The independent nature of unbelievers

It is probably fair to say that unbelievers are not a very cohesive group. Independence is the nature of the beast; if it were not, the unbeliever would not have made the effort to develop a world-view that is so far from so many of his fellow human beings. Like them, rather, she would have accepted the “common wisdom,” agreed that there was a god that was the master of her fate, and bedded down with the sheep.

Instead, the unbeliever took note of her surroundings (both physical and  virtual), found the generally prevailing theory to be wanting, and did the research and thinking to come up with a theory of his own. Certainly, the other way is easier; just sit back and let god take care of it all. That would never do for the free-thinker; she needs to understand it all, and generally to believe that what she does is not pre-ordained.

Because research and thought of this type are normally a solitary practices in a religion-prone society such as ours, the sheep having laid claim to the truly common ground, the god-theory of each unbeliever is both comprehensive and detailed, and differs in many ways from that of other unbelievers. There are similarities, of course, but much of the interest lies in the unique individual details. Having developed their theories in relative solitude (though with much help from philosophers and writers both dead and alive), unbelievers forever maintain that independent course that informed their thoughts on religion.

That may be why very few, if any, organizations for unbelievers are successful in any truly interactive, social way. That is not to say that organizations such as Humanist societies are not successful. They are. But they do little to add a local, personal touch to groups of unbelievers. And what I would like to have is both local and personal, best represented by an unbeliever take on the local church.

I confess to having been a Unitarian, at least until management decided that in order to be an important organization it would be necessary to be much larger, and in order to grow the organization would have to cater to a much larger group of potential members, which is to say True Believers. Thus have they transformed the Unitarian organization into just one more haven for christians, born again and otherwise.

There are still holdouts, especially in the more independent Unitarian fellowships, and for this I am grateful. They are, however, few and far between and will certainty come under fire (or yet heavier fire) from Unitarian leadership. That is sad, but almost inevitable given the current climate. It is especially sad if one desires a local freethinker’s “church.” And I do. I miss the old style of Unitarian congregations greatly.

I miss the conversations at coffee, the thoughtful secular presentations at services, the feeling of being among others with similar (but never precisely the same) views on religion. I miss the elevation of the intelligence quotient that happened just walking into the building. I miss the friendships and support groups that developed there, and the easy conversations about both religion and irreligion.

As I have said before, the church is an excellent concept, if only organized religion were removed from it. Given the independent streak in most unbelievers, a gathering of such persons is rarely formally organized, which is one of the best features of such a place. Organizing unbelievers is very much like herding cats, or frogs. Freethinkers, by definition, freely and resist categorization and organization.

That is both one of the best parts, and one of the biggest reasons that it is so difficult to have local, personal, small organizations for unbelievers.

About Michael W. Jones

Michael has been an Atheist since an epiphany in a Baptist church at age 12, was a Unitarian until they became a christian denomination, spent most of his life developing software, and is now earning almost no living at all as a writer. :) He lives in Williams Township, PA and is contemplating what's next after Tucker the Weird Dawg. Michael is a co-founder and the managing editor of The Eloquent Atheist on-line magazine.

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