Atheists and Christians Have Different Senses of Community

What is it that makes a person part of what we call “community”?  Here I’m using the word as it applies to an area. 

Wherever people live, there are individuals who take ownership of and feel connected to that community.    What is it that they do?

The simplest thing is picking up a piece of trash blowing by.  Then, there is volunteering to help people less well off, or, for projects that help the general community more than it helps they themselves.  Of course, there is always the gift of money, or, the payment of taxes toward projects, causes and goals that do not improve their own lives directly.

There is another that is especially important.  This is making others, people unlike themselves, feel that they, too, belong in the community.

It is in this latter activity that many people of faith differ from most nonbelievers.  It is the nonbelievers, for example, that are most likely to want a Ten Commandments monument to be removed, prayers at public meetings discontinued and Christian symbolism eliminated because it promotes a religious view that excludes other members of the community.  It is the local Christians who are most likely to insist that the exclusion of people who hold views different than their own is a good thing for a community.

I wish it were possible for all people of faith to develop this fuller sense of community.

Avatar of Jon Lindgren

About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years. There is more about me at Wikipedia.com.
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15 Responses to Atheists and Christians Have Different Senses of Community

  1. Avatar of mrpotatohead mrpotatohead says:

    Sounds to me like you’re looking for an argument.

    Where I live the church groups donate a lot of time and money to build shelters for the less fortunate, they welcomed me into their community when I moved in. Maybe the Christians you know aren’t as Christian as they say they are.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Potato 3:29 Thanks for you comment. I agree that churches everywhere, like yours, donate time and money to community goals. It is wonderful what they do. What I wrote in the piece was that some church folks are not welcoming to people who hold beliefs different from their own. That’s how I see the community attitudes of some believers differ from most nonbelievers. As far as “starting an argument”, I don’t see how there is any argument about what I wrote.

  2. doubtful says:

    Actually what you wrote was many, which is usually taken to mean something different than some. I do not dispute the fact that some Christians are less than welcoming of people not like themselves. I do dispute the claim that nonbelievers are more welcoming than Christians. There is huge variation in both groups and if there is any evidence for your claim you have not presented it.

    Does removing the Ten Commandments Monument make non-Christians feel welcome or Christians feel unwelcome? To make people feel welcome they must be accepted as they are. I think people would feel more welcome if we welcomed symbols of non-Christians as well as symbols of Christians. Community is formed from accepting diversity, not limiting or hiding it.

  3. Wanna B Sure says:

    Jon; Are you saying that “people of faith” should be more embracing, and welcoming “those who hold to different views” like Warren Jeffs and his FLDS group, Jim Jones and his Peoples Temple, and the Waco Texas Adventist Branch Davidians? Do you actually believe they were good for the community? I would suggest that they were allowed to grow to the result from the fact that the communities they were in did believe in the positive aspects initially. No in these instances, there was room, indeed the need for caution, and scepticism.

  4. Avatar of Kay Syvrud Kay Syvrud says:

    Wanna….those cited in your comment were certainly NOT Christians according to the Biblical meaning of Christian. They were definitely using “christianity” to further their own agendas. By the way Mormons or their offshoots are NOT Christian–none of them.

    • Wanna B Sure says:

      Kay; I agree with you completely. However, Jon’s context of “all people of faith” would include them. My intended context was from the Christian community to Jon’s “people unlike themselves”. It is an observable fact that some groups that you and I would consider to be “non Christian”, yet call themselves Christian tend to be self-alienating in the community they live in. Have you ever had success in inviting a Jehova’s Witness to a chicken supper in your church? I haven’t.

      • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

        Wanna 5:46 As a practical matter, I don’t have space for a lot of qualifications and disclaimers. I’d rather not have, as we once did, a neighborhood teen who supposedly abused a small child once. I think unwelcoming gestures to law abiding people hurts a community. I expect someone to post, “There he goes with political correctness again.” Of course, I am being politcally incorrect to mention the political incorrectness of others.

  5. N44ZT says:

    Excellent point Jon … of course a huge portion of Fargo/Moorhead is neither “Christian” nor “atheist” … but they too might do well to hug or befriend those who different in their spirituality. Your voice is refreshing in that it causes us all to think and consider our lives. Thanks.

  6. Wanna B Sure says:

    Jon; Diversity can be such a loaded term. In my sheltered part of the world, and at my age, “diversity” has not been a large experience. However, experiencing, knowing, and understanding are vastly different things. You are an activest Atheist, I could care less. I have close friends that have absolutely no faith, or belief. I could care less. It is not a topic of discussion . We respect each other. End of story. I suspect that I would enjoy having you for a next-door neighbor. My area of expertise is comparative theology. This means I know the differences, why, and how they came about. This does not mean that I must agree with any or all. To do so would be syncretism, essentially , doctrinal indifference. Your title to this article is;” Atheists and Christians have a different sense of community”, I believe that a more accurate description would be” the difference of the two world views.” Once that is arrived at, a more mutual respect would result without either side having to loose it’s own particular integrity. Neither side would be so antagonistic toward the other, either intentionally, or unintentionally. You could borrow my books, and I could borrow yours. We could seriously discuss the differences, and share an aquavit at the end of the day.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Wanna 9:03 As always you make a great point. While you are correct that my piece might well be named “different world views”, I am trying to make a particular point, rather than simply acknowledge differences. The point is that there are consequences to the public promotion of religious and cultural values. For example, we all know about the exodus of population from rural areas. People that live there lament the lack of services and the population to support them. While there are many reasons why this is happening, one is that people who are different do not find the welcome mat out. I don’t see welcome signs at the entrances of these towns in Spanish. I don’t see announcements that if there are nonbelievers, there is a meetup group at the local cafe. I live in a metro area of 150,000 and, while there is growth rather than decline, the probem is similar. Many people do not feel they have an ownership stake in the community because their cultural and religious views are not on display all over the city as those of Christians. The overt promotion of the majority’s view does not help the majority and harms the minority. The net is a minus.

      • Wanna B Sure says:

        Now you are getting a little abstract with the “I don’t see”. Those with “special interests” either ethenically, emotionally, vocations, hobbies, religiously, non-religious, or anything are free to network in any way they want to. Billboards, papers, radio, doorknob hangers, or whatever are available to anyone who wishes to do so. Should someone feel left out because he can’t find someone to play a bagpipe with? No I would say not. Even drug users and dealers seem to be able to make connections without a sign on the edge of town. It looks to me as though you are in favor of encouraging a victim obsessed society. As I’ve said before, I play the accordion, (and other keyboards). If I moved to Fargo, and said to myself “Boy, it sure would be nice to know others that play the accordion”, then stayed at home, and felt sorry for myself because no one called, would that be Fargo’s fault? Or any place else for that matter. That would wallowing in self pity. Did the Freethinkers wait for a sign to be put up on I-29 before they organized? No, I suspect they met casually first. Just a couple people with commonality gradually expanding. Is there still a Toppers car club in Fargo? I’d bet they started the same way. How about the Son’s of Norway? They wern’t started by the Polish. By the way, If I wanted to find someone to play the accordion with, I’d get my sorry lazy rear end off the pitty couch and go down there to the Sons of Norway. I’d bet they would know other accordion players, or mabey they would like to hear me play alone for dinner music. I’d find the solution to my needs on my own instead of waiting for someone to do it for me. Necessity and need creates desire. Now, go buy a Harley, and stop at a biker bar . Peace

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