Last night was my first attendance at any kind of atheist gathering. It was a meetup called Atheists United, San Fernando Valley. I went “blind,” knowing no one. The meeting was about fifteen miles from my house and I don’t take the freeways. So, as I drove, I had time to contemplate what I was doing.
I thought of how much we are communal creatures, how important it is for us to find like-minded people to go through life with. I thought about how our likes, dislikes, interests, and passions can bring us together with strangers and pull us away from the people we already know. And I thought about how good it would feel to actually speak freely with people who agree with me.
Although my expectations were low, I was more than pleasantly surprised. I was received warmly and the ensuing discussion did not disappoint. People made reasoned comments with humor and grace. People listened respectfully to others and never seemed to take themselves too seriously.
My previous notions of atheists were that they were angry, condescending, humorless creatures with dysfunctional private lives. This is probably why it takes time for new atheists to even use the “A” word. I, myself, refer to myself as a “naturalist” in public. (Someone in the group last night quipped that “naturalist” sounded kind of like “nudist,” so maybe I should revise my label!) In any case, my own atheism is part of an overall evolution in my consciousness. I have felt that I am traveling this journey alone, which I have been okay with. However, it is much nicer to have some sympathetic people to relate to. I look forward to engaging further with this group and possibly others.