The state of atheism, skepticism, and free thought in the Hampton Roads area is in an almost torporous state. Searching the internet will come up with a few small active student groups and plenty of now all but defunct groups like the Tidewater Atheists. Indeed, there is no Coalition of Reason, no Atheist Alliance International affiliates, and certainly no chapters of the Secular Coalition for America. With the absence of any prominent groups many atheists and others of their disbelieving ilk are left to twiddle their thumbs while surrounded by a mass of churches.
This is not to say that atheists are any less common in South Eastern Virginia than other places. Indeed the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey showed that 18% of Virginians are religiously unaffiliated, 2% higher than the current national average. So what is it that makes cities like Norfolk and Newport News so absent of groups of organized disbelievers when just 4 hours north there are so many?
With the rise in more severe forms of religiousness in the United States and in particular the American South, it is imperative that those who hold no religious affiliation or are suspect of the religious lockstep gather together and discuss ways to become more visible in the public arena. A group of 18% is larger than any single religious denomination in Virginia aside from Baptists. To quote C. Martin Centner “[The irreligious] spend far too much time conducting factual vivisections of myths and irrationality, and too little time building alternatives to the unique supportive communities congregations provide, and people need.” While the dissection of religious myths is incredibly important in toppling irrationality, Mr. Centner is correct.
So get together with your friends, have dinners, discuss recent free thought related books, articles and podcasts. Start a group that gets together once a month to talk about the ridiculous news events that have highlighted the irrationality of particular religious groups. Visit websites like Think Atheist to connect with others who are likeminded in your area. And when you get together, have everyone invite one person to the party who may be interested because quiet intellect simply cannot beat aggressive irrationality.
If you enjoy this article, please consider sharing the link and subscribing to the Norfolk Atheism Examiner column using the ”Subscribe” button above so that you can be notified about new articles.