Despite my misgivings, I have only good things to say about my visit with a few real atheists. The people involved were polite, engaging, and well informed. I spent three hours talking. I enjoyed every minute.
The venue was appropriate, Hometown Buffet was a great place for the meeting. There was plenty of room for a lingering discussion. The food was OK as long as you stuck to meat, and I actually liked the relaxed atmosphere.
I leaned a few things
- When planning a meeting, make sure to have it someplace where there will be an associated cost.Rodney, the event organizer, explained that the cost keeps away the crazies.Apparently, a few questionable people have attended the meetup in the past, but few repeat.
- There is a whole world of Atheist who do not blog, who do not read blogs, and who are not interested in blogging at all. Yet, they remain active, informed, and focused on the same issues I am. I found it refreshing to find fresh perspectives and new ideas from people who had never read Atheist Revolution or Deep Thoughts.
- The common thread which wound through our collective conversations was activism based on distrust of President Bush and his theocratic tendencies. Which made me wonder just how much Bush is responsible for the recent Atheist surge.
- For my next meetup, I will make sure to bring business cards. In my case, something which identified my blog would have been helpful. I don't know what I was thinking. I did not even have a pen with me.
The event itself was painless. The organizer made sure the front desk knew of the meetup. All visitors need do was ask where the Atheist meetup group was located. The rest was a blur of handshakes and introductions.
I found it ironic that the restaurant was full of Jehovah Witnesses. Large family groups occupied many of the tables near where we sat. They minded their own business, we minded ours. It made for an interesting dichotomy. A small group of rational thinkers surrounded by the faithful. Their furtively glances reminded me we were the minority. I had an urge to slam doors...
The topics covered in our conversations ran from sports to politics, religion, and entertainment. Most Atheists had traveled abroad, so many of the stories related to religion and atheism abroad. My favorite conversations dealt with how each of us arrived at Atheism. I was fascinated. Each story was unique, insightful and real time interactive. I've got to look into this whole face to face thing. It beat reading a comment thread hands down.
My only compliant was that there were too few of us. I was told that the numbers can vary significantly. Our host suggested I attend the Atheist United meeting in Los Angeles where several hundred people meet on a monthly basis. Their newsletter shows how much is going on in the world of Atheism which I was not aware of.
In summary, this event was a blast. It did not bear any relationship to the socially inept libertarian meetings I have attended in the past. I immediately starting thinking of these men (there were no women) as my friends. I enjoyed spending time with them. I plan on continuing this process. I expect there is much more to this reality based atheism thing than I ever imagined. I'll post about my experiences here.
My thanks go out to Rodney Schearer, the event organizer. Meetup.com charges a few bucks a month to set up a meetup. Rodney graciously declined my donation. He believes in serving the Atheist community through hosting these little events. Thanks Rodney!
The next meeting is August 17th. See you there!