First Meeting!

First Meeting!
By Tim Thomsen


“Hon?  I’m going to an atheist meeting tonight,” I told my wife as I got home from work.

“Really?  Sure you aren’t going to Hooters?”

I sighed.  My wife had a hard time believing that I would actually want to spend time with a bunch of middle aged white guys talking about how they don’t believe in god.  And no, I told her, the meeting of the Connecticut Valley Atheists wasn’t going to be at Hooters, it was going to be at a church.  Something that religion provides to many people is a large meeting place, a place for people to congregate and worship.  We wouldn’t be worshiping anything tonight, however.  In fact, I didn’t know what we would be doing.  Would we be talking?  Arguing?  Would there be a secret atheist handshake?  What if I couldn’t get in?  What if I had to recite a sassy Christopher Hitchens quote to gain entry?  I grew nervous.  I started looking up my atheist facts to prove I was an atheist.  My wife helped me pick out my outfit.  Long sleeve shirt, jeans, Converse.  Good paunchy guy clothing.

“All right, I’m off.  I’ll bring you some wings,”  I said.

“Ha ha.”

And off I was, headed to my first meeting of non-belief!  Into the night I drove, determined to prove my wife wrong, that I wasn’t headed into the arms of hundreds of buxom atheist waitresses.  Those thoughts kept me warm on my cold drive, but as I pulled into the church, those thoughts quickly evaporated.  Definitely a church.  And as I went inside, I was greeted with that church basement smell, a combination of construction paper, old carpet, and possibly myrrh.  I noticed a small group of people, and I quietly said hello.  Surprisingly, they all did not resemble me (a white male, if I haven’t made that clear).  There was an African American woman, the rarest of all atheists.  There was a former Muslim gentleman, both eloquent and intelligent.  There were other men and women there, both young and old, and all of us were gathered there for one thing: Pizza.

Yes!  This group had its priorities!  Four different pizzas, two heavily covered in meats.  Jackpot!  And it was free!  These atheists were my kind of people!  A true atheist will see the needs of his or her community, and give out all sorts of free stuff!  And then the meeting began proper, and, uh-oh.  What’s this?  They started passing the jar.  The kitty.  They expected me to “pay my dues” for some reason.  As I wiped the free pizza grease from my face, I thought about how this was another example of Big Atheism and the billionaire fat cats that wanted all of my money.  Typical.

But then another thing happened:  a lively discussion.  I thought I would naturally agree with what I heard that night.  But to my surprise, there were different opinions!  Different views.  Varying degrees of non-belief.  The conversation was getting heated, back and forth.  “Is prayer wrong?” “Does religion have its place in today’s society?”  “Has mankind evolved beyond organized religion?”  And I finally got to ask the burning question that has been tearing me apart: “Why the hell do I keep saying ‘God bless you’ after someone sneezes?”  The room lit up, everyone had their support for me, and reassured me that I was still an atheist if that happened.

And then, sadly, the meeting came to a close.  If I wanted more, I would have to attend the next meeting.  A member announced “We are having brunch at a local restaurant this Sunday.”  “Hooters?” I thought to myself.  He continued “We are meeting at the Cosmic Omelet.”  The Cosmic Omelet?  That place rocks!  Best eggs in town!  Place is always packed too.  Hard to get a seat.  If these atheist guys could get me in for brunch there, I suppose I could work out some type of membership fee arrangement.  Of course the reason I want to attend these meetings is further my ties to with the local atheist community, and to learn what atheists as a group can to for that community.  But if I could do this while eating pancakes, that really is a win/win, right?  I mean, I care deeply about being an atheist, I swear to God.