Needs Met by Religion: Belonging

I was going through my notes the other day and came across this article that I have collected along the way other the years. Sadly I have lost the cover sheet for it, so I can’t give credit to the original owner. If you should know, please let me know so I can give the author the recognition needed.


In America, loudly announcing that one is a Christian and attending church provides one with a nearly instant support system. Here in the South, religion goes way beyond Sunday morning. The fundamentalists attend church on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. During revival, they attend every evening. They rarely have friends outside their church. In other words, joining a church provides a tremendous sense of social support…as long as you are willing to conform to church doctrine.

The need for belonging is a powerful human need, and many people meet this need through religion. This is a very appealing thing about religion. A Christian moving to a new town joins a church and loneliness is over. We atheists have nothing that can compare to this. Life as an atheist can be downright lonely, especially for those of us who live in rural areas. We have a long way to go if we are to provide people with an alternative to religion for meeting their belongingness needs.

I wonder how many believers remain under the control of the church primarily for this reason. To leave one’s religion, one must give up a

tremendous community. Most of the prior fundamentalists who I have heard discussing their deconversion experiences highlight this loss of support as one of the most difficult aspects of the process.

Atheists are a diverse group, and many of us aren’t exactly “joiners.” We learn to meet our belongingness needs in other ways. This is fine except that not everyone is going to be willing or able to do this. It would be nice if we had a stronger community. Of course, an obstacle is that most atheists don’t view themselves as primarily atheists (in the way Christians do). What do you think? How do we build community?

I would love to hear your comments on this article and your reaction to it.

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