The Band Saw Effect

Ron Strelecki posted a comment over at chez Julia, which I think deserves wider circulation:

I regularly experience what I call the “band saw effect”. That’s the feeling I get when I am at a tool store looking at a $600 band saw that I need to do just one little thing. I can’t pay $600 for a band saw, and then return it after I cut one little piece of wood. I think to myself, “If I was a member of a church, there’d be a dozen old guys with band saws sitting in the back of their sheds. All I’d have to do is ask one old guy, and he’d say, ‘Oh yeah, Mike’s got a band saw…’ and then I’d go over to Mike’s and drink lemonade, do my band saw thing… maybe I’d get his VCR clock to stop blinking 12:00… everybody wins.”

That’s the kind of service that a Church really serves. Old guys with tools… Atheists have none of this. There is no gathering point. There’s no hangout. Churches serve a load of very real functions that you can’t imagine needing until they aren’t there. Like, how do you know your mechanic isn’t ripping you off? If he has to sit two pews away from you for the rest of his life and you babysit his kids, he (probably) won’t.

He’s right, of course. And this is one of the great benefits of religion: having a circle of friendly people.

On one hand, I want to say that people who identify themselves as atheists are the ones independent or antisocial enough not to care what other people think, or that they can’t in good conscience join a church. (As opposed to people who may not believe in any gods per se, but are members of a suitably-liberal church, and/or keep their doubts to themselves for the sake of fitting in.)

On the other hand, I want to say it’s our own damn fault: it’s not as if there aren’t any secular organizations to join, be it Toastmasters, the local library’s book-reading club, or just happy hour on Friday with your coworkers.

There are even explicitly atheist social organizations, like the Atheist Community of Austin, or the Beltway Atheists in Washington.

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