Today marks the first anniversary of the Atheist Community of San Jose, something I am very proud of. This community has grown to over 300 members in the first year: we are a collection of Secularists, Humanists, Skeptics, Agnostics, Freethinkers and the like. One thing we can all agree on, is that we do not have sufficient evidence to warrant a belief in a god – any god. We rally around that worldview, we demand to see evidence for claims made in the name of god, and we want to live in a world free of superstition and the violence and intolerance associated with it.
For those of you who are new here, you may be wondering how this all came about. Well, it started with my own search for a local atheist group. I was looking for something like a support group, as I was leaving my Baptist upbringing behind me, and searching for a circle of friends that could empathize with the years of religious brainwashing I was trying to shake off. I discovered Meetup and searched for local atheist groups, but they were not very active and mostly consisted of a few people hanging out in a bar and talking over a beer. This was fine for the few people who attended, but I thought there should be more to this – a more organized and directed approach.
My first thought was to develop my own group. I had always liked the term “deconverted” so that was going to be the name. I started a Meetup page and scheduled the first meeting in a coffee shop for the following week, then I waited. I remember how exciting it was when the first person joined, then another, then another. Before I knew it, I had twenty members and many of them were scheduled to be at the first meeting. The night of the meeting I was so excited, I arrived thirty minutes early just to situate the tables and get everything prepared for these new atheist friends. As the eight attendees arrived and sat down, we just went around the table introducing ourselves and talking about how and why we deconverted from our various religions. It was very therapeutic and everyone was willing to return every two weeks. We kept that schedule for a while, meeting on Thursday nights and adding members as we went along. I wanted to change-up the content, so I started introducing various topics that we could discuss on any given night. Things were going so well, that we were picked up as an affiliate with the Recovering From Religion foundation.
In March of 2013, I decided to attend the American Atheists National Convention in Austin Texas. It was an excellent time of meeting people and getting inspiration from various lectures. I had seen so many of these people debate online, I had read their books, it was like the Academy Awards for atheists. I spoke with Matt Dillahunty for a few minutes about the Atheist Community of Austin and it occurred to me that we should have one of these communities in every city across the US. The thing about religion is that they are so organized, if I moved to a new city (as a Baptist), I could immediately find an established community for support and friendship. We should have that as atheists!
I returned to San Jose with a new purpose: to build the ACSJ. However, this was something I could not do alone. Scot Haire (our now VP) had approached me prior to the convention and asked if he could help with the organization, so I gladly accepted his offer. Together, we worked out a new vision and a roadmap for becoming a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization. If you would like to see all that we have accomplished since that day in April 2013, Scot wrote up a great summary article here.
We are not by any means finished with our work here. We are growing steadily, but we want to grow even more. Getting the word out is the hardest part with our limited budget. This is one of the least “Bible minded” areas in the country, so I know this town is swarming with atheists – they just don’t know we exist and what we want to do. Think big, friends! We want to be a beacon of freethought and secular humanism. Imagine having a billboard on 101, or sponsoring a concert or a Little League baseball team! We have been “doing good without gods”, donating our time to local charities and giving blood to save lives. We can do so much and be so proud of what we have built here, we are the Atheist Community of San Jose! Think about ways you can pitch in, either with your time, talents or a small donation. Alone, you are one – but together we can change the world.
Thank you for being a part of this wonderful organization, and I hope to have your continued support in the coming months and years.
Brian Broome – President and Founder