It’s simple. Atheists form groups because they want to meet other people who they can discuss their opinions with. Many atheists in addition have different ideas with what to do with their atheism and like to spend time with like minded people. It’s the same with football I suppose. There are people who support Manchester City and they buy season tickets and sit in the sleet singing Blue Moon, and there are those who go to a handful of matches and watch down the pub. Now the “true” fan is neither, they are both fans, it’s just that they have different ideas to what they should do with their support.
Skepticism lead to my atheism so I use my education to provide medical advice to anti-medical skeptics in addition to campaigning (and indeed physically working against) religious issues that affect healthcare. We all have different things we are involved with. And that goes with most groups. Most religious people are ad diverse bunch too.
There is an organised movement out there by religious fundamentalists to “get their way” and change a secular society to a non-secular one. They are almost universally better funded and better organised than lose conglomerations of atheists. To be a political force for secularism we often form groups.
Organisation helps with that. In addition there is a lot of stigma being an atheist from a non-white non-christian background. Many Muslims struggle with their atheism and groups provide a social place where they can be “free” and not have to pretend and most of all have similar stories of support and people who understand each other.
And pretending to be not an atheist is a thing. I don’t advertise my atheism here. You can get killed for that, just last year a prominent atheist where I work was killed for his anti-superstition stances. I pretend to pray when needed to avoid a fuss. Religious people do not have to pretend in general.
A community recognises these differences and gets together to work for things we all want to believe in. Like at the moment?
I am raising money for the victims of acid burns. Many of the causes for such are religious entrenchment of gender roles but there are social, cultural and economic causes.
Now you may say “I do not want to be part of a community” and we say “that’s fine”, but we are going to do this because we all think we should do this and that’s kind of the basis for all group effort. In some cases we do need to work together and many of us don’t want to hide the fact that we are atheists when we do things. Many of us have to pretend to be something we are not. Many of us suffer if we don’t pretend.
And for all of those people, a community often gives them strength and the resolve to keep pretending and that one day things will be better. It also helps discussion and looking at things in different ways and dealing with things which affect us. Be it a simple google hangout where we keep a young lady company in an ICU or a google hangout where people cheer up a certain lonely brown atheist. That is all it really is. Just a way to meet people and do things we believe in.
This is without the fact that atheists in general have been staunch followers of secular values and the most vocal defenders of them. And that our organisations have generally been champions of secular movements and protectors of secular values.
If you want to see what most American Atheists have to deal with, check out websites like Townhall. Hell even the relatively mild Christian Post often carries Pro-life literature, most recently a post underselling the real medical issues with abortion. To those who don’t value a community and feel it panders to the weakest, I say “that’s the point”. We help the weakest because that’s how society progresses.
We live in a hilarious world, where cutting edge science is often stymied by 2000 year old superstition. We pray to gods and follow ancient superstition while utilising devices that would have been considered magic.
It’s like saying “We shouldn’t turn on the large hadron collider lest we anger Zeus”, it’s really that level of nonsense people are putting up with.
And sometimes it’s nice to find some people who think the same way and laugh about it.
But here is the thing. If being outside this bubble we created is something you want to do then “go for it”, there is no penalty for leaving. But don’t expect all of us to follow you.
But if you want to do something with your atheism. If your response to “no gods” is “well that means we are responsible for society and the world, and that means we should do something for it” then we have similar ideas. If you don’t like what I do then go ahead and do your own thing. But don’t demand I stop doing mine.