Religious groups are friendly - where's the alternative?

This is hardly a new topic, but I’m interested in what people here think. As an ex-Christian, living in the UK, I have yet to find anything that even approaches the warmth and familial caring that I experienced back then. Is it any wonder that religion continues to grab so many ordinary people, those who aren’t interested in dry debates about theology vs science? I’ve spent time in prison and there are no non-religious groups of which I am aware that visit prisoners, write to those without families, or look after them after release - all without insisting that the prisoner becomes a believer. It’s the same in mainstream society. Who’s running most of the food banks? Who’s there when people are at their wits’ end? Not the secular humanist groups, that’s for sure.
If someone can point me towards a multitude of secular alternatives, I’d be happy to be proven wrong. We say that morality does not need a religious basis, and of course it doesn’t. But the practical evidence in our societies is sorely lacking.

Just because they don’t “insist” doesn’t mean that’s not their goal, which to me makes their whole endeavor selfish. They’re just scoring points to get closer to god, better seats in heaven, etc. The mistake you’re making is that one of the things Xtians do is form groups…they’re the dogs so to speak who prefer to travel in packs. And they’ve had centuries to do it. Secular Humanists otoh tend not to travel in packs, at least not ones dedicated to Sec Humanism. It’s just not baked into the belief system like it is in organized religion. Maybe think of it this way, when a disaster happens and people instantly donate to help, that’s non-religion based version of what you’re looking for. And things like that happen all the time, it’s just nobody labels them.

First, you’re judging morality based on outward appearances, not underlying reasons. You’re also most likely ignoring proselytizing that is happening, especially covertly, but we don’t even need to go there. If I just walked up to a prison and said I wanted to come in to visit, how do you think that would go? Churches are able to do what they do because they have the infrastructure. They inherited that infrastructure from the people who claimed land in the name of God and had no problem killing and enslaving whoever was there before them. What’s my evidence? Ummmm, the entire history of Western Europe and its colonies.
I used to enjoy that warmth you speak of. It’s fine as long as you come to service and sing from the hymnal like they tell you to. Did you ever try suggesting a new song? Did you ever suggest to the ladies in the kitchen that they arrange the salt and pepper shakers differently? Did you ever try to suggest an adult Bible study on Dominic Crossan? That warm feeling turns into dysfunctional family Christmas real fast.
Back to underlying reasoning. You say, “there are no non-religious groups of which I am aware…", so it sounds like you are looking for a group that specifically claims “non" or “anti" religion and is doing some service projects. Sheer numbers are going to make that difficult, but what about every secular charity there is? The ones that aren’t proclaiming they are doing good in the name of non-God. Doesn’t even make sense does it? That’s the whole point.
If you have to put on a show every Sunday and tell people you are saving them from an eternity separated from God just to get them to volunteer a few hours a year, then you are wasting a lot of effort for nothing. It’s the wrong reason. Go to any small town and add up the expense of maintaining a bunch of old churches that are falling down. Now put that expense into one community center. Think about how many problems that solves, simply by removing the divisions of religion.

This is hardly a new topic, but I'm interested in what people here think. As an ex-Christian, living in the UK, I have yet to find anything that even approaches the warmth and familial caring that I experienced back then. Is it any wonder that religion continues to grab so many ordinary people, those who aren't interested in dry debates about theology vs science? I've spent time in prison and there are no non-religious groups of which I am aware that visit prisoners, write to those without families, or look after them after release - all without insisting that the prisoner becomes a believer. It's the same in mainstream society. Who's running most of the food banks? Who's there when people are at their wits' end? Not the secular humanist groups, that's for sure. If someone can point me towards a multitude of secular alternatives, I'd be happy to be proven wrong. We say that morality does not need a religious basis, and of course it doesn't. But the practical evidence in our societies is sorely lacking.
The reason you have not found anything that approaches the "warmth and familial caring" that you experienced with a religious group is that secular groups are not proselytizing and doing everything they can think of to draw you in. Secularists generally depend on appealing to intellect. The warmth and caring you think you experienced had an ulterior motive. It was probably not nearly so sarm and caring as they wanted you to think. Cults do the same thing. People are not "warm and caring" for nothing. You'll do yourself a favor by investigating their motives. It may well be an act you'd be better off without. Lois

From what I’ve seen, if you enter a group, learn their beliefs and behaviors, then copy them, you’ll be welcomed. Most groups have a motivation of growing, but they don’t want attacks, which can cause weakening of the group. If you propose something different it’s seen as an attack and you will be shuned.
You mention, “dry debates about theology vs science”, and that may be your problem. You may not really be secular group material. I find the discussions (not debates) about these topics mentally challenging and fun. I enjoy and relate to the other members. You may be more comfortable in the most religiously liberal church you can find rather than trying to get involved with groups you feel don’t offer what you want.
Occam

Here’s a difference I experienced.
In churches I attended, we had meetings about how to increase membership, how to share the gospel, how to act inviting when new people did show up, projects to do in the community that would be noticed. It sounds cynical, but I’m not exaggerating.
Secular groups I’ve been to talk about offering actual content that people will find interesting and about “doing something fun” for those who have “talked about theology” enough. I have also seen groups expand into service projects and, this one is the big one, when the secular community recognized a problem with women not always being treated well at larger meetings, it was dealt with on the national level. This is the opposite end of the spectrum of pretending to be nice.

Anyway, atheists are quite welcome in the Anglican Church. You will probably even find some atheist clergy. So if it’s “warmth and familial caring” you are looking for, even if it’s fake, that might be your best bet. You, too, can probably learn to fake it. They will embrace you even closer.
Lois

There are plenty of non-religious charities. This is a quote from yahoo answers forum.
There are many organizations that do not include religion in their mission statement that do good works. It is not only pointless to name a charity organization as an “atheist” charity it is counter-productive as many close minded individuals would not donate for that reason alone.
Doctors Without Borders is a non-political non-religious organization that does great works. C.A.R.E. is another as are UNICEF (I do not like this organization but they are a charity) and the Gates foundation. There are probably actually more secular charities than there are religious ones.
The main difference is that most of the secular charities do good works just because they feel that it is the right thing to do.
Personally I do not even like talking about charity that you or I may perform as charity is supposed to be about helping people, and not so much about self glorification.

There are plenty of non-religious charities. This is a quote from yahoo answers forum. There are many organizations that do not include religion in their mission statement that do good works. It is not only pointless to name a charity organization as an "atheist" charity it is counter-productive as many close minded individuals would not donate for that reason alone. Doctors Without Borders is a non-political non-religious organization that does great works. C.A.R.E. is another as are UNICEF (I do not like this organization but they are a charity) and the Gates foundation. There are probably actually more secular charities than there are religious ones. The main difference is that most of the secular charities do good works just because they feel that it is the right thing to do. Personally I do not even like talking about charity that you or I may perform as charity is supposed to be about helping people, and not so much about self glorification.
Which is why it's best to contribute anonymously. You're right. Most charities are not connected to any religion. Most religious charities are also proselytizing or have some other ulterior motive. Lois

It is a good thing to have a sense of community and yes churches do give you that but so do groups. You can find those things without the price of religion though if you look for them. One of my favorite suggestions is going to Meetup.com. It’s not just American but is global now and you can search atheism, secular and humanist and see what they have in your area. The groups are only as good as their members though, just like church.
You can also start with an online community or FaceBook site to meet like-minded people and maybe find some to socialize with or even start your own “in real life” group. Communities are what you make of them and sometimes you just have to be the one to see the need and fill it.
:slight_smile:
MzLee

I’m disappointed by the lack of depth in these replies to my post. Perhaps Dennet’s “Breaking the Spell” should be required reading for this group. Some points:
The evidence so far is that most of the human population values relationships more than intellectual arguments.That is one reason for the success of so many religious groups. They offer “hope in a hopeless world.” Yes, the tenets of the faith are false, and I’d be surprised if even a majority of the adherents truly believe them, but the benefits of belonging far outweigh the cognitive dissonance of pretending to believe.
Personally, I won’t go back to church, but that is mainly because for me the dissonance does outweigh the benefits. In that, I am in a minority.
Some of the replies here show a disturbing lack of understanding as to why people join religions or why they’re inspired by that religion to do good. Yes of course there’s a proselytising element, but that is the same for most groups, not least this one. Forty years in various denominations gave me plenty of experience of the different reasons why people were there every week. It is very strange that in the UK, a largely secular nation, it’s still religious groups that get their hands dirty genuinely reaching out to those people who’ve made a mess of their lives. Come on now, name ten non-religious prison visiting groups in the UK. Name even three such groups out on the streets every week helping sex workers or drug users. In my little Scottish town, there’s a bus which visits the main street every couple of weeks to help young people struggling with drug abuse; it’s run by Teen Challenge, a Christian group. You can scoff all you like, question their motives, but where are the non-religious alternatives?
Let me get this straight: do you really think that these tens of thousands of hard-working volunteers are all just "pretending to be nice’? Have you ever met these people? Such a stereotype is far from the truth. I’m an atheist, I have no religious beliefs whatsoever, but I know that it’s these people that, for centuries, have kept out society together. Was Martin Luther King pretending to care about black civil rights?
Lausten wrote “If I just walked up to a prison and said I wanted to come in to visit, how do you think that would go? Churches are able to do what they do because they have the infrastructure.” Well, exactly. Religious people got together and - for whatever reason they chose - they created groups to visit prisoners. So where are the non-believers? Why aren’t we creating groups to visit prisoners, or to provide soup kitchens, or whatever needs doing? I know full well that many are, of course, doing exactly that, but despite our superior numbers we are far, far behind the believers in the organised good works department. Churches, sects and cults will continue to attract far more people than we humanists until we start to realise what they are offering and come up with something better without the faith element. Can we do it? I see very little effort so far. There are many lonely, hurting, struggling people in our societies who would welcome a personal, warm, supportive relationship, not the formalised, impersonal schemes offered by the state or by charities, secular or otherwise.
Religion has caused vast harm, I am fully in agreement with that. But it came into existence for genuine reasons, good evolutionary adaptation reasons, and as such it has also been vital in many aspects of our culture. The sneering, superior attitude of some people on this board does the cause of secular humanism no good at all.

Go to any small town and add up the expense of maintaining a bunch of old churches that are falling down. Now put that expense into one community center. Think about how many problems that solves, simply by removing the divisions of religion.
I had to reply to this... Do you seriously think that a "community centre" is equivalent to a thriving church? Churches are made up of people with all their flaws and so there are dreadful experiences as well as great ones. But you cannot seriously claim that the mutual care and support of a well-run church is not vastly superior to any community centre. If that were so, the numbers would back you up. How many people attend church, vs those deeply involved in a community centre? They're not really equivalent in aims, history or experience. What you are trying to do is what the Soviet Union tried and failed to do. They closed all the churches and replaced them with formalised, state-run alternatives. Did that work? What happened when the system collapsed - did the people turn in great numbers to their local community centre? The Russian Orthodox church is despicable in many of its policies, but it is immensely popular and provides something which a lot of people want and need. Are these people all dupes, fools, idiots? Think hard before you reply.
I'm disappointed by the lack of depth in these replies to my post. Perhaps Dennet's "Breaking the Spell" should be required reading for this group. Some points: The evidence so far is that most of the human population values relationships more than intellectual arguments.That is one reason for the success of so many religious groups. They offer "hope in a hopeless world." Yes, the tenets of the faith are false, and I'd be surprised if even a majority of the adherents truly believe them, but the benefits of belonging far outweigh the cognitive dissonance of pretending to believe. Personally, I won't go back to church, but that is mainly because for me the dissonance does outweigh the benefits. In that, I am in a minority. Some of the replies here show a disturbing lack of understanding as to why people join religions or why they're inspired by that religion to do good. Yes of course there's a proselytising element, but that is the same for most groups, not least this one. Forty years in various denominations gave me plenty of experience of the different reasons why people were there every week. It is very strange that in the UK, a largely secular nation, it's still religious groups that get their hands dirty genuinely reaching out to those people who've made a mess of their lives. Come on now, name ten non-religious prison visiting groups in the UK. Name even three such groups out on the streets every week helping sex workers or drug users. In my little Scottish town, there's a bus which visits the main street every couple of weeks to help young people struggling with drug abuse; it's run by Teen Challenge, a Christian group. You can scoff all you like, question their motives, but where are the non-religious alternatives? Let me get this straight: do you really think that these tens of thousands of hard-working volunteers are all just "pretending to be nice'? Have you ever met these people? Such a stereotype is far from the truth. I'm an atheist, I have no religious beliefs whatsoever, but I know that it's these people that, for centuries, have kept out society together. Was Martin Luther King pretending to care about black civil rights? Lausten wrote "If I just walked up to a prison and said I wanted to come in to visit, how do you think that would go? Churches are able to do what they do because they have the infrastructure." Well, exactly. Religious people got together and - for whatever reason they chose - they created groups to visit prisoners. So where are the non-believers? Why aren't we creating groups to visit prisoners, or to provide soup kitchens, or whatever needs doing? I know full well that many are, of course, doing exactly that, but despite our superior numbers we are far, far behind the believers in the organised good works department. Churches, sects and cults will continue to attract far more people than we humanists until we start to realise what they are offering and come up with something better without the faith element. Can we do it? I see very little effort so far. There are many lonely, hurting, struggling people in our societies who would welcome a personal, warm, supportive relationship, not the formalised, impersonal schemes offered by the state or by charities, secular or otherwise. Religion has caused vast harm, I am fully in agreement with that. But it came into existence for genuine reasons, good evolutionary adaptation reasons, and as such it has also been vital in many aspects of our culture. The sneering, superior attitude of some people on this board does the cause of secular humanism no good at all.
They aren't necessarily pretending to be nice, but they are motivated by a presumed pay-off. If that is their motive they are not just being "nice." They may well be nice people, anyway, but they are displaying it in a way that frankly gives me the creeps. There is a large element of "look at me being generous" and "holier than thou," in their actions and justifications. You assume that non belevers don't know why people join religions. We know only too well, many of us having been taken in ourselves or indoctrinated into it as children. There is the community and comfort factor, which can be seen to be benign, but there is so much more to it, much of it not pretty. The community and comfort factor is the lure but there is something ugly waiting around the corner. I don't for a minute think most religious people are aware of this. Most have been taken in by and manipulated by the leaders and are unaware of the bigger picture. They pay a high priice for false "community" and false comfort. Lois
Let me get this straight: do you really think that these tens of thousands of hard-working volunteers are all just "pretending to be nice'? Have you ever met these people? Such a stereotype is far from the truth. I'm an atheist, I have no religious beliefs whatsoever, but I know that it's these people that, for centuries, have kept out society together. Was Martin Luther King pretending to care about black civil rights?
I think you hit the nail on the head, durkan. There are people who are doing good, and get their strength and motivation from their religious belief. That of course does not make their belief true, and it also does not say that other people misuse religion for getting power and money, and doesn't let people close their eyes for scientific results. But to reduce their good deed just to a means of proselytising is definitely wrong.
I'm disappointed by the lack of depth in these replies to my post. Perhaps Dennet's "Breaking the Spell" should be required reading for this group. Some points: The evidence so far is that most of the human population values relationships more than intellectual arguments.That is one reason for the success of so many religious groups. They offer "hope in a hopeless world." Yes, the tenets of the faith are false, and I'd be surprised if even a majority of the adherents truly believe them, but the benefits of belonging far outweigh the cognitive dissonance of pretending to believe. Personally, I won't go back to church, but that is mainly because for me the dissonance does outweigh the benefits. In that, I am in a minority. Some of the replies here show a disturbing lack of understanding as to why people join religions or why they're inspired by that religion to do good. Yes of course there's a proselytising element, but that is the same for most groups, not least this one. Forty years in various denominations gave me plenty of experience of the different reasons why people were there every week. It is very strange that in the UK, a largely secular nation, it's still religious groups that get their hands dirty genuinely reaching out to those people who've made a mess of their lives. Come on now, name ten non-religious prison visiting groups in the UK. Name even three such groups out on the streets every week helping sex workers or drug users. In my little Scottish town, there's a bus which visits the main street every couple of weeks to help young people struggling with drug abuse; it's run by Teen Challenge, a Christian group. You can scoff all you like, question their motives, but where are the non-religious alternatives? Let me get this straight: do you really think that these tens of thousands of hard-working volunteers are all just "pretending to be nice'? Have you ever met these people? Such a stereotype is far from the truth. I'm an atheist, I have no religious beliefs whatsoever, but I know that it's these people that, for centuries, have kept out society together. Was Martin Luther King pretending to care about black civil rights? Lausten wrote "If I just walked up to a prison and said I wanted to come in to visit, how do you think that would go? Churches are able to do what they do because they have the infrastructure." Well, exactly. Religious people got together and - for whatever reason they chose - they created groups to visit prisoners. So where are the non-believers? Why aren't we creating groups to visit prisoners, or to provide soup kitchens, or whatever needs doing? I know full well that many are, of course, doing exactly that, but despite our superior numbers we are far, far behind the believers in the organised good works department. Churches, sects and cults will continue to attract far more people than we humanists until we start to realise what they are offering and come up with something better without the faith element. Can we do it? I see very little effort so far. There are many lonely, hurting, struggling people in our societies who would welcome a personal, warm, supportive relationship, not the formalised, impersonal schemes offered by the state or by charities, secular or otherwise. Religion has caused vast harm, I am fully in agreement with that. But it came into existence for genuine reasons, good evolutionary adaptation reasons, and as such it has also been vital in many aspects of our culture. The sneering, superior attitude of some people on this board does the cause of secular humanism no good at all.
FWIW, I agree. Secular humanism and atheism in general do not reach out to the majority of people - because they can't. One reason is because the majority of the world is not atheist or secular humanist; another important reason is that most secular humanists/atheist advocates, are from very,very,very, sheltered backgrounds, and they are simply too afraid, or lack the social skills, to encounter people in prison, soup kitchens, drug addicts, etc. That's not their style. :lol: They are inclined to spend their time among those whom they consider more "enlightened", to begin with. For example - 1) Non-threatening white university students who are slightly non-religious- those are the usual fare of S.H. outreach. 2) Non-threatening white university students who are considering voicing their hatred of religion. The religious might be stupid intellectually, but they are more intelligent socially. And that is what matters in the end!

I cannot speak about Christian religious groups but can tell you guys about Islamic religious groups. The ones that usually show up in the aftermath of a natural disaster or in conflict zones that erupt in countries with Muslim inhabitants. They are heavily funded as is usually the case and bring in aid that is indeed much-needed by the affected inhabitants. However, hand-in-hand they bring along their ideology (intolerant medieval-era Wahhabism) that they expect to disseminate to the population. Thus, not making it a one-sided deal.
Sure the work they do is ‘nice’, giving much-needed relief and ridding off immediate grievances. But at the same time, they expect the populations to absorb the medieval-era Wahhabi ideology they bring with them from the Arab lands. This has been seen in places such as Kosovo, Bosnia, Chechynya. Places that beforehand had their own unique culture and religious identity (tolerant), one that had been moulded for generations without the ‘Arab’ influence. But following the wars that broke out, these well-funded Islamic relief groups arrived, set up camp and began their job of giving food from one hand and their ideology with the other. Most of these affected areas in those countries were rural communities anyways, therefore making the inhabitants more susceptible.
At-least in the above cases, the warmth and friendliness shown by the religious groups came at an expense. That was ditching their own local ways of life (tolerant) for something that was completely alien to them. In post-war Kosovo, prior to invasion by these Islamic relief groups, Orthodox Christians and Albanian Muslims were perfectly fine living side by side. However, following the influx of the relief groups, they managed to carve out divides in the society by trying to instil a purely Wahhabi identity upon the otherwise tolerant inhabitants of the country.
So today’s Kosovo, is beginning to witness societal divides that were otherwise not existent before. All thanks to the religious groups. Just an example of how the warmth shown can usually have hidden agendas, with long-term repercussions.

I'm disappointed by the lack of depth in these replies to my post. Perhaps Dennet's "Breaking the Spell" should be required reading for this group. Some points: The evidence so far is that most of the human population values relationships more than intellectual arguments.That is one reason for the success of so many religious groups. They offer "hope in a hopeless world." Yes, the tenets of the faith are false, and I'd be surprised if even a majority of the adherents truly believe them, but the benefits of belonging far outweigh the cognitive dissonance of pretending to believe. Personally, I won't go back to church, but that is mainly because for me the dissonance does outweigh the benefits. In that, I am in a minority. Some of the replies here show a disturbing lack of understanding as to why people join religions or why they're inspired by that religion to do good. Yes of course there's a proselytising element, but that is the same for most groups, not least this one. Forty years in various denominations gave me plenty of experience of the different reasons why people were there every week. It is very strange that in the UK, a largely secular nation, it's still religious groups that get their hands dirty genuinely reaching out to those people who've made a mess of their lives. Come on now, name ten non-religious prison visiting groups in the UK. Name even three such groups out on the streets every week helping sex workers or drug users. In my little Scottish town, there's a bus which visits the main street every couple of weeks to help young people struggling with drug abuse; it's run by Teen Challenge, a Christian group. You can scoff all you like, question their motives, but where are the non-religious alternatives? Let me get this straight: do you really think that these tens of thousands of hard-working volunteers are all just "pretending to be nice'? Have you ever met these people? Such a stereotype is far from the truth. I'm an atheist, I have no religious beliefs whatsoever, but I know that it's these people that, for centuries, have kept out society together. Was Martin Luther King pretending to care about black civil rights? Lausten wrote "If I just walked up to a prison and said I wanted to come in to visit, how do you think that would go? Churches are able to do what they do because they have the infrastructure." Well, exactly. Religious people got together and - for whatever reason they chose - they created groups to visit prisoners. So where are the non-believers? Why aren't we creating groups to visit prisoners, or to provide soup kitchens, or whatever needs doing? I know full well that many are, of course, doing exactly that, but despite our superior numbers we are far, far behind the believers in the organised good works department. Churches, sects and cults will continue to attract far more people than we humanists until we start to realise what they are offering and come up with something better without the faith element. Can we do it? I see very little effort so far. There are many lonely, hurting, struggling people in our societies who would welcome a personal, warm, supportive relationship, not the formalised, impersonal schemes offered by the state or by charities, secular or otherwise. Religion has caused vast harm, I am fully in agreement with that. But it came into existence for genuine reasons, good evolutionary adaptation reasons, and as such it has also been vital in many aspects of our culture. The sneering, superior attitude of some people on this board does the cause of secular humanism no good at all.
FWIW, I agree. Secular humanism and atheism in general do not reach out to the majority of people - because they can't. One reason is because the majority of the world is not atheist or secular humanist; another important reason is that most secular humanists/atheist advocates, are from very,very,very, sheltered backgrounds, and they are simply too afraid, or lack the social skills, to encounter people in prison, soup kitchens, drug addicts, etc. That's not their style. :lol: They are inclined to spend their time among those whom they consider more "enlightened", to begin with. For example - 1) Non-threatening white university students who are slightly non-religious- those are the usual fare of S.H. outreach. 2) Non-threatening white university students who are considering voicing their hatred of religion. The religious might be stupid intellectually, but they are more intelligent socially. And that is what matters in the end! You wrote: "Secular humanism and atheism in general do not reach out to the majority of people - because they can't. One reason is because the majority of the world is not atheist or secular humanist;" When Christianity was in its infancy the majority of the world was not Christian and most had never heard of Christianity. Did that impede the spread of Christianty? " another important reason is that most secular humanists/atheist advocates, are from very,very,very, sheltered backgrounds, and they are simply too afraid, or lack the social skills, to encounter people in prison, soup kitchens, drug addicts, etc." I have never heard anyone make such a ridiculous statement. Where is your evidence? "Sheltered backgrounds," such as Jewish holocaust survivors--who formed the backbone of secular humanism in the US and elsewhere? Sheltered backgrounds, such as people who have been indoctrinated into and seriously harmed by religion but who managed to extricate themselves from it? In fact, secular humanists do regularly encounter people in prison, soup kitchens and those who are addicts on a regular basis and we approachthem with rational thought, not lies and threats. But we are a small minoirity and it's harder to make a substantial impact when we are outnumbered by people who beleve in irrational things, many of whom never had a rational thought in their lives and whose irrationality is a powerful institutionalized force. And we don't offer things like salvation, nor do we have eternal damnation to threaten people with as religions have used to mislead (and ruin) people for millennia. It will always be a gargantuan struggle to promote rational thought when there is so much mythmaking, lies, irrational beliefs and threats of eternal damnation from the general population. Your accusations are perfect examples of the lies that rationalists are up against.

Great, another one making claims and assertions and acting surprised that anyone would question their argument. How does one even respond to someone who says, “do you seriously believe…”
What do you think I’m going to say, “Oh right, I don’t seriously believe, the cat just walked across the keyboard and typed it, sorry, go back to your anecdotal evidence please, I find it so fascinating”

This is hardly a new topic, but I'm interested in what people here think. As an ex-Christian, living in the UK, I have yet to find anything that even approaches the warmth and familial caring that I experienced back then. Is it any wonder that religion continues to grab so many ordinary people, those who aren't interested in dry debates about theology vs science? I've spent time in prison and there are no non-religious groups of which I am aware that visit prisoners, write to those without families, or look after them after release - all without insisting that the prisoner becomes a believer. It's the same in mainstream society. Who's running most of the food banks? Who's there when people are at their wits' end? Not the secular humanist groups, that's for sure. If someone can point me towards a multitude of secular alternatives, I'd be happy to be proven wrong. We say that morality does not need a religious basis, and of course it doesn't. But the practical evidence in our societies is sorely lacking.
Hey Durkan, Thanks for your post. You're touching a topic that occupied me before but I never gave it much thought. Since you're in the UK and I really have no clue about what it's like there I don't know in how far my response means anything, but I'll drop my few cents anyway, writing from a U.S. point of view. Your point concerning religious groups and prison (or addiction for that matter) I think is valid. I would never argue that there are no secular counterparts, but they seem very rare, and sometimes, especially the Catholic ones, they really don't care if you convert. That always boggled my mind, as the so-called "Evangelicals" have lost all integrity in my mind with their sneaky conversion tactics preying on those in distress, be that here or overseas in their neo-colonialism. But anyway. I think that these people who really care actually believe in and try to follow those beliefs. They don't care about "saving people" or getting them to join a church. They care about helping them. And yes, they do talk about God, but mainly for comfort, and usually it's about how much God loves you... sin is about the farthest thing from these people's minds. I've not heard one condemning word from them ever. You can spit in their face and they wipe off your tears. I'm sounding like a missionary... ;) Well, to put this into perspective, these sorts of charities have helped me a lot (in regard to addiction), and they have helped my love (in regard to prison). And why? Because seemingly nobody else does care. Whether you lie drunk in a ditch or get thrown out of prison with no skills, no guidance, no money, no home, no shit but "get the fuck outta here"... the only "solution" to most people is to "lock this trash up again" before the stench keeps hanging on other people's clothes. - Prison politics. - And the only people that do write and care and sometimes rip their shirts off are often very religious. Mind me, most often they do not belong to missionary churches but simply do this as a service, no nothing wanted in return. And it nearly makes me cry, as I sometimes wonder if this Jesus actually does mean something. On the other hand, once "settled", I find no use for this religion, other than indeed that, being a part of humanity to help people, and for that I think religion has much use. - Neither me nor my love are religious. The "Evangelicals" really turned us off big time. Fuck that bullshit. Wear your pretty little pink Jesus panties and wish the world would be like you. But that sarcasm fades quickly when I see a genuinely religious person. I might not agree with them, but I respect them. Why? Because they respect me. That's the whole point. Whatever goes on with you, dude, take care. Take heart. Peace, brother. Michelle

If there are fewer humanists visiting prisons it’s because there are so few atheists, humanists or secularists incarcerated in prisons. Non religious people are underrepresented as prisoners compared with their percentage in the population. Christians and Muslims are overrepresented. Counselors can’t go into prisons and start counseling prisoners without being invited. I can’t imagine any Christians or Muslims asking for a Humanist counselor. If Humanist counselors were to go into prisons without being invited they would be considered to be proselytizing. If there is no one there who wishes to be “counseled” by a secular counselor it would be a waste of time for them to force their way in.
As for the presence of nonbelievers in soup kitchens and the like, they are there, working with social services groups and npn religious non-profit organizations such as the Food Bank in the Los Angeles area. The reason you may not notice that they are there is because they don’t advertise themselves as doing good works as religious people do. They simply get on with the good works and don’t go around saying, “Hey, look at me doing good works,” which is a particularly galling Christian practice.
Lois