge it because I think it's what is the most likely to be true.

 

So is there anyone else out there in my echo chamber?

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I used to have a boss who was like that.  He was Armenian Orthodox, but only culturally.  He did not believe in God, but the church practices kept the Armenians together in this foreign land, and he liked that.  He estimated that a large minority of those who participated in that church were that way.  They tended to be conservative politically and to love America.  

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If they seem like people you would get along with, you may try approaching the Catholic group to see if they would mind you joining in.  Some Catholics are very open-minded and welcoming to those with differing beliefs.  It would really just depend on this particular group.  We are Catholic and some of my best friends are atheist and it rarely comes up in the groups and activities we participate in together. 

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I completely understand the feeling. I was raised in the Mormon church, and for my family, all social activities were church activities. All friends were church friends. There was always someone to turn to or new friends to make if you moved. The church gave a wonderful social framework for our lives.

 

I miss that a lot. I miss seeing the same group of families 3-4 times a week. I miss seeing other families grow like I did while part of the church community.

 

I have lots of other social groups I'm a part of now, but it's not the overarching community that my old church had. It's okay, but it's not the same. I looked into UU and secular humanist groups, but neither fit. I just chalk it up to one of the things I've left behind that I can't get back. It's sad, but that's life. I imagine it's similar to the feeling of leaving a small town and going to a big city. You just lose some of that community and closeness of friends and neighbors. 

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My hubby fits you pretty well, conservative but atheist/agnostic. Eventually someone in our UU church started a conservative UU group and the conservatives that had been hiding along the walls started to come out, you might consider speaking up a bit. You might find some like minded people hiding in the mix, just like you, (often spouses of more active UU members ).

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Is the group exclusive?  Maybe you could just approach them, present yourself honestly, and ask if you would be able to participate.  Catholics are usually pretty inclusive.  If you're not looking to convert them and would like the camaraderie, you may be surprised at how you'd be welcomed.

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It does sound like you may need a community outside of a religious community. I have found that I tend to enjoy meeting others with similar interests. Taking classes to learn about a new subject that I find interesting. Or attending a club meeting for something I enjoy doing. Gardening currently comes to mind because it is spring.

 

Do you have any hobbies where you could join a club? What about taking low cost community classes on a subject you are interested in?

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Are there any meet up groups in your area that fit your interests?  Hiking clubs?  Canoeing?  Book clubs?  Chess?  Running?  Knitting?  Maybe check around for atheist or secular (sometimes labeled heathen) homeschool groups in your area.  Maybe some political something-or-other, I'm sure a lot of groups will be brewing soon to help campaign.  

 

We've had to create our own community.  We live in a religious area, very conservative, and we don't fit in.  We've just slowly found our people.  There's a UU here, but we don't participate - it's too close to organized religion for us.  But we've found a community despite it all, carving it out bit by bit on our own.

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Epicuren,

My coworker shared the gospel and a Christian tract with me when I suffered a major clinical depressions. I was raised in an atheist country in Asia. What struck me the most in the tract is that "people say Christians are very kind. But if only they were not so superstitious as to believe in a god, it would be perfect. However, people who say that don't realize it is their very faith in God that make them who they are." I am sure people can be kind without belief in God. But for me many years ago, that struck me as very powerful and I desperately wanted to believe like my coworker did that there was God and He loved me and He was my Heavenly Father because I was abandoned by my own father at age 6. So my coming to faith started with wanting to believe in a loving God and wanting to belong in the loving Christian community who cared enough to reach out to me, pray for me, encourage me. In fact, it was the very strong belief that God loved me as my friends told and my Christian coworker and my American Christian friends loved me that gave me the hope to be healed. Now I cannot imagine my life without God. I love my church community and my small group who eat and study every Tuesday evening. We love each other and we extend our love and service to our neighbors. I feel very blessed to have this community.

I hope you will find a loving community of your choice, too

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We're in a similar situation, except I wouldn't say I'm conservative, more like apolitical. If I post anything political, spiritual, or about parenting on my Facebook page, you can assume my page was hacked. I have opinions that I do not want to share and zero issues I can say I'm really passionate about.

 

And I have a hard time making friends because of it. It really doesn't matter if I agree with someone on an issue, when I start hearing how passionate they are about it, I pull back and stop opening up to them.

 

I've just accepted that there aren't many people like me. I suck it up, smile and nod, and use my small children needing supervision as a means to escape conversations about stuff that makes the hair on my neck stand up.

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I think you'd be surprised how welcome catholics can be.

 

Are you in any other activities? Knitting, volunteering, wine tours, a book club or whatever?

 

Catholics often have a wide range of people showing up to their events, you might feel in the minority, but you probably wouldn't be alone or unwelcome.

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I'm in a similar boat.  I've met some people via homeschooling groups, but all the groups have come and gone.  Many of the people live so far it's not practical to get together with them on a regular basis.  And we have no family around.  So it kinda stinks.  I don't really know what to do about it.  DH hasn't latched onto anyone at work.  He did at his previous jobs and we would get together with people sometimes, but then we moved. 

 

 

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I think you'd be surprised how welcome catholics can be.

 

Are you in any other activities? Knitting, volunteering, wine tours, a book club or whatever?

 

Catholics often have a wide range of people showing up to their events, you might feel in the minority, but you probably wouldn't be alone or unwelcome.

 

Yeah growing up we went to various Catholic events and groups and geesh most of the time nobody even brought up religion at all.

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I would never suggest attending a church for social community.

 

Lack of community has nothing to do with religious beliefs or lack there of. I can see how they are correlated because it is an instant group of people with something in common. I will liken it to a homeschool child feeling without a community and enrolling in public school. They will have people around them and they will have things in common, geographical location, often similar social class, and chronological ages. It does not mean they will share interests that go beyond that or that they will not be lonely, even though they are surrounded people they have a lot in common with.

 

That is why after school activities exist. Youth sports, scouts, 4H, robotics, Magic and the list goes on and on. Lasting deep friendships are made in these activities

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I've always been adopted by Catholics. They don't evangelize like the Baptists and those groups, and their version of 'social justice' doesn't seem to involve advocating for laws to force people to subsidize their charitable ventures like the UUs. Catholics just donate or raise money and do it. I've been scooped up and carried along by Catholic groups before and I have mostly been agnostic or atheist my whole life with occasional attempts to believe in something 'up there'. Most of the time in Catholic groups I've been absorbed into, actual religion never comes up. 

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I am a UU and I honestly don't think there can be a politically conservative offshoot, since social justice, marriage equality and green initiatives are pretty central to most congregation's identities.

 

Do you have a League of Women Voters, Women's Club or a Junior League? You can form really good ties and do some good for the community.  However, if you live in a very religious part of the country, they probably tie that in.  Here in New England those groups are completely secular.

 

 

 

their version of 'social justice' doesn't seem to involve advocating for laws to force people to subsidize their charitable ventures like the UUs

Social justice for UUs means support of the poor and marginalized.

Ask the Catholics if they ever advocate for laws that force women to have the government make their medical and fertility choices......

two sides of the same coin.

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I'm not in a similar position, but I've been in the position of not having a church to go to, which had some similar problems. 

 

I think it is true that religious communities can be very powerful support networks, in a way that often you do not get in other social organizations.  Perhaps especially in cities.  I think in part because a church community tends to have not only a set of metaphysical beliefs about reality, they also have a set of beliefs about the nature of community and how that is supposed to be supported and how to be  (or in some places, not be) inclusive.  That second part is I think why Catholics as some have mentioned tend to be pretty accomodating - they think a community is a real, tangible sort of an ecology, and that it is meant to include everyone, and  through the natural interactions of the community that people can encounter God. 

 

It's hard to find something like that in a running group or a social group.  The closest things I have found were groups in small towns and villages that seemed to share that sense of including all people, even if they were weird or crazy or didn't seem to fit in culturally. 

 

I think groups that are really localized can sometimes have that, because they are just all the people who happen to live in a particular neighbourhood, who may have all kinds of different ideas.

 

My only other thought is that these kinds of connections can take quite a long time to become deep, especially if you are naturally introverted.

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Agree with everything Bluegoat said.

A religious community has many kinds of functions and meets once or twice a week while gardening or running groups or other groups probably meet less frequently and may be not as long term and regular. Also a religious community most often has activities for the whole family and for all ages.

Also, when it is a localized community, you meet more easily and it becomes very organic. That's what my church is like. We are in a big city, but most of the 300 or so members live within 2 to 3 miles from church, making it easy for us to join the same park sports, meet at a local restaurant for lunch, babysit for each other.

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I have nothing to offer but sympathy. That sounds lonely :(

 

If you were here I'd beg you to join our secular co op - it's a wonderful group of women and you'd fit right in.

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Do you have any civic groups that meet regularly? I don't know much about them here, but I do know we have a strong group that runs a social outreach center (food support, literacy, clothing help, rental help, that sort of thing--they have a food pantry and hold events to raise money). They really seem to like each other and get to know each other deeply.

 

What about some sort of cultural society or historical society? DNR  (Just kidding) DAR?

 

Is there a museum or historical home near you that might have a group of volunteers that meet? It seems like these groups get together more often and are deeper in fellowship than just hobby groups, though you could call it a hobby group.

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Agree with everything Bluegoat said.

A religious community has many kinds of functions and meets once or twice a week while gardening or running groups or other groups probably meet less frequently and may be not as long term and regular. Also a religious community most often has activities for the whole family and for all ages.

Also, when it is a localized community, you meet more easily and it becomes very organic. That's what my church is like. We are in a big city, but most of the 300 or so members live within 2 to 3 miles from church, making it easy for us to join the same park sports, meet at a local restaurant for lunch, babysit for each other.

Respectfully, I do not think what you are describing is typical and takes more effort than showing up for a services at a church near you. Somewhere along the road a true community has grown (and it sounds lovely) and someone, or several someones put forth the effort to get the community to that point. 

 

But that is not a given with any group, religious or not. It sounds like church was a meeting place and a common bond for a small geographical area. While great, this does not always mean a community and for a new family it can be overwhelming to try and break into, no mater how welcoming everyone is. I have seen what you describe in homeschool groups and other organizations I have joined. While everyone was nice enough, it was very overwhelming to try and get to know a dozen parents and 2. billion kids (might have been a wee bit less, but it was raining and park day was moved to a gym). While I did get to know everyone and figure out the kids, I am an extreme extrovert, introverts (and people with sensory issues) would run screaming. ;)

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There is a recipe I have found works well to build a community:

 

 

Find something of interest

Find clubs or classes

Attend

Talk to people and get to know them (this can take months)

With time you will get to know others and their strengths. You will be able to judge if you wish to pursue friendship

ASK FOR HELP (Seriously, want to get to know someone better, ask them to help you with something they are better than you at. If you are better at everything than everyone else, maybe seek a counselor)

Invite to grab a bite to eat afterwards. Something light such as coffee, tea or ice cream (I may be fat but have built great friendships over ice cream!)

Extend the invite to others. Have a BBQ or potluck. Get to know people.

This takes time. It looks weird to show up at something and expect people you just met to suddenly want to be your BFF.

 

Follow your passion is my first rule for everything. It also gives an instant topic of conversation.

 

 

Unless you are my son. 

 

My son's way:

Hear about some random thing

Beg to do said random thing

Make a dozen new friends

Drag new friends and their parents over to meet his mother and exchange phone numbers

 

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Respectfully, I do not think what you are describing is typical and takes more effort than showing up for a services at a church near you. Somewhere along the road a true community has grown (and it sounds lovely) and someone, or several someones put forth the effort to get the community to that point.

 

But that is not a given with any group, religious or not. It sounds like church was a meeting place and a common bond for a small geographical area. While great, this does not always mean a community and for a new family it can be overwhelming to try and break into, no mater how welcoming everyone is. I have seen what you describe in homeschool groups and other organizations I have joined. While everyone was nice enough, it was very overwhelming to try and get to know a dozen parents and 2. billion kids (might have been a wee bit less, but it was raining and park day was moved to a gym). While I did get to know everyone and figure out the kids, I am an extreme extrovert, introverts (and people with sensory issues) would run screaming. ;)

I agree with what you said.

My church is truly lovely. It started 8 years ago with 24 people including children. Now it is over 300 people and every Sunday there are visitors to check it out. It is very welcoming and truly organic in growth and friendship. Small groups are the way to go for more introverted people.

The best things about this church is that almost everyone invests in it and puts out his or her best. For example, we sign up to deliver 8 meals to families with new babies; someone who learned a new skill will offer it to be used to help whoever needs the service; one would cook a special meal and invite 4 or 5 people over spontaneously; we feel free to ask for help and give help in time and resources; if my family is going skating at a nearby park, we would inform the church and people feel free to join us. This coming Sunday my sons will host an open house style pie party and we will invite the church and a few of our neighbors to come. All of these build a community and it does help that most people live within 2 to 3 miles to each other. We always welcome non-believers to join us for activities.

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Respectfully, I do not think what you are describing is typical and takes more effort than showing up for a services at a church near you. Somewhere along the road a true community has grown (and it sounds lovely) and someone, or several someones put forth the effort to get the community to that point. 

 

But that is not a given with any group, religious or not. It sounds like church was a meeting place and a common bond for a small geographical area. While great, this does not always mean a community and for a new family it can be overwhelming to try and break into, no mater how welcoming everyone is. I have seen what you describe in homeschool groups and other organizations I have joined. While everyone was nice enough, it was very overwhelming to try and get to know a dozen parents and 2. billion kids (might have been a wee bit less, but it was raining and park day was moved to a gym). While I did get to know everyone and figure out the kids, I am an extreme extrovert, introverts (and people with sensory issues) would run screaming. ;)

 

That's rather the point though.  In modern western cultures, there aren't a whole lot of places where true communities grow up, they require effort, and they require regularity - the same people coming together on a regular basis, probably at the least on a weekly basis.  They need to have the opportunity over a large period of time to get to know each other, in a kind of neutral space, there are smaller groups within the larger group.

 

A lot of special interest groups just don't really accomodate those kinds of needs - they don't meet often enough, the membership is too fluid, there is a lot of focus on a specific activity after which people disperse. 

 

Church groups aren't the only ones that are structured that way, and they aren't always like that, but they are probably one of the more reliable places to find something like that in many different kinds of communities.

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You could take up beekeeping.  When I was a beekeeper I found that the people at the local beekeeping club were very nice and friendly and willing to help me as a newcomer.  They offered classes and hooked you up with a mentor.  The cost was low.  They had monthly meetings with food and special events.  It was fun.  They offered a kids' program and scholarships.  

 

(If not beekeeping because it is not your cuppa, try a hobby that is equally as friendly, like a knitters' guild.)

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That's rather the point though.  In modern western cultures, there aren't a whole lot of places where true communities grow up, they require effort, and they require regularity - the same people coming together on a regular basis, probably at the least on a weekly basis.  They need to have the opportunity over a large period of time to get to know each other, in a kind of neutral space, there are smaller groups within the larger group.

 

A lot of special interest groups just don't really accomodate those kinds of needs - they don't meet often enough, the membership is too fluid, there is a lot of focus on a specific activity after which people disperse. 

 

Church groups aren't the only ones that are structured that way, and they aren't always like that, but they are probably one of the more reliable places to find something like that in many different kinds of communities.

See, this is very much not my experience. I have belonged to crafting groups that met 2-3 times a week. I have taken continuing education classes that were an introduction to and after the introduction was completed there were higher level skill classes happening and open practice right after. One place did a spring showcase BBQ for the families. Frequently there were meet-ups arranged for practicing the skill (in the case of learning another language) at a coffee shop or cafe. Several have weekend trips planned every other month with a 5 day trip planned every summer. 

 

I will agree that it takes time, but that is true of anything. I do not walk into a new homeschool group and stand up and ask who is going to be my new BFF and go have coffee after the meeting. I would never expect that type of situation anywhere, including a religious community. Taking time to get to know people is universal and does not suddenly change because the group is religious.

 

 

Maybe I just have odd interests. 

 

Rock climbing

Welding

ASL

Crafting

Hiking

Astronomy

Toastmasters

Adult Recreational Sports leagues (joining a team that needs another player for the league or forming a team on your own. Unlike youth sports it is often the same group of people on the team from year to year.)

 

Not all at once! But often more than one at a time. I was really into rock climbing and hiking when I was a young adult. I spent many years going to various local events and I had joined several of the weekend excursions. After I had my son and had some health problems I dropped the ones where I had to be physically active (rock climbing/hiking/sports) and took up crafting and ASL since I was not at the same level as I was before. There was not a lot of dropping in and out of people. These were people who were there because it was an interest of theirs. They came to learn a new skill because they wanted to. The semi local astronomy club is just massive and very active. Every so often someone will come to a meeting and checked it out then not return but the bulk where there for years and sometimes decades. I imagine it is the same with churches. 

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Are there any meet up groups in your area that fit your interests?  Hiking clubs?  Canoeing?  Book clubs?  Chess?  Running?  Knitting?  Maybe check around for atheist or secular (sometimes labeled heathen) homeschool groups in your area.  Maybe some political something-or-other, I'm sure a lot of groups will be brewing soon to help campaign.  

 

We've had to create our own community.  We live in a religious area, very conservative, and we don't fit in.  We've just slowly found our people.  There's a UU here, but we don't participate - it's too close to organized religion for us.  But we've found a community despite it all, carving it out bit by bit on our own.

 

I was thinking the same thing.   OP: It's sounds like you're pretty isolated.   I hope you find your niche. 

 

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Also, when I volunteered for the Humane Society I found a fabulous group of people who really felt like a community.  Animal people are nice people.   :)   After we had been going a few weeks in a row, we started to see the needs and got more involved.  In the end, we ended up there about twice a week and volunteered at special events.  We would still be there, but our local branch closed down.  They have fundraising events, adoption events, and other special events.  You can just about stay as busy as you want doing something positive for a good cause.

 

Maybe you are allergic to animals, but this will give you a good idea along a similar vein.

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See, this is very much not my experience. I have belonged to crafting groups that met 2-3 times a week. I have taken continuing education classes that were an introduction to and after the introduction was completed there were higher level skill classes happening and open practice right after. One place did a spring showcase BBQ for the families. Frequently there were meet-ups arranged for practicing the skill (in the case of learning another language) at a coffee shop or cafe. Several have weekend trips planned every other month with a 5 day trip planned every summer. 

 

I will agree that it takes time, but that is true of anything. I do not walk into a new homeschool group and stand up and ask who is going to be my new BFF and go have coffee after the meeting. I would never expect that type of situation anywhere, including a religious community. Taking time to get to know people is universal and does not suddenly change because the group is religious.

 

 

Maybe I just have odd interests. 

 

Rock climbing

Welding

ASL

Crafting

Hiking

Astronomy

Toastmasters

Adult Recreational Sports leagues (joining a team that needs another player for the league or forming a team on your own. Unlike youth sports it is often the same group of people on the team from year to year.)

 

Not all at once! But often more than one at a time. I was really into rock climbing and hiking when I was a young adult. I spent many years going to various local events and I had joined several of the weekend excursions. After I had my son and had some health problems I dropped the ones where I had to be physically active (rock climbing/hiking/sports) and took up crafting and ASL since I was not at the same level as I was before. There was not a lot of dropping in and out of people. These were people who were there because it was an interest of theirs. They came to learn a new skill because they wanted to. The semi local astronomy club is just massive and very active. Every so often someone will come to a meeting and checked it out then not return but the bulk where there for years and sometimes decades. I imagine it is the same with churches. 

 

It's probably a good thing you weren't doing them all at once - welding while giving speeches might be a bad combination. 

 

I am not saying these things don't happen in other kinds of groups.  They can, but I guess I think there are certain kinds of things you need to look for in those groups to have a better chance of them working out - like a membership that isn't too variable. We have book clubs at our library for example, which I think people join sometimes for social reasons, but they tend to change depending on the book, which isn't so helpful. 

 

I know too that in a lot of places, groups have been trying to make things more flexible because people don't have time - or feel they don't have time - for a lot of commitment.  And many social groups have been really losing membership over the las number of years.

 

So I would be looking at a club with a pretty stable membership, that meets at least once a week. 

 

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To the OP, I totally hear you on the UU being to liberal. After being heavily involved in my UU church for a decade, I had to leave.

 

To another poster who suggested scouting, Boy Scouts does not allow atheists. Girl Scouts and 4-H do. But the parents there are not necessarily looking for community.

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If you like history or fantasy/science fiction, groups like The Society for Creative Anachronism (middle ages history recreation), steampunk groups, Amptgard (fantasy Live Action Roleplay/LARP), etc. Might be good options.

 

I'm involved in the SCA and have found both casual and close, long-lasting friendships that way. There is very much a sense of community, and religion is left out of the official culture of the group to encourage inclusiveness.

 

Here's a recent news video that touches on it:

http://www.nbcnews.com/feature/digital-docs/glory-honor-medieval-reenactors-go-battle-n286366

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I'm in a similar situation.  I'm an atheist that doesn't fit the very liberal, wear their atheism as a badge kind of person.  I'm pretty politically conservative but just happen not to believe in God.  Outside my family, I'm often not sure there are others like me.  Glad to know you're out there.  I just have no advice because it's something I'm really struggling with too, particularly since we started homeschooling.  The friends I connect with most tend to end up being pretty liberal.  It doesn't bother me at all until political conversations come up, then I just cringe and almost never speak my mind.  So, I'm a non-believing libertarian (who more highly values fiscal conservatism than social liberalism, although that is my "mix") in a world where most people are more polar opposite at least one aspect of that.

 

I do agree with a PP that said not to join a church just for the social aspect.  I've tried that and it never works.  Even if the members are welcoming and kind, it just never feels right to me, and I can't stomach the religion.  From the few I've tried, I think it permeates everything they do.  And I don't mean that negatively, just that it is who they are.  They are proud and vocal about it.  As they should be in their churches. 

 

I feel for you.  Hang in there.

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Are there any hobbies/interests you and your family have?  I joined a knitting group, and the women (guys were welcome but I don't think man ever came) were all over the board, from age, politics, religion, education, and professions.  They were very welcoming.  A few were quite outspoken but in general everyone was respectful.

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That was me about 2 years ago. I'm now Catholic and what surprises me most is that I do have true faith now. The RCIA process was earth shattering for me, and I no point was there ever pressure to join.

 

I'm not saying you have to act on it...just saying you aren't the first. :)

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I don't know about actually becoming Catholic to get a social group but asking to join a Catholic homeschoolers group seems fair. On the other hand I started going to church because I had always wanted to believe and hoped it might grow on me. It is progressing really slowly as I now think that complete random chance is as unlikely as complete creation but I don't think anyone holds that against me often.

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If you like history or fantasy/science fiction, groups like The Society for Creative Anachronism (middle ages history recreation), steampunk groups, Amptgard (fantasy Live Action Roleplay/LARP), etc. Might be good options.

 

I'm involved in the SCA and have found both casual and close, long-lasting friendships that way. There is very much a sense of community, and religion is left out of the official culture of the group to encourage inclusiveness.

 

Here's a recent news video that touches on it:

http://www.nbcnews.com/feature/digital-docs/glory-honor-medieval-reenactors-go-battle-n286366

The SCA rules.

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I'm an atheist, DH is an atheist. We have been for years. I wouldn't say it's part of who we are in the sense that a religion would be if we were religious--it's very incidental. Kind of like the analogy of being a non-stamp collector doesn't really say much about you. Sure, you don't collect stamps or go to church, but so what? It doesn't really say much about me as a person.

 

I guess it's because atheism isn't much of an identity label for me that lately, I've been longing for a sense of community that religion often brings. I'd just network with other agnostic or atheist homeschoolers (there's a group at the local Unitarian Universalist Church), but I feel like I don't have much in common with them. There is a distinct subculture there of, well, liberalism. Politics comes up quite a lot--and often it's rants of the "Those %#&! conservatives!" variety. Since my DH and I are extremely conservative, half the time we felt like frauds (haha, they don't know we're the enemy!) and the other half we were genuinely irritated by remarks that were made but kept our mouths shut because we were far outnumbered and didn't want to start an argument. Plus, it makes sense that they should have this little enclave where they all generally agree with each other philosophically (good for them).

 

I'm not sure I'm expressing this articulately, but it just didn't feel like we fit in there at all. I've found myself looking at the local group of Catholic homeschoolers from afar and thinking, "Those seem like a lovely group of ladies. Wouldn't it be wonderful we were Catholic, too, and we could join in?" I love the tradition of the Catholic Church. I love the Latin hymns and the fact that the Church doesn't condemn evolution and the enormous devotion of the priests and nuns who dedicate their entire lives to helping other people. I love the scholarly nature of the Jesuits and the nature-loving Franciscans. It's just the faith part that's absent. I like the idea of it but neither feel emotionally or intellectually that a supreme being exists.

 

I was talking to a friend the other day and he said, "I bet most people think you're religious."

"Why would they think that?"

"Well, you have really long hair, you wear skirts all the time, you're conservative, you want to have a big family and homeschool...you're like a walking cliche, except for the fact that you're atheist."

 

I know there's a lot more to being religious than these things, really I do. It's just that it feels as though our family culture coincides with religious ones on so many levels, except the most important one. And because of that, I feel isolated and sort of wish that we were religious after all. I mean, I don't like being an atheist. I hate the idea that there isn't a creator watching over us, helping us along, with a plan for humanity in mind. Not to mention, the idea that there is no afterlife is really tragic. I don't want atheism to be the reality, but I grudgingly acknowledge it because I think it's what is the most likely to be true.

 

So is there anyone else out there in my echo chamber?

 

 

Yes!  You are like me!  I wasn't sure we existed anywhere else :)

 

We don't self-identify as atheists; we believe in the concept of god as a metaphor for the order and beauty of the universe - but we're not religious, and we don't see the bible or Christianity as being literally true, kwim? Just as a sort of functional moral foundation for western society, which is a good thing, but not as something we believe in in a religious way.  I was raised without religion; dh was raised baptist but rejected it early as nonsensical.

 

So anyway, we're also very conservative, both socially and politically.  This means we don't fit in with the secular homeschoolers - you have to sign a statement of faith with them that you agree with all of their basic social justice ideologies, which we don't - and we don't fit with the Christian homeschoolers - you have to sign a statement of faith with them too, that you believe literally in Jesus as savior, etc., which we don't.  

 

So we're stuck, it sucks.  We are partially solving it by moving to a city that is pretty conservative (Colorado Springs) and has many homeschool programs through the public/charter schools, so they're not religiously affiliated but also not ideologically liberal (per se).

 

 

eta: when I say "we" I mean DH and I, sorry this wasn't clear

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Also, I have thought about this a lot - there are many essential functions that religion provides in society, and has for millennia.  As institutions fail in the West, society is disintegrating at the edges (and the center, see divorce).  Religious institutions are failing too, though.  It is systemic; societies rise and fall as a matter of course.   This is a great read if you have time: http://www.newworldeconomics.com/archives/2014/092814_files/TheFateofEmpiresbySirJohnGlubb.pdf

 

But anyway, there are some other incidental things religion provides, including a community, the group sing (people like to sing in groups - I was struck by this watching aNat Geo documentary about some non-industrial African tribe - they were as different socially from the industrialized west as it is possible to be, and yet there they were ritually singing around a campfire, and it looked just like a church hymn to me, or the singing of the national anthem.)

 

When I was a kid without religion, school provided a sense of community, and the group sing, and a sense of awe (through astronomy) and etc.  For my kids, it is more difficult, as they have neither religion nor school.  We have had to be quite deliberate about providing these kinds of experiences for them.

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I was talking to a friend the other day and he said, "I bet most people think you're religious."

"Why would they think that?"

"Well, you have really long hair, you wear skirts all the time, you're conservative, you want to have a big family and homeschool...you're like a walking cliche, except for the fact that you're atheist."

 

 

I get this too.  I look like a Mormon  -5 small kids, longish hair, long skirts, conservative.  

 

The way I see it is that for many many people, religion is the language through which they understand the universe, the order and grace and beauty and justice and mercy and etc. of it.  I don't begrudge them this language; that they take something literally that I see as a metaphor is not a problem for me.  It's what keeps societies together, after all, and works for many many people as a vehicle for a common morality.

 

But it is a problem for them, usually - they cannot accept that I don't believe there is a literal god sitting in the sky somewhere, with a literal jesus who literally turned water into wine, even if we share many of the same values.

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Yes!  You are like me!  I wasn't sure we existed anywhere else :)

 

We don't self-identify as atheists; we believe in the concept of god as a metaphor for the order and beauty of the universe - but we're not religious, and we don't see the bible or Christianity as being literally true, kwim? Just as a sort of functional moral foundation for western society, which is a good thing, but not as something we believe in in a religious way.  I was raised without religion; dh was raised baptist but rejected it early as nonsensical.

 

So anyway, we're also very conservative, both socially and politically.  This means we don't fit in with the secular homeschoolers - you have to sign a statement of faith with them that you agree with all of their basic social justice ideologies, which we don't - and we don't fit with the Christian homeschoolers - you have to sign a statement of faith with them too, that you believe literally in Jesus as savior, etc., which we don't.  

 

So we're stuck, it sucks.  We are partially solving it by moving to a city that is pretty conservative (Colorado Springs) and has many homeschool programs through the public/charter schools, so they're not religiously affiliated but also not ideologically liberal (per se).

 

 

eta: when I say "we" I mean DH and I, sorry this wasn't clear

I call BS on the bolded. 

 

While I cannot boast having graduated a kid and having one in diapers I have been around homeschool land long enough to know that this is just too far fetched to even consider. 

 

The most I have ever seen or heard of a secular homeschool group want to have signed was a behavior agreement. That only came about after the group encountered problems that had to be clearly addressed due to not minor behavior problems of children.

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I have never seen a secular group require a statement of faith.  A bit of an oxymoron there.  

 

Maybe the groups you saw were not technically secular groups, but more focused on bringing together individuals with a particular goal - social justice, etc.  

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Yes!  You are like me!  I wasn't sure we existed anywhere else :)

 

We don't self-identify as atheists; we believe in the concept of god as a metaphor for the order and beauty of the universe - but we're not religious, and we don't see the bible or Christianity as being literally true, kwim? Just as a sort of functional moral foundation for western society, which is a good thing, but not as something we believe in in a religious way.  I was raised without religion; dh was raised baptist but rejected it early as nonsensical.

 

So anyway, we're also very conservative, both socially and politically.  This means we don't fit in with the secular homeschoolers - you have to sign a statement of faith with them that you agree with all of their basic social justice ideologies, which we don't - and we don't fit with the Christian homeschoolers - you have to sign a statement of faith with them too, that you believe literally in Jesus as savior, etc., which we don't.  

 

So we're stuck, it sucks.  We are partially solving it by moving to a city that is pretty conservative (Colorado Springs) and has many homeschool programs through the public/charter schools, so they're not religiously affiliated but also not ideologically liberal (per se).

 

 

eta: when I say "we" I mean DH and I, sorry this wasn't clear

 

Wait, what?  A statement of faith with a secular group?  That might be a statement of political views, but how is that a statement of faith? 

 

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I live squarely in the lefty political bubble land that is the Seattle King County Metropolitan area and I have never run across anyone needing to sign a statement of faith or similar in a secular or non-religious homeschooling group. Honestly, I'd expect to find them here if such a thing existed.

 

Links? I must admit I am fascinated.

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