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What Atheists Can Learn From Christians

Over the weekend at my 9/11 Birthday Barbecue, a Christian friend claimed that I never have anything positive to say about religion. I told him that there are actually a few things that I do admire about Christianity and I think atheists can learn a few things from Christianity… without of course believing in ridiculous things on insufficient reason and evidence.

The first thing that comes to mind is Christian community. I could walk into just about any church in the nation and tell them that I am also from that denomination and just moved there from some other part of the country and ask for help moving and right away I would have a number of volunteers willing and able to help one of their own. If I were a Christian, I could go to my church and tell them that my grand mother needs an operation and ask for money and within minutes, a collection would go around and I would have hundreds and maybe thousands of dollars.

Atheists have no such community. Our community is at best online and most atheists shy away from donating money on a person to person level. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing since people do lie and no one wants to be cheated. We tend to demand evidence and we tend to prefer to donate to reputable organizations rather than person to person.

It is true that atheists and humanists are starting to organize and form local communities, but we tend to meet on a monthly basis and without massive tax-exempt buildings. Without a home and meeting so infrequently, our community is just not as personal. This may change over time, but it is something we can learn from Christians.

Along the same lines, we just don’t have a “fellowship” (for lack of a better term) with out fellow non-believers that Christians have. I talk about this a lot and I hate to do it again, but we really need to start supporting our fellow atheists in their endeavors. When Christians go out and talk about how they are trying to “spread the word of Jesus,” fellow Christians donate tons of money to their efforts. But when atheists are out here promoting reason and very few of our fellow atheists donate to our efforts. Now, unlike Christians I am not expecting people to donate their last dollar or their rent or mortgage money, but I do think that we should be donating to atheist endeavors (contribute button is in the sidebar… hint hint —->).

My Christian friend then asked me why I think atheists don’t do these things. The answer is pretty simple. I told him that every time I suggest these types of things, I get comments and e-mails telling me that these things seem too much like religion and they don’t want atheism to be though of as a religion because it isn’t one. These people are correct in that atheism is not a religion, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t do anything that religious people do out of fear of being perceived as a religion. We are going to be perceived as a religion no matter what we do because Christians like to try to lower our position down to their level. So if they are going to make the accusation in any event, why should we allow their accusations to tie our hands behind our backs?

The fact is community is a good thing and we don’t need to believe in ridiculous stories to be able to build a community to help each other. While we make feel smug that our ideas are better than religious ideas in the free market of ideas, we still have to promote our ideas in a market which is not free. That type of promotion costs money and religious groups have tons of it and atheist groups and individuals tend to have very little. Yes there are more of them than there are of us, but we could be contributing more money than we do toward the cause of reason.

Let me conclude by asking you (without guilt or the fear of eternal torture) to do a few things. First, join your local and national atheist/freethought/humanist groups. Help to build those communities. Second, start donating money to atheist blogs, podcasts, youtube channels, etc. that you read, listen to, and watch, even if it is only $10 or $20. I recently donated to some atheist blogs and every one of those bloggers sent me a nice personal e-mail back thanking me profusely and I didn’t even donate all that much (because I am unemployed and poor). If I can do it, so can you. No excuses! Okay, so there is a little guilt, but still no threat of eternal torture.

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  • http://www.politicalopinionarticles.blogspot.com david

    Most atheists are independent. They do not need to indoctrinate other souls to enter the kingdom of heaven and receive eternal life. I agree that more community togetherness should occur, if only because their right to exist unregulated by the church is in danger, but I think that atheists have evolved to shy away from these gatherings because historically they have involved religious influence. Believing that they will be protected by the constitution is also becoming very tenuous at best, but finding these local gatherings can be difficult as well, especially if you do not live in or near a large population center.

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