I just had an epiphany. I have just discovered their secret. I have just deciphered the atheist code. I have uncovered their holy grail. It's a well-fortified secret that they will never tell you.
That secret is... well before I give that away, kindly read this first (please be patient with me):
When commenting in 2006 on the seemingly unstoppable rise of the Brights [an atheist group] in the United Kingdom, journalist Gary Wolf noted that the monthly Brights meetup in London was one of the largest and best-organized. Thanks to its excellent website, the topics and dates of these meetups, some of which were held jointly with London Atheists, are available for all to see.
The meetings were originally held monthly in 2003 and attracted a slightly fluctuating attendance, which firmed up sharply during 2006 and the first few months of 2007. This period overlapped roughly with the publication of the two most high-profile works of the New Atheism: Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion and Christopher Hitchens's God is Not Great.
The site helpfully provides full details of each meeting, including estimates of attendance, occasionally with photographs allowing the number of attendees to be confirmed.
The December 2006 "Yuletide Celebration" social event was clearly much appreciated, whereas only four people responded to the following invitation in May 2006 to watch The Da Vinci Code together: "You know you want to see the film. So why not see it with a bunch of friendly brights and atheists?" Now who would want to miss out on that?
Yet from the second half of 2007, the meetups became increasingly infrequent. Whereas ten meetings were scheduled for 2005, there were only two meetups arranged for 2008, and only one for 2009. Nothing at all happened in 2010. Or in 2011.
This might have been due to organizational difficulties. Then again, it might point to a more fundamental loss of interest and commitment, reflecting the waning of the novelty value of "Bright" ideas.
The last meeting, held on 21 July 2009, attracted 10 people. As one commenter pointed out dejectedly, "It would have probably been better if the person who organised it actually showed up." After that, no further meetings took place.
My condolences to the Brights. It seems that their light was more of a black light.
Anyway, it seems that atheists have a little ADHD problem. Hahaha! This attention deficit and need for validation is the 1 of the 2 parts of the decoder to unlock the atheist secret.
The second component of the decoder is this:
Comedian and writer Pippa Evans is the co-founder of the Sunday Assembly, a growing worldwide movement where non-believers congregate to celebrate atheist rituals of community and wonder. Recently a congregation formed in Melbourne, and it's already attracting a growing flock. But why revisit the traditions of church worship if there's no God to praise?
The question we get asked the most about Sunday Assembly is ‘But why?’ Why set up something that is sort of like a godless church and sort of like a show, and is fun and yet serious?
My stock answer is ‘Why not?’
Two months ago I hosted the first Sunday Assembly Australia in Melbourne. It was a buzz to see 60-odd people laughing, singing and being together, sharing lemonade and homemade cakes and making new connections.
One couple I met had just moved to South Melbourne and wanted to meet people, but they didn't want to go to church as they didn't believe in God. Where's the place to do that?
Say what you like about the Church but it did, and still does in many places, serve a vital function of creating and serving its community. Sure people go to praise God, but they also come together to make friends, lay aside differences, sing, clear their minds and partake in ritual. We love ritual as humans, whether it be a Christening, chanting at a football match or strange family traditions that no one else knows about (ask a member of the Evans family to sing ‘Oh Plum Pudding’ and you will be quite surprised by the result).
Rituals are fantastic at bringing us together, but what do you do if you don't believe in God? If you aren't comfortable singing his praises but you do want to find a way to engage with people that doesn't involve an entrance fee and a bar?
That's where we come in.
Sunday Assembly has grown faster than anything I have ever been a part of. We set up in January and now, at the end of June, Sanderson (my co-founder) is in America, hosting the first Sunday Assembly New York, Melbourne is holding its second Sunday Assembly and we have a congregation (yes, we use that word) of over 600 people in London.
Such funny people. An atheist church. So if we put together the validation hungry-attention disorder and their envy plus the need to congregate with singing, what do you get? My dear rational friends, atheists are unhappy. That's their secret. They are not satisfied with their lives and they are sad.
For there can be no true joy without God.
In Gary Wolf's great "Atheists United" article, the journalist commented that:
Typical atheists are hardly the rabble-rousing evangelists that Dawkins or [Sam] Harris might like. They are an older, peaceable, quietly frustrated lot, who meet partly out of idealism and partly out of lonelinessThe typical atheist is lonely. That's the most rational conclusion that we can get. They are truly unhappy.
To God be the Glory!