This article was originally published in the Humanist Network News. HNN is a weekly news e-zine of the American Humanist Association with a circulation of around 44,000.
When the topic of Humanist community comes up someone is bound to mention Unitarian Universalism. That is because UUs have what Humanists who want community are looking for. Unitarian Universalism also comes up because a significant number of UUs are Humanists and because organized Humanism was in large part an outgrowth of Unitarianism in its early days. Humanism and Unitarian Universalism go together, and I assert that theover 1,000 UU congregations are natural and practical homes for local Humanist communities.
The national secular movement is growing, and the growth is driven mostly by books, blogs and conventions. We are led by our authors, bloggers and speakers while the rest of us are mostly readers, commenters and attendees. There's nothing wrong with any of that, but we're missing the opportunity to form real, as opposed to virtual, relationships with one other. Our face time is mostly at conventions, which are wonderful, but who can afford to attend more than one or two a year?
We have some local groups that provide opportunities to get together regularly but most local group meetings consist of lectures, book groups or discussion groups. In general (though with exceptions), they don't offer much for families, socializing, volunteerism or social/political engagement and they tend to be few and far between. Scientific studies show the many benefits of social connectednessand most people realize that the staying power of religion has a lot to do with the draw of community. (Many speculate that there are a large number of non-believers in religious congregations who are there purely for the community.) I don't just want a Humanist local group, I want a Humanistcongregation that is fully engaged with my local community and concerned about making the world a better place. I want a place where I can find friendship, a village to help raise my kids, support during life's challenges and all the other benefits that religious folks get (with often a dozen nearby choices) but without having to leave my brain at the door or pretend that I am something I am not.