Most of the other members are “converts”: people who used to be Christian, then came to their senses. I can honestly say I’ve been an atheist all my life; I don’t ever remember believing in god. I believed in Santa Clause, but there was proof of Santa’s existence: presents under the tree every year! And like most people who went through adolescence in California, I had my eastern religion phase. It’s probably no mistake that the form of Buddhism I studied was Jodo-Shinshu, probably the least mystical form there is: non-monastic, all lay clergy, focused on worldly good works–they opened the first AIDS hospices in all of Japan, back when most of the world was still denying it existed.
Atheism to me is like the color of my eyes or the fact that I can raise one eyebrow: so much a part of who I am as to be unremarkable. I can wear rosaries or express an interest in Quakerism, but those things don’t make me not an atheist any more than getting a tan would make me not Caucasian. I don’t feel the need to define myself by it, it’s just a part of the big picture.
But it was refreshing to be with a group of people and not have to worry that someone was going to start ranting about how evolution is a conspiracy by godless scientists. (Note: no one has done that in my presence yet, but it’s much more likely to happen here than it would have been in the Bay Area.) Or people who think atheists are satanists. Or who make the same mistake that Hollywood does 9 times out 10 when an atheist character is portrayed in a movie: we’re all angry at god because of some tragedy! We just need to re-gain our faith!! Um, you can’t be angry at something you don’t believe in, geniuses.