Monday, January 17, 2011

The Power of Community

Happy crowdphoto © 2007 Alexandre Delbos | more info (via: Wylio)

When Jason and I went to the Rally to Restore Sanity back in November, one of the highlights of the day was going to a dinner that Hemant Mehta organized. Partly because the food was absolutely delicious, but mostly because it was just really nice to be able to sit and have a great conversation with another couple at our table. It was, admittedly, a bit weird to be the sole Christian in a group of 200 atheists, but overall, it was a great evening.

When Jason and I were walking back to the train station to head home, I mentioned to him that I was really glad that so many people had come out for the dinner. He looked at me and said, "Really? You're happy that 200 atheists gathered?"

There was a brief second when I thought, "Take it back!" but honestly, I was glad for the meeting. 

In December, researchers Chaeyoon Lim and Robert Putnam revisited a study that showed that people who attend church are generally more satisfied with their lives. In the most recent study, they found that those who are happiest are those who have close friends in their churches. Even those who attend sporadically, if they have friends in their congregation, tend to rate their lives as very satisfactory. 

This makes a lot of sense to me. I don't want to downplay the God factor, but I know that personally, I have a more positive God experience when I have a group of people with whom I can share that experience. 

So when my husband asks about me being happy about a group getting together to celebrate non-belief, yes, that's still true. It's why, even though at times it feels like a conflict of interests, I still encourage Jason to attend things like Drinking Skeptically and meetings with the Morgantown Atheists. I want my husband to have a happy life. I believe that a large part of that is found through faith in God, but I also know that part of it is being a part of a community. 

Today we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday and remember his legacy. What I love so much about his message was the desire to see community develop. To look beyond our more obvious differences and see where we are the same. To find friendship with people who aren't just like you.

To be a Christian at a dinner with 200 atheists and be happy about it.

Have you been in a situation where you're the obvious odd person out? How did you make the most of it?


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