I went to Columbus, OH for the Secular Student Alliance Conference this weekend. I attended awesome, informative, and inspiring talks about all different subjects like mental health, how to use social media effectively to promote AHA, unsafe assumptions, and especially where this movement is going.
I came home to my boyfriend’s apartment feeling excited and hopeful for the future. As soon as I got there, I started talking about the conference. And when I started talking about it, his roommate started questioning everything about it. “What do you do at the conferences? Why do you even need them? If you all get together and meet, it’s just like a religion.” My excitement was definitely slightly dashed.
It was an immediate reminder that I was no longer in the safety of the atheist community surrounded by my peers, but thrust back into reality where people who aren’t atheist, humanist, agnostic, etc. don’t understand what we’re trying to do. It’s not yet totally accepted to be an open atheist. Families shun children, students get death threats. Being an out of the closet atheist can be hurtful and damaging to relationships, jobs, social connections. That’s what this movement is about. We’re trying to show we’re not satan worshiping baby eaters. We have morals. We’re good people. We give to charities, we help with natural disasters, we fight as soldiers.
We’ve changed the world’s view of us, but not enough. We’ve formed a community to finish this change. We’ve joined together so that we’re no longer seen as atheists, but as Sydnie or Joe or Ben or Sarah.
We’ve also joined together and made this strong community for a bigger and better reason: to be a safety net for new non-theists. Transitioning out of religion is tough. I’ve told my story in a different blog post. And there are tons of other people with similar stories. Leaving a religion is leaving an entire life behind. It was how I was raised and I had to turn my back on that. And I’m so happy I found this community to fall back on. And now I want to be that for more people.
We’re not a community because we want to be like a religion. We’re a community so we can help each other and be a support system for each other. There’s something important to us that binds us together and we bond over that.